Missouri’s Secretary of State has cleared former Attorney General Josh Hawley (R) of allegations that he used public funds to support his candidacy for the United States Senate. GOP Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft issued his seven-page elections investigation report Thursday morning.
Hawley is now a U.S. Senator in Washington. He unseated incumbent Democrat Claire McCaskill in November.
Hawley’s Senate spokeswoman, Kelli Ford, has issued a statement to Missourinet, praising the findings.
“As expected, the Secretary of State report completely vindicated Josh Hawley. This marks the latest failed attempt by partisan Democrats,” Ford’s statement reads.
Ashcroft says he did not find probable cause to believe Hawley violated state law.
“But looking at that from a comprehensive standpoint, we did not see any evidence that any public funds were used for campaign purposes,” Ashcroft says.
A group called the “American Democracy Legal Fund” (ADLF) filed the November complaint, alleging that Hawley used outside political consultants to direct employees in the attorney general’s office (AGO) to do tasks that would raise Hawley’s image.
Ashcroft’s investigation found only that the consultants assisted AGO employees in implementing Hawley’s priorities.
The November complaint from ADLF also alleged that Hawley instructed outside consultants to direct AGO employees to implement priorities to benefit Hawley’s Senate campaign.
Ashcroft tells Missourinet that, at best, the communication between the consultants and office employees was to advocate for positions Hawley ran on in 2016.
“When we looked at the evidence here, what we found was evidence of the attorney general’s office doing what he said he would do when he campaigned (in 2016), and telling people as he was doing that,” says Ashcroft.
Ashcroft’s report notes Hawley’s 2016 platform for attorney general included anti-human trafficking initiatives. Ashcroft says it is not unusual for elected officials to develop priorities to raise their public profile.
Ashcroft’s office received the complaint on November 6, and the investigation took about four months. Ashcroft notes the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays impacted the investigation.
The “American Democracy Legal Fund” filed the complaint, after an October 31st “Kansas City Star” article was published. Secretary Ashcroft tells Missourinet it’s “unfortunate” that the “Star” would not provide his office with any source documents its reporters gathered in their investigation.
“When there is a matter of alleged public corruption and a news organization might have information regarding it, it’s disheartening that they would prefer to not participate and help to make sure that the people of the state know the truth,” Ashcroft says.
The November ADLF complaint cites the “Star” article. Ashcroft’s report says the ADLF indicated in December that they did not have any evidence that e-mails mentioned in the newspaper report exist.
Ashcroft’s investigation says “most public office holders do conduct media interviews to communicate office-related priorities that raise their public profile.”
Ashcroft’s report also commends both current Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt (R) and State Auditor Nicole Galloway (D) for their cooperation.
Click here to listen to the full interview between Missourinet’s Brian Hauswirth and Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft, which was recorded at the Statehouse in Jefferson City: