“On that egg thing
This was Keith Ellison, DFL Attorney General, in a televised debate last Wednesday. He launched into a defense on his record on a topic which has suddenly and possibly unexpectedly become a point for contention with his Republican opponent Jim Schultz.
The settlement with Sparboe Farms is at issue. Sparboe Farms is a Minnesota-based egg manufacturer that Ellison accused of price gouging in the early days after the COVID-19 pandemic. Although the company denied the allegations it reached a settlement with Ellison and agreed to donate 1.08million eggs to Minnesota charities fighting hunger.
Why are these two candidates concerned about eggs in a closely fought campaign that saw fierce debate over issues such as crime, abortion and police reform and courtroom experience?
Ellison and Schultz have disagreements over the lawsuit. It’s best to understand it as an example of the competing visions for the office, attorney general, in the last days of the Nov.8 election.
The facts of this case
Under the powers of one of Gov. Ellison, Ellison filed the lawsuit against Sparboe on September 20, 2021. Tim Walz’s executive orders from the pandemic-era, which were issued in March 2020 to prohibit the sale essential consumer goods at “unconscionably high prices,” was one of Ellison’s lawsuits against Sparboe.
The order determined that a product’s cost was 20% higher in the period before the declaration of the governor as a peacetime emergency.
Ellison sued Sparboe, accusing them of trying to maximize egg production and profit in a time of high demand. According to the AG, prices rose by double and even tripled after COVID-19 arrived. This is in comparison to prices between February and March 2020. Ellison claims Sparboe ignored the pleas of one of its largest wholesale clients in Minnesota to lower its prices.
Sparboe did not file a legal reply and settled with Ellison about a month later. Sparboe settled with Ellison in a short, eight-page agreement, denying that it had violated any laws. The company also stated that it sold eggs wholesale to customers at market prices determined by Urner Barry, a third-party company.
Sparboe agreed that 1.08 million eggs would be donated as part of the settlement.
Two perspectives from the AG candidates
Schultz brought up the lawsuit during the debate about KSTP last Wednesday. Schultz said that the AG’s office should not have been focusing on Minnesota egg producers.
Schultz stated that Ellison did not understand the economics behind the egg business in an interview. He claimed that the company was adhering to contracts and was not increasing prices in line with national trends.
Schultz stated that Ellison’s office was informed of this information and they reached a settlement. They also received a “fig leaf donation”. Schultz stated that the case was “extremely weak” and that once they realized they needed to settle, it was embarrassing for the AG’s Office.
Schultz claimed that Sparboe donates eggs often, so the AG was exaggerating the impact of the settlement. MinnPost left Sparboe a message to inquire about the lawsuit and company’s practices, but the organization did not immediately respond.
Ellison had a different perspective on the outcome of the lawsuit. Ellison, meanwhile, believes that large corporations like those don’t settle without having legal exposure. He also said that the egg donation was significant.
Ellison stated that he was fighting price gouging and getting food to low-income Minnesotans. However, a million eggs were donated by Ellison during the debate. “I’m here fighting price gouging, getting food to low income Minnesotans and food shelves, and you are attacking .”
The big picture critics
Ellison held a press conferee about the egg lawsuit a few days after the debate to bring up a bigger point. This intertwines well with the central message of the incumbent: that Ellison would use the AG’s office for large corporations to protect consumers and take on them, and Schultz would be siding with big business.
Ellison has attacked Schultz because he was previously employed at Varde Partners, a hedge fund Ellison claims engaged in pandemic profiteering. Ellison’s campaign highlights Nov. The 2020 company released a press release claiming it had raised $2.6 billion to “invest into opportunities presented by historic market dislocations, economic disruption resulting in the COVID-19 pandemic.”
This week, Varde Partners was attacked by the state DFL for buying a large share in OneMain Financial in 2018. OneMain Financial is a prominent subprime lender and has been accused of predatory practices. The federal investigation was made public in April 2022. Schultz worked as a lawyer for Varde from December 2021 to December 2021. A campaign spokeswoman stated that his work at the large corporation did not involve OneMain.
In the interview, Schultz also mentioned the State Board of Investment. This board manages state employee pension plans and other accounts. recently invested in a Varde fundsspan styling=”font-weight 400 ;”>. Ellison is one the four elected officials in state that sits on the state’s investment board.
Ellison has criticised Schultz’s statement that he would transfer lawyers from the AG’s consumer protection unit to a criminal section if the Legislature didn’t finance a request for additional criminal prosecutors. Ellison stated at the press conference that the consumer protection division is “the same division that gave hungry Minnesotans a million eggs by a price gouger.”
Ellison also condemned $2,500 worth of donations made by Beth Schnell, Sparboe CEO, to Schultz. These are Schnell’s only reported donations this year, although she has previously donated to many Republican politicians.
Ellison supports legislation to stop price gouging in emergencies. Walz’s temporary executive orders were the only reason that Ellison could file his case. The Republican-led Senate blocked the bill due to opposition from the Minnesota Grocers Association. They claimed that Walz’s temporary executive order on price gouging was an unfair burden for smaller stores already facing supply chain problems and increased costs.
Schultz meanwhile said Ellison’s suit was “representative a office more focused on headlines than doing justice.” Schultz stated that if the AG had been focused on whether the lawsuit was merited, he wouldn’t have filed it.
Schultz stated that the AG’s office was suing egg farmers completely baselessly. “Here, we have an AG’s Office suing egg farmers completely span>
According to the Republican, Ellison also has a poor track record in protecting consumers. Schultz cited Ellison’s 2015 support for raising the federal gas tax as evidence. Schultz said Ellison also “embraced policies which have led to extraordinary violence that hits the poor hardest span>
Schultz has criticised Ellison for he supported the Minneapolis public safety charter which would have replaced the police force with a public safety agency. It also eliminated the minimum officer requirement.
The Republican stated that his experience in the private sector and business has made him better equipped to tackle wrongdoing in business. He understands how businesses work around regulations and how they can evade them.
Schultz stated that the idea that I won’t hold businesses accountable for defrauding Minnesotans is absurd. It is absurd .”