State Republican Party chairman Ron Carey says the Entenza/Hatch feud shows that the two are incapable of leading the state. Carey says Entenza should disclose the results of his investigation into Hatch's office, and should report the cost of his investigation as a campaign expense.
Instead of addressing the apparent spat, Entenza and Hatch released statements criticizing the GOP and declined to do interviews. Entenza's statement read, in part:
"A year and a half ago, I requested public records from the Attorney General's office. No private investigators were involved. The AG's office complied with the request. Anyone may request and receive the same documents. Now as we're witnessing, Republicans are intent on using rumor, innuendo, half-truths and outright lies to advance their agenda."
Campaign manager John Van Hecke says Entenza hired a Chicago researcher, not a private investigator.
Entenza told the Star Tribune that he started the inquiry when he was first considering running for attorney general, and he wasn't sure whether Hatch was going to run for governor, or would again seek the office he's held for eight years.
Republican attorney general candidate Jeff Johnson says most candidates do opposition research, but it is unusual for a candidate to hire an out-of-state firm to look into a member of his own party. He says there have been rumors about Entenza investigating Hatch for more than a year, but Entenza wouldn't confirm them until now.
I think this really is yesterday's news.DFL Party Chair Brian Melendez
"The fact that he would deny it at first, and then now admit it, but pretend like he just wanted to learn about the AG's office -- when he worked there for several years and talks about that every day -- it just raises questions, I think, about his character," said Johnson.
Johnson has also questioned Entenza's ability to oversee the health care industry if elected attorney general because Entenza's wife, Lois Quam, is the CEO of Ovations, a UnitedHealth Group company.
Quam is one of 18 officers and directors of UnitedHealth Group named in a class action lawsuit, alleging they misled investors or profited from illegal insider trading involving stock options. The attorney general's office is investigating potential illegal back-dating of UnitedHealth Group stock options.
A company official has said that Quam is not the subject of any investigations by the Securities and Exchange Commission. Johnson says he doesn't know how Entenza could enforce the law against UnitedHealth Group.
"We're talking about the very money that not only is going to fund his campaign, but supports his lifestyle. We're talking about his wife," said Johnson. "I mean this is as personal and significant as you could possibly get for anyone, and I just don't know how you come up with a system to solve that problem."
Entenza said in his statement that he has no conflict of interest on health care issues, and his wife never had anything to do with granting stock options or setting compensation policy.
In his written statement, Entenza countered by saying Johnson needs to explain his own deep ties to the insurance, pharmaceutical and corporate agribusiness industries.
Meantime, Attorney General Mike Hatch told the Star Tribune that he wants whoever succeeds him to aggressively oversee the health care industry. Hatch wasn't available for an interview, but told the newspaper that he's tried to recruit five other candidates to run for his office.
No other Democrats have filed for attorney general, although candidates have until next Tuesday to file.
DFL state party chair Brian Melendez downplayed talk of a rift between Hatch and Entenza.
"I think this really is yesterday's news. Opposition research is typical, everybody does it, it's unusual that it surfaces in the way that this did, but you know, it's July," said Melendez. "This is a story about process and inside baseball. I'm looking forward to talking about the issues."
Melendez says Hatch and Entenza have campaigned together since receiving DFL backing.