Attorney General Josh Hawley railed against political elites in Raytown on Tuesday, a day before he is scheduled to hold a closed-door fundraiser with the president of the United States.
Hawley, the GOP front runner in the U.S. Senate race, told a crowd of supporters at Dynamic Fastener in Raytown that Washington, D.C., disrespects and disregards them.
“The political class doesn’t even pretend to listen,” Hawley said during the first stop on a statewide tour, his first major string of campaign events since launching his candidacy in October.
“The liberal elites who call themselves our leaders, to them, we’re flyover country,” Hawley said. “They mean it when they say it. To them we are just empty squares out the window of a jet flying from New York to L.A. at 30,000 feet.”
Hawley went onto to say that Hollywood, Wall Street and the Washington political establishment have rigged “a system that favors them, the wealthy and the well-connected.”
He called his opponent, U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, the incumbent Democrat, “their eager and willing ally” and repeatedly accused the political establishment of ignoring the concerns of working-class people.
Hawley made these comments about the wealthy and well-connected a day before he will join President Donald Trump, a New York billionaire, for a fundraiser in St. Louis.
Hawley will also greet Trump at the airport when he lands in the city, according to senior White House officials.
The campaign event is being hosted by the Hawley WIN Fund, a joint fundraising effort between Hawley’s campaign and the National Republican Senatorial Committee.
Attending a VIP reception costs $5,000 per person, according to the invitation.
Outside the Hawley event in Raytown, a small group of activists from the Missouri Democratic Party gathered with protest signs and burlap sacks marked with dollars signs and overflowing with fake money.
Meira Bernstein, the spokeswoman for McCaskill's campaign, called Hawley a hypocrite in an email and noted his past support from Missouri megadonors during his campaign for attorney general.
"It takes a lot of nerve to call Claire elite today and hold a $50,000/person fundraiser tomorrow," Bernstein said.
One of Hawley's GOP rivals, Austin Petersen, also mocked the attorney general's expensive fundraiser in an email to supporters.
"He's clearly beholden to the Mitch McConnell establishment elite, being their number one draft pick this election cycle. And while that comes with perks, Josh is about as relatable to average Missourians as his event's $50,000 per person price tag," Petersen said in the email, which requested donations to his own campaign.
Hawley rejected the idea that there was a contrast between his rhetoric about elites and the decision to have a fundraiser with the president.
“I don’t think there’s any disconnect between raising the resources necessary to get our message out,” Hawley said.
“I am delighted to have the support of the President of the United States. I hope he will come to Missouri often and we look forward to having his support here throughout this entire campaign. When it comes to raising money, we’ll never be able to surpass Claire McCaskill. She has 36 years of special-interest chips that she has collected.”
Hawley and every other statewide GOP official except for indicted Gov. Eric Greitens were initially on the White House’s list of participants for an economic roundtable Trump will hold in St. Louis before the fundraiser, but on Monday the White House said that no Missouri elected officials would be joining Trump at the event.
When asked about the confusion over the attendees, Hawley said he didn’t know anything about the roundtable. The panel discussion on tax cuts will feature workers and executives from 10 Missouri companies, including Kansas City Power & Light.
White House officials would not say Tuesday whether Greitens, who faces a criminal trial in May, would be joining the president during any of his events in Missouri.