TRUTH TEST: Ellison, Schultz TV ads get mostly high marks

Despite everything you hear about the abortion issue in just about every political race this election year, the Minnesota attorney general’s race is likely to hinge on fighting crime and enhancing public safety. That’s why both Democratic incumbent Keith Ellison and Republican challenger Jim Schultz are running TV ads on the issue.

“Prosecutors like me count on Keith Ellison to keep Minnesota safe and take on the toughest criminals,” says Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman in the opening of a 30-second Ellison ad that also features images of Ramsey County Attorney John Choi, who has also endorsed Ellison. “He’s fought for millions of dollars in more funding to prosecute more violent criminals and he hasn’t lost a case,” Freeman continues.

It is true Ellison sought $1.8 million in additional funding from the Minnesota Legislature last spring so he could hire more prosecutors, but it didn’t pass. Republicans rejected the funding after noting the Attorney General’s Office received additional funding the year before.

It’s also true Ellison’s office has not lost a criminal prosecution since he took office in 2019.

On Monday, Ellison’s office sent 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS an update on its violent crime prosecution record.

The Attorney General’s Office says it has referred 47 violent crime cases for prosecution since 2019. To date, it has secured 26 convictions. In 17 other cases, charges are pending. In two cases, investigations are ongoing but no charges have been filed. In two others, investigations are complete, but no charges have been filed.

“As attorney general, I hired more criminal prosecutors to work with law enforcement all across Minnesota and take on the most serious crimes,” Ellison goes on to say in the ad.

It is true he hired more prosecutors, but there are still only three criminal attorneys in his office. There was one when he took office.

The Ellison campaign ad makes mostly verifiable claims and it gets an A-minus on the 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS “Truth Test.”

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A TV ad from the Schultz campaign also sticks mostly to the facts, but with some exaggeration.

“Your vote for attorney general comes down to one question,” Schultz says in the ad. “Do you trust Keith Ellison to keep you and your family safe?”

Schultz goes on to add his own answer. “His record says no. Keith Ellison is extreme. He let violence spread like cancer.”

Underneath the narration, a graphic on the screen says, “Extremist Keith Ellison partnered with Ilhan Omar to defund the police.” Another graphic says Ellison “let violent crime spike 63%.”

It is true Ellison joined Omar in supporting a Minneapolis charter amendment that would have dismantled the existing Minneapolis Police Department and replaced it with a public safety department. That amendment was rejected by Minneapolis voters. Although Ellison supported that plan, he has stopped short of calling for a broader “defunding of police.”

As for a spike in violent crime while Ellison has been in office, that is also true according to state crime statistics from the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, including a 22% increase between 2021 and 2022. However, it would be an exaggeration to say that’s all the fault of Ellison and the Attorney General’s Office. Blame could also be shared by law enforcement, the legislature and other policymakers.

Again, this ad delivers mostly factual information with some exaggerations. It gets a “B” on the 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS “Truth Test.”

Truth Test
How KSTP Grades Political Ads in Truth Test
  • An “A” requires nearly complete accuracy with little exaggeration and little or no need for more context.
  • A “B” requires mostly accurate information, but gets marked down for minor exaggerations or misleading information.
  • A “C” can be the result of inaccurate information or exaggerated information that misleads or gives the viewer no context.
  • A “D” is the result of at least half the information being false or misleading to the point of leaving a false impression.
  • An “F” is the result of more than half the information being outright false or misleading or out of context.