JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Missouri House Speaker Tim Jones is forming an investigatory committee after a report that Chris Koster was one of several state attorneys general who may have been influenced by campaign contributions and lobbyists.
The New York Times reported Wednesday that Koster is one of numerous state attorneys general who have changed policies and negotiated more favorable settlements after receiving campaign contributions and incentives from lobbyists.
Jones, a Republican from Eureka, said he’s hoping to appoint committee members within a week to start requesting documents and investigating Koster, a Democrat.
He said the House has the option to impeach, depending on what the committee learns.
“I’m disturbed about the fact that the chief law enforcement officer, who has a tremendous amount of taxpayer resources at hand, is apparently utilizing those resources to shake down businesses and business owners for political reasons,” Jones said. “It’s hard to even believe this.”
Koster said the report distorts how his office dealt with the companies.
“Today’s article in The New York Times misrepresents the facts, distorting events to create an appearance of impropriety where none exists,” Koster said in a statement Wednesday.
Documents obtained by the newspaper show Koster received campaign contributions from drug maker Pfizer and later met with lobbyists and spoke to political action committees while the company was under investigation by his office.
The New York Times reports that campaign finance documents show Koster previously received $13,500 in campaign contributions from a law firm representing Pfizer and $20,000 directly from the company.
Emails obtained by the newspaper show Koster also accepted an invitation to speak to Pfizer’s political action committee amid negotiations for the case. Emails also show that five days later his office met with attorneys and negotiated that Pfizer pay Missouri $750,000.
Attorneys general from 33 other states also were investigating the company over allegations it marketed some drugs for unapproved uses and exaggerated their effectiveness.
Most similarly sized states that together pooled their clout to fight the company received more than $1 million each, and Oregon separately negotiated a settlement with Pfizer for $3.4 million. In total, the group of states received almost $43 million.
Koster said his office has taken legal action against Pfizer at least six times. It also has taken action against other companies involved, he said.
In another case of potential lobbying influence, the newspaper reports that Koster confirmed he asked staff not to investigate 5-Hour Energy while at a Democratic Attorneys General Association conference at Loews Santa Monica Beach Hotel in California. A lawyer for 5-Hour Energy also attended the conference.
He said most states have not investigated 5-Hour Energy, and told the New York Times that he uses the energy drink.