Editorials

Josh Hawley lectures that Democrats ‘need to do their jobs.’ But he didn’t do his as AG

Political consultants’ role in Hawley’s AG office raise concerns

Consultants worked to raise Josh Hawley's national profile and helped direct the state office's work, records show.
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Consultants worked to raise Josh Hawley's national profile and helped direct the state office's work, records show.

On his first full day as a U.S. senator, Missouri Republican Josh Hawley went on “Fox & Friends” and painted his new Democratic colleagues as work-shy.

“The people of this country elected us to work,” he said, leaning into that word. “It is time the Democrats got to work.” Instead of concerning themselves with the next election in 2020, he said, “they need to do their jobs right now.”

This is bold of 39-year-old Hawley, who on day one is seen by some conservatives as the future of his party. Bold, that is, coming from a man who immediately jumped ahead to his next race after being elected Missouri attorney general. And being called a layabout by Josh Hawley is like getting a lecture on diet and exercise from “somebody sitting on their bed that weighs 400 pounds.”

Just the latest evidence of our junior senator’s all-talk, no-walk lack of productivity is that as Missouri’s attorney general, his investigations of former Gov. Eric Greitens not only went nowhere, but as emails obtained by The Star show, were pursued in only the most cursory way.

In the job Hawley held prior to this week, his news releases didn’t just inflate his efforts as attorney general, but they also seem to have been the major focus of his brief tenure in Jefferson City.

Just one example was the enormous energy his office put into PR efforts showcasing his supposed crackdown on “the biggest ring of human trafficking in the state’s history,” as Vice President Mike Pence called it in a campaign swing for Hawley. Only, as the Springfield News-Leader reported in a follow-up, “Seven months after law enforcement officers raided more than a dozen Springfield massage parlors, looking for evidence of sex trafficking, no one has been charged locally with any felony crime.”

Emails from Hawley’s office have shown that, just as The Star reported in October, he outsourced some aspects of his job from the start, with the national political consultants who later ran his Senate campaign setting priorities, directing staff and leading regular phone conferences for state employees during work hours.

Maybe that’s why Hawley doesn’t seem to have worn himself out looking into whether his fellow Republican Greitens similarly had taxpayer-funded staff working on his campaign’s social media accounts.

An initial email obtained by The Star showed a state employee spending work hours on a Facebook page that Greitens said was not his official account. Since then, a records request yielded many more such examples for The Star, but not for Hawley’s office.

Catherine Hanaway, the attorney representing Greitens’ campaign committee, said Hawley’s office never even reached out to her. Could that be why the attorney general’s office had nothing to go on?

How could he have come down on Greitens for misusing his office for political purposes, when the evidence says that he was doing the same thing?

Hawley’s office also cleared Greitens after a mostly theoretical investigation of allegations that the governor and his staff got around Sunshine laws by using the Confide disappearing messages app. (Hawley’s office never tried to question the governor himself, never put in a written request for records and agreed to the governor’s request that no aide be questioned for longer than 15 minutes.)

In essence, he gave accusations against the governor the lightest possible once-over, really only peeking into the closet with his eyes closed and then declaring that he saw nothing amiss.

And this, Democrats, is the tireless public servant who is questioning your work ethic.

We still dare to hope that Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft, who is investigating whether Hawley improperly used public resources in his successful Senate race against Claire McCaskill, will be a lot more serious than Hawley was in investigating Greitens. It’s definitely a good sign that he’s brought in Missouri’s state auditor, Nicole Galloway, who is a Democrat.

But Hawley himself repeatedly won kudos from us that we now know he did not deserve. The Stanford and Yale grad, who ran against elites, presents well and sounds good. We praised him for merely saying he’d investigate Greitens. But saying isn’t doing, and in lieu of concrete results, that won’t happen again.

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