JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Attorney General Chris Koster had more than $3 million in cash on hand to spend on his bid for Missouri governor in 2016, campaign records released Wednesday show, more than twice the amount of the lead Republican fundraiser in the race, former state House speaker Catherine Hanaway.
Records show Koster – the only Democrat running for governor so far – raised more than $1.2 million from October through March, and had almost $3.3 million in cash on hand and about $62,000 in debt.
What Koster’s raised since October is about as much as Hanaway, a former U.S. attorney, has to spend so far, which as of the end of the reporting period on March 31 was roughly $1.25 million.
Wednesday’s report also is the first Koster has filed after the fallout from an October article in The New York Times claiming he was among attorneys general across the country that were influenced by campaign contributions and lobbyist perks.
The article claimed Koster was soft on companies after receiving perks or donations from companies that faced litigation from his office or their attorneys and lobbyists. Among those was AT&T, which Koster’s office and attorneys general from several other states investigated for its billing practices.
In response, Koster said he no longer would accept contributions from those donors until 90 days after legal action has been resolved. Contributors are required to sign a form confirming that upon donating, and the campaign later requests a second written confirmation.
That hasn’t deterred donations, including a $10,000 contribution from AT&T in January.
Campaign spokesman Andrew Whalen said that donation was among many that Koster is returning, per his new policy. The return wasn’t reported on this quarter’s filing, although Whalen said it will appear in later reports.
In total, Whalen said more than $45,000 has been returned so far.
The attorney general’s office came under fire last month after criticism from a state audit for not enforcing that policy, instead relying on donors to self-report potential conflicts of interest through the campaign.
Whalen has defended that practice, saying staff at the attorney general’s office should not be involved in campaign matters. He said repeated calls, emails and letters to donors who don’t verify compliance make it clear that Koster is serious.
“We’re trying our best to do right here,” Whalen said.
Koster has the fundraising advantage over Republicans divided between candidates.
Former state Rep. Randy Asbury joined Hanaway in the Republican race, and several others are considering campaigns.
Hanaway, who had declared that she would run for governor in February 2014, has raised about $1.4 million so far.
But fundraising slowed this past quarter when Hanaway canceled fundraisers and stalled the campaign after another Republican gubernatorial candidate, Auditor Tom Schweich, fatally shot himself Feb. 26.
Political consultant Jeff Roe of Kansas City’s Axiom Strategies on Wednesday said he personally paid $5,000 for a “House of Cards”-style radio attack ad on Schweich. That ad was aired by Citizens for Fairness in Missouri, a committee that had shared the same treasurer as Hanaway’s campaign.
Hanaway has said she did not know about the ad in advance and did not condone it. Police have said it’s unclear why Schweich shot himself.
Hanaway brought in about $51,000 between January and March 31. Asbury had roughly $5,400 in cash on hand, including a $7,550 loan.
Other Republicans contemplating a run include Eric Greitens, a Navy SEAL who has not previously served in an elected office. He’s raised about $480,000 since starting a committee to explore a gubernatorial run on Feb. 25.