Political consultants’ role in Hawley’s AG office raise concerns
Missouri Auditor Nicole Galloway has agreed to assist the secretary of state’s office in its investigation of Attorney General Josh Hawley, saying she and her staff will review the allegations of wrongdoing against Hawley “with heightened scrutiny.”
Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft, a Republican, sent a letter to Galloway, a Democrat, on Monday seeking to enlist her office’s subpoena power in his investigation of whether Hawley illegally used public resources to benefit his political campaign.
Hawley, a Republican, will resign as attorney general next month when he becomes a U.S. Senator. He will be succeeded by Missouri Treasurer Eric Schmitt.
Galloway was already scheduled to conduct an audit of the attorney general’s office, something the auditor does anytime a statewide office changes hands.
The auditor’s office “always reviews use of taxpayer funds in audits,” Galloway wrote in response to Ashcroft on Friday afternoon. “Based on the concerns expressed in your letter, my office will review the allegations with heightened scrutiny.”
Ashcroft’s inquiry was sparked by a complaint filed by The American Democracy Legal Fund, a liberal group backed by influential Democratic operative David Brock.
The complaint was based largely on reporting by The Star, which in an Oct. 31 article detailed how political consultants steered the attorney general’s office under Hawley’s watch. The Star obtained emails, text messages and other records showing that Timmy Teepell and Gail Gitcho, political consultants from Louisiana and Massachusetts, exerted influence in the attorney general’s office to the point that some staff became uncertain about the chain of command.
The article also detailed how Hawley, with the help of his consultants, sought to raise his political profile, a stark contrast to his message during his 2016 campaign for attorney general that he was not another ladder-climbing politician continually trying to reach higher office.
Under Missouri law, elected officials can tap into their campaign cash to pay for expenses incurred in connection with their official duties. But both state and federal law prohibits any use of public funds for personal or political purposes.
Hawley has vehemently denied any wrongdoing, and his allies have called on Ashcroft’s lead investigator to recuse herself because she previously donated to Democratic candidates who have run against Hawley.
Mary Compton, Hawley’s spokeswoman, said in a statement responding to Galloway’s letter that this is just one of many “politically motivated complaints filed during the last election and it is false.”
“It’s a shame this partisan complaint will consume taxpayer dollars,” Compton said. “The Attorney General’s Office looks forward to being fully cleared of these partisan allegations.”
Ashcroft asked Galloway to grant his office access to any information she obtains that relates to the allegations of improper use of state resources, as well as allow the secretary of state’s office to sit in on any interviews her staff may conduct. In return, he promised to share any information his office obtains that could benefit Galloway’s audit.
Galloway said she appreciates his offer to “provide documentation obtained in the course of your investigation. My office will be reaching out to your office to request those documents.”
Missouri law permits the auditor’s office to share records with Ashcroft, as long as government auditing standards are followed.
“We look forward to discussing those parameters with your office,” Galloway wrote. “My chief of staff... will be contacting your office in the coming days.”