The office of Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster has not adopted an official policy aimed at removing the appearance of impropriety in official actions his office takes dealing with his campaign contributors and their lobbyists, according to a new report from the Missouri State Auditor’s office.
The audit, released Tuesday, pointed to Koster’s public pronouncement in November that his campaign would not accept campaign contributions “from individuals and entities with litigation currently pending against the Attorney General’s Office or that has resolved in the past 90 days” or their lawyers. Despite his statement, the report found that, “as of February 2015, the AGO has yet to adopt this directive in a formal policy.”
In a statement Tuesday afternoon, Andrew Whalen, a spokesman for Koster’s campaign, said the audit misunderstands the directive given by Koster’s conflict of interest policy.
“The Missourians for Koster Committee has implemented the most stringent conflict of interest policy of any Attorney General in the nation. This policy was adopted by the Committee November 19, 2014 and restricts contributions from individuals and entities or those representing individuals and entities with litigation before the Attorney General’s office or litigation resolved in the previous 90 days,” Whalen said. “The Committee continues administering this policy.”
The audit recommended Koster’s office adopt an official policy.
Koster’s policy came after a scathing New York Times article detailed the close ties – political, professional and personal – he and other attorneys general have to the lobbyists and lawyers representing companies his office could potentially sue.
The report was started prior to Schweich’s death, but was the first released under State Auditor John Watson, the Democrat who was appointed to the job by Gov. Jay Nixon following the suicide of Republican Tom Schweich. Schweich, who was leading a campaign against Koster for governor next year, had recused himself, and the audit was led by Deputy State Auditor Harry Otto, a close Schweich confidant.