When Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Missouri) was his state’s attorney general, he may have improperly used that office’s resources in order to bolster his right-wing campaign against centrist Democratic Party incumbent Clarire McCaskill. Hawley’s campaign was a success, of course, but that victory now appears to be marred.
According to a 464-page audit released Thursday by Missouri State Auditor Nicole Galloway, immediately after being sworn-in as attorney general in January 2017, Hawley imported a bevy of out-of-state GOP consultants.
Per that audit report:
[S]taff, under former Attorney General Josh Hawley’s administration, coordinated with campaign-paid consultants, and used campaign resources to meet with consultants for purposes not always documented. Former Attorney General Hawley also used a state vehicle and driver/security detail for some trips for which the purpose was not documented on travel itineraries and state vehicle mileage logs. Records reviewed determined (1) at least a portion of some of these trips had political purposes and (2) other trips had the appearance of being personal in nature.
The use of those consultants was strictly limited to boosting Hawley’s national political profile but they were paid out of his state campaign fund. Moreover, those consultants frequently interacted with Hawley’s staff in the Missouri attorney general’s office.
“Emails, calendars, and testimony indicate that campaign-paid consultants Timmy Teepell, Gail Gitcho, Aaron Trost, and other employees of these consultants‘ companies, were invited to attend in-person meetings and participate in phone conferences with various AGO employees from January to July 2017,” the report notes.
Such commingling of campaign consultants with administrative staff is untoward–though Galloway stopped short of accusing Hawley of a crime.
“[I]nteractions between Hawley administration officials and campaign-paid consultants give the appearance of political activity by state employees while using state resources, but no evidence exists that any laws were violated,” the report continues.
The audit’s conclusion notes, at length:
Campaign-paid consultants, by definition, serve a political function. They are hired to get their candidate elected to office. In contrast, AGO staff serve an administrative function and are in place to perform the work of the government. By allowing campaign-paid consultants to interact and advise AGO staff, former Attorney General Hawley potentially used state resources for political purposes. If better documentation had been maintained to show these interactions were solely official in nature, any appearance of impropriety could have been avoided. However, becausemost of the communications between the campaign and AGO staff were conducted via private communication channels, the full content and context of these interactions cannot be determined. The lack of transparency of the relationships and communications between the campaign-paid consultants and former AGO officials give the appearance that non-AGO business may have been discussed and not retained, and that state resources may have been used improperly.
The implications in the Galloway report are heavy and dripping–but consistently fail to definitively assert criminal impropriety.
“The law permits campaign resources to be used for government purposes but does not permit government resources to be used for campaign purposes,” the audit notes before explaining several applicable laws Hawley may have violated. “While the interactions between campaign paid consultants and government officials described in this report give an appearance of impropriety, we cannot conclude that any laws were violated.”
And, in a never-ending fit of irony, there’s also a missing emails angle to the Galloway investigation.
“In addition to the meetings and calls previously mentioned, private email communications and personal calendar meeting invites obtained indicated other meetings or phone conferences may have been held,” the audit notes, “however, documentation of those meetings were not retained or provided.”
More on that:
While the AGO has a process for retaining email messages initiated from AGO communication systems, email messages covering official business from employee personal email accounts were not always retained. In addition, because the AGO did not retain all business related communications and some employees did not comply with AGO personnel policy No. 9.0, we cannot be certain we received all such communications. Improper methods of communication could cause the loss or destruction of records and harm the public’s confidence in the AGO.
The work of those shadowy consultants has paid off, however, Hawley is widely considered a fast-rising star in the increasingly rightward GOP.
Hawley reacted on Twitter: “Actually, your audit concludes there was no evidence of wrongdoing. You should read it.”
Notably, President Donald Trump made a point to reference Hawley’s steadfast support during the denouement of the Democratic Party’s failed impeachment effort.
“One of the greatest supporters on this impeachment hoax was Josh Hawley,” Trump said in his victory celebration Thursday morning. “He was incensed, actually.”
Hawley long had the 45th president’s back–previously calling for the impeachment charges to be tossed for failure to prosecute during the brief hiatus period when House Speaker Nancy Pelosi held back the articles of impeachment in an unsuccessful attempt to exact concessions from the GOP-led Senate.
[image via Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images]
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