There, that wasn’t so hard, now was it, Mr. Attorney General.
Probably feels good to step into the sun. To perform your job of looking out for Missourians without appearing to compromise the work with a slush fund of campaign contributions.
On Wednesday, Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster announced what a Star news story termed “sweeping changes” regarding from whom and when he will accept money. The word choice is an accurate summation.
No longer will a campaign committee associated with Koster accept money from people or entities currently being investigated by his office. In fact, 90 days must pass after cases have been resolved before Koster will take any money from those associated.
Koster is expected to run for governor in 2016. His existing campaign committee had $2.6 million in the bank at the end of September.
What’s stunning is that it took this long to impose common-sense ethics to an important office of state government. How did standards for shielding against conflicts of interests become so warped in Missouri? There’s a dissertation waiting to be written.
Koster and his potential Democratic campaign exist in a culture that didn’t develop overnight. Nor is it a partisan problem. Everyone plays. Missouri has long been fertile ground for potential corruption because of lax rules on campaign contributions.
This turn toward transparency probably only came about because of a public raking over the coals late last month by The New York Times, “Lobbyists, Bearing Gifts, Pursue Attorneys General.”
The Times piece zeroed in on Koster in its opening paragraphs through the Democratic Attorneys General Association. They followed the money and raised questions about investigations in many attorney general offices nationally.
A summary graph from the story: “Attorneys general are now the object of aggressive pursuit by lobbyists and lawyers who use campaign contributions, personal appeals at lavish corporate-sponsored conferences and other means to push them to drop investigations, change policies, negotiate favorable settlements or pressure federal regulators.”
It’s networking gone haywire. A lot of people who previously worked for attorneys general become lobbyists.
Koster felt the heat and did the right thing. Sad for Missourians that he had to be pressured into the sunlight.