Who wants to be Eliot Spitzer?

Efficient government takes precedence over public servants’ desire for political points.

Gov. Tim Pawlenty and Attorney General Mike Hatch have made their first moves in the first postelection attention grab: investigating insurance companies.

On Oct. 20, Hatch opened an investigation into the business practices of local insurers. Not to be outdone, Pawlenty directed his Commerce Commissioner Glenn Wilson to launch his own probe the same day.

Ostensibly, both investigations will follow New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer’s probe and delve into the relationships between insurers and brokers, investigating allegations of price-fixing and kickbacks.Though Hatch asserts his office is communicating with the state Department of Commerce to avoid overlap, the two probes currently seem strikingly similar, judging from the Commerce Department’s press release and the civil investigative demands issued by Hatch to local health insurers HealthPartners and Medica.

Both the Commerce Department and the Attorney General’s Office seem to have the expertise to investigate the insurance industry. At some level, the inquiry falls with the Commerce Department’s purvey. It regulates the insurance industry. Also, both kickbacks and price-fixing are unfair business practices.

It seems intuitive to us that the attorney general, the state’s top law-enforcement official, should investigate any kickbacks or price-fixing, which would illegally overcharge the public. Hatch has also consistently been a solid, if media-friendly, advocate for consumer rights.

Finally, the consistent Pawlenty administration preference for corporate interests damages the credibility of an investigation run by the Commerce Department, given that Wilson reports to the governor.

Minnesota only needs one investigation into the same alleged wrongdoing. While we prefer it be conducted by the Attorney General’s Office, the Commerce Department is also capable.

Either way, the taxpayers’ interest in efficient government takes precedence over public servants’ desire for political points and media attention. One of these investigations must cease.