The Star Tribune pushed Tuesday to join a conservative website's lawsuit aiming to unseal the divorce records of U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison, whose campaign for attorney general has been shadowed by an ex-girlfriend's allegations of domestic violence.
When Ellison's divorce was finalized in 2012, he and now ex-wife Kim Ellison successfully petitioned a court to make records in their case private.
AlphaNewsMN.com, a website created in 2015, sued last week to gain access to the case file, arguing the materials are in the public's interest, given Ellison's campaign for state office and the accusations he faces.
Ellison has denied he dragged former girlfriend Karen Monahan from a bed by her foot toward the end of their years-long relationship. Monahan has said the incident was captured on video, which she has declined to release. She has shared medical records in which she attributes health concerns to her strained relationship to the congressman.
Alpha News said in its filing that the records could figure into ongoing investigations being conducted at the request of the DFL Party and the Democratic National Committee.
A hearing on the motion is set for Oct. 9.
In a joint statement, the Ellisons said they will oppose efforts to make records of their divorce public.
"Our divorce simply isn’t the public’s business, and therefore, when we separated, we jointly asked the court to seal the file," Keith and Kim Ellison said in a statement issued through the campaign. "Now, one month before a closely contested election for Minnesota Attorney General, a conservative group wants to probe our divorce file in search of something to use against Keith in this race. I am disappointed that the Star Tribune would choose to join this motion. "
Kim Ellison insists in the statement that she was never harmed by her husband.
"I have made clear that Keith never abused me in any way before, during, or after our marriage. What these people are seeking simply is not contained in this file. However, the details of my private life, and my children’s private lives, are," she said. "The privacy they are seeking to exploit is not only Keith’s, it is our entire family’s."
And Keith Ellison commented on the suit after a campaign event in Minneapolis Tuesday.
"I think it’s incredibly unfair to Kim Ellison," he said. "She and I were married for more than 20 years. And it’s incredibly unfair to my kids. They have a right to their privacy.”
The divorce case was reopened last spring at Kim Ellison's request, regarding spousal maintenance arrangements. Hearings that had been set for July and later moved to October were pushed off until December, a month after the election.
Republican attorney general nominee Doug Wardlow, a former state legislator, is also previously divorced. His first marriage ended in 2005. Records related to that separation are publicly available through the Minnesota state courts system. They pertain largely to allocation of the couple's assets and liabilities.
Wardlow later remarried and has three children.