NEW ULM — Mike Rothman may not have the biggest name recognition in the DFL primary for the attorney general nomination, but he figures he has the best credentials.
With the Star Tribune editorial board’s endorsement fresh under his belt Monday, Rothman spent time at Farmfest and stopped by The Journal.
Rothman is seeking the DFL nomination in the Aug. 14 primary next week against Congressman Keith Ellison and DFL endorsee Matt Pelikan, Tom Foley and Debra Hilstrom.
Since 2011, Rothman has served as the Minnesota Commerce commissioner, serving as a consumer watchdog for Minnesotans and regulating 20 different industries. The Commerce Department handles calls and complaints related to financial industries, banks, insurance, the energy industry, and a host of others. It works to protect senior citizens from financial scams and abuse, protect citizens from ponzi schemes, and even regulates weights and measures in grocery store scales and service station fuel pumps.
With that background and 30 years of experience as a practicing attorney, Rothman thinks he can hit the ground running as attorney general.
Protecting people from fraud, financial exploitation and abuse is a big part of the Commerce Department’s job, he said.
“That is also a core function of the Attorney General’s Office. You are the people’s attorney, standing up to protect their rights, and consumer protection have been a very vital part of it.”
The Attorney General’s Office is charged with protecting consumers from deceptive trade practices as well. Some of the top issues Rothman has been hearing about as he campaigns are the opioid epidemic, the high cost of pharmaceuticals like insulin and other drugs, and having access to health care.
The issue there, said Rothman, that makes opioid manufacturers culpable to a state lawsuit, is that, like the tobacco industry, pharmaceutical companies knew more than they were telling about how addictive opioids were, and they still pushed them in the market. The crisis is pervasive and a problem throughout Minnesota, so Minnesota would be justified in joining in a lawsuit to force openness, and to work with health care providers to help recover from the epidemic. Rothman said he would convene a statewide task force as soon as he is elected to come up with solutions to the problem.
Rothman said the high cost of pharmaceuticals can be traced, in part, to gag clauses in many pharmaceutical contracts, barring pharmacists from telling customers about lower-priced drug possibilities. He would advocate for changes in the law to eliminate those kinds of clauses.
As Commerce commissioner, Rothman oversaw the energy industry as well, especially in the area of setting rates. He is a strong supporter of clean energy initiatives and as attorney general would work to help make wind and solar options available.
Attorney generals in states across the nation have been involved more recently in actions against the U.S. government for issues such as immigration policy. Rothman said such issues as the separation of children from their parents at the borders as an illegal immigration policy is something that needed to be stopped, and he thinks it would be worthwhile for states to step in to block the release of 3D-printer plans for undetectable plastic guns.
The safety of the people has to be balanced against the freedoms of individuals to make plastic guns, he said.
That’s part of the job of the attorney general, to be the people’s lawyer and to focus on what is the right thing to do to protect people. That would be his guide in deciding what kind of actions to bring in cases with government policy and political overtones.