2018 midterms

Senator-Elect Josh Hawley Under Investigation for Using State Resources to Run His Campaign

Did the self-styled Mr. Clean Josh Hawley violate the constitution of Missouri by letting campaign consultants run his public office? Photo: John Sleezer/TNS via Getty Images

On October 31, the Kansas City Star reported that Missouri Attorney General and GOP Senate nominee Josh Hawley had let his campaign staff coordinate activities with public employees on state property, violating a constitutional provision banning use of state resources for political or personal use:

[W]ithin weeks of Hawley’s swearing in as the state’s top law enforcement official, the high-powered political team that would go on to run his U.S. Senate campaign had stepped in to help direct the office of the Missouri attorney general — and raise his national profile.

Hawley’s out-of-state political consultants gave direct guidance and tasks to his taxpayer-funded staff, and followed up to ensure the tasks were completed, according to emails, text messages and other records obtained by The Kansas City Star.

Whether or not these actions violated the law or constitution of Missouri, they definitely contradicted the sanctimonious air of his original campaign for the office he held, in which he contrasted his outsider probity with the sleaziness of career politicians.

Hawley’s Democratic opponent, incumbent Senator Claire McCaskill, tried to make an issue of the alleged misconduct by Hawley in the final days of the race, as the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported:

Seizing on a report that Attorney General Josh Hawley had political consultants working out of his public office, Sen. Claire McCaskill compared those acts to the lawbreaking that got the previous Republican attorney general sent to prison for two years.

McCaskill told reporters Thursday that “this is a huge, red line that (Hawley) has crossed.” 

She was alluding to the 1993 conviction of William Webster for misuse of state funds. Hawley blew off inquiries about the allegations, and six days later he defeated McCaskill.

But the bad odor over Hawley’s operation won’t go away. Even before the election, the American Democracy Legal Fund asked Secretary of State Jay Ascroft (a Republican) to look into the case. While it’s too late to help McCaskill, Ashcroft has now agreed to investigate. As the Star notes, it’s unclear how deeply this inquiry will probe: “Ashcroft’s office has authority to investigate election-related offenses but lacks subpoena power.”

And yes, in case you were wondering, Jay Ashcroft is the son of former Senator and U.S. Attorney General, John Ashcroft. If he hasn’t been in the legal or political big leagues before, he’s certainly been in the vicinity.

Hawley Under Investigation for Illegal Use of Public Funds