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Primary primer: Race for the Missouri attorney general

Sunday, July 13, 2008 | 7:26 p.m. CDT; updated 4:40 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Margaret Donnelly

Richmond Heights

WHAT’S THE JOB?

The attorney general is often called the “people’s lawyer.” He or she represents the public interest and serves as counselor to state agencies and the legislature; enforces laws; defends and/or challenges the constitutionality of legislative or administrative actions; represents state agencies; and works with the federal government on issues such as trade regulation, environmental enforcement and criminal justice. The salary is $113,046. The term is four years.

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PERSONAL: 54. Married to David Riedel. They have two grown children.

PARTY: Democrat

CAMPAIGN WEB SITE: donnelly08.com

OCCUPATION: 73rd District state representative, attorney with specialty in family and juvenile law.

EDUCATION: Bachelor’s degree in social work from St. Louis University, 1975; master’s degree in social work from St. Louis University, 1977; juris doctorate from St. Louis University, 1988.

BACKGROUND: Board member of the Family Support Network; member of the Richmond Heights Historical Society, the St. Louis Women’s Political Caucus, the Missouri Bar Family Law Section, the Bar Association of Metropolitan St. Louis, and the St. Louis University School of Social Service Advisory Committee; elected to the House in November 2002; served in 2005 as a member of the Medicaid Reform Commission; elected to the Ferguson-Florissant School Board in 1986 and served until 1992 with one year as its president; chaired the committee establishing the first shelter for battered women and children in St. Louis County in 1991; served as a commissioner of METRO and as a member of the Regional Airport Governance Task Force; was a delegate to the Democratic National Convention in 1996.

ISSUES

ENVIRONMENTAL PRESERVATION: Says we must ensure clean air and water; supports vigorous enforcement of environmental laws, especially by the state; would advise policymakers on proactive and environmentally friendly solutions to energy problems; would return to the state more control over environmental initiatives. Believes concentrated animal feeding operations are the biggest environmental challenge and that local governments should have authority to control them.

MEDICAID CUTS: Opposes Medicaid cuts and would work with next governor to restore Medicaid to those who were cut from its rolls; sees more opportunity to address Medicaid fraud.

CONSUMER PROTECTION: Sponsored and will continue to push for a bill to mandate removal from stores of recalled children's toys and products (effective in seven other states); plans to set up a senior citizen consumer fraud hot line; wants to establish a system that allows citizens to sign up for consumer alerts via text or e-mail.

WORKERS’ PROTECTION: Would continue to vigorously defend the Second Injury Fund. A two-time union member, she says she knows the importance of protection for workers; would ensure employers comply with all labor laws regarding wages and the right to collective bargaining.

OPEN GOVERNMENT: Says she felt so strongly about enforcement of Sunshine Law that she brought a lawsuit against the Missouri Ethics Commission for planning closed hearings on excess campaign contributions; believes there need to be stricter penalties for violations of the Sunshine Law; intends to be more involved as attorney general in pursuing violations of the law, particularly at the local level.

UNDOCUMENTED IMMIGRATION: Says that when employers hire undocumented workers, they undermine our system of worker protection. Would aggressively pursue violations by employers of our labor laws with respect to illegal workers.

CYBER CRIMES: Says she would use every resource of the attorney general’s office to vigorously prosecute Internet criminals involved in identity theft, auction fraud and harassment.


Jeff Harris

Columbia

PERSONAL: 43. Married to Katie Harris. They have one daughter, Grace.

PARTY: Democrat

CAMPAIGN WEB SITE: electjeffharris.com

OCCUPATION: 23rd District state representative, attorney.

EDUCATION: Bachelor’s degree in political science (magna cum laude) from Vanderbilt University, 1987; juris doctorate from Cornell Law School, 1991.

BACKGROUND: Member of the Columbia Chamber of Commerce, Elks Club, Missouri Kidney Program Advisory Council and Missouri United Methodist Church; elected to the Missouri House in November 2002 and served as minority whip from November 2003 to November 2004; served as House minority leader from November 2004 to September 2007; served on the Democratic National Convention Rules Committee in 2004; served as assistant attorney general under incumbent Attorney General Jay Nixon before being elected to the House; worked as a field organizer for U.S. Rep. Dick Gephardt’s 1988 presidential campaign.

ISSUES

ENVIRONMENTAL PRESERVATION: Supported environmental preservation bills in the House, focusing mainly on laws regarding corporate factory farm construction; sees a need for buffer zone between concentrated animal feeding operations and historical sites; would give local governments control when it comes to protecting natural resources; would strengthen Department of Natural Resources regulations regarding air and water quality in general and especially with respect to combined animal feeding operations; would aggressively pursue polluters and enforce regulations.

MEDICAID CUTS: Says he led the fight against Medicaid cuts as House minority leader; says the job of the attorney general is to stand up for those who lack resources; plans to restore health care for the more than 100,000 people who lost it and target those who commit Medicaid fraud.

CONSUMER PROTECTION: Plans to transfer the powers, duties and functions of the Office of Public Counsel to the Attorney General’s Office; plans to expand Missouri’s No Call program; opposes higher utility rates, unscrupulous business practices and unwanted political solicitations; would crack down on payday lenders and predatory subprime lenders; would work to lower gas prices by addressing the hot-fuel issue and going after price gouging.

WORKERS’ PROTECTION: Would aggressively enforce minimum wage and prevailing wage laws to ensure that citizens are compensated fairly; would promote workers’ safety and a safe workplace by enforcing labor laws.

OPEN GOVERNMENT: Wants to put force, weight and power behind the Sunshine Law; would establish a Sunshine Law Enforcement Unit; sponsored the 2004 Sunshine Law Electronic Upgrade Act, which brings the Sunshine Law up to date with technology by considering e-mails public records; recently issued a five-point strategy to ensure open government, which calls for, among other things, preventing governmental employees from using private e-mail accounts for public business, increasing fines for violators, and a legal presumption that documents are open to the public, with the Attorney General’s office determining whether records are subject to the Sunshine Law.

UNDOCUMENTED IMMIGRATION: Would make sure businesses are playing by the rules with regard to undocumented immigrants; would protect law-abiding employers from being at a competitive disadvantage by punishing businesses that hire undocumented persons and by punishing businesses that wrongly classify workers.

CYBER CRIME: Wants to mandate Internet safety curriculum for families; would focus on Missourians’ privacy and preventing the growing number of criminal activities associated with the Internet; would establish a Cyber Crimes Unit with an emphasis expanded beyond just forensic crimes.


Chris Koster

Harrisonville

PERSONAL: 43. Single.

PARTY: Democrat

CAMPAIGN WEB SITE: chriskoster.com

OCCUPATION: 31st District state senator, lawyer specializing in civil litigation with the Law Firm of Dollar, Becker and Burns in Kansas City.

EDUCATION: Bachelor’s degree from MU, 1987; juris doctorate from MU, 1991; master’s in business administration from Washington University, 2002.

BACKGROUND: Switched from Republican Party to Democrat Party affiliation in August 2007; vice-chairman of the Senate Ways and Means Committee; formerly served on the board of the Missouri Sentencing Advisory Commission as well as on the state’s Bioterrorism Task Force; member of the Belton-Raymore Rotary Club and the Belton Chamber of Commerce; elected to the Missouri Senate in 2004; served as prosecuting attorney of Cass County for 10 years; served as a director of the Missouri Association of Prosecuting Attorneys; former member of the U.S. Attorney’s Anti-Terrorism Task Force; served as director of the Hope Haven Women’s Shelter; practiced law with the Kansas City law firm of Blackwell Sanders from 1993 to 1994; served as an assistant Attorney General from 1991 to 1993.

ISSUES

ENVIRONMENTAL PRESERVATION: Drafted and passed the Green Power Initiative of 2007, which directs the Missouri Public Service Commission to foster a dramatic increase in the use of renewable fuels for our state’s energy production; would aggressively prosecute environmental violations; believes the Department of Natural Resources has done an inadequate job of policing environmental issues and that an aggressive policy change is necessary.

MEDICAID CUTS: Says he has supported nearly every increase in our state’s Medicaid system that has come before the Missouri Senate; sponsored 2006 and 2007 legislative efforts to combat Medicaid provider fraud; would aggressively prosecute Medicaid provider fraud; says he would ensure that money recouped through civil actions is returned to the state’s Medicaid system.

CONSUMER PROTECTION: Plans to use the Missouri Merchandising Practices Act to take on fraudulent securities dealers, big utility companies, subprime lenders and corporations that prey on Missouri’s consumers.

WORKERS’ PROTECTION: A primary mission would be to eliminate prevailing wage violations; fought prevailing wage violations as Cass County prosecuting attorney; argued against attempts to outlaw collective bargaining and make Missouri a right-to-work state.

OPEN GOVERNMENT: Would continue the existing practice of conducting Sunshine Law seminars for all public bodies; would push for new laws under the Records Retention Act to provide penalties for destruction of public records and safeguards for the protection of records in danger of destruction; would continue all existing Sunshine Law litigation.

UNDOCUMENTED IMMIGRATION: Supports employer-based systems such as E-Verify, which assists employers in checking documentation of applicants before employment; believes no immigration system should target undocumented workers or their families directly but should demand that Missouri’s employment community engage in best practices to ensure that only documented employees work in Missouri.

CYBER CRIMES: Would continue incumbent Jay Nixon’s Cyber Crimes Unit and would conduct best practices seminars for law enforcement in dealing with these issues; plans to prosecute sexual predators who use the Internet to solicit minors and scam artists who trick citizens into handing over their identities.


Molly Korth Williams

Kansas City

PERSONAL: Married to John Williams. They have one daughter, Natalie.

PARTY: Democrat

OCCUPATION: Junior high social studies and American history teacher at St. Elizabeth School.

EDUCATION: Bachelor’s degree in educational studies from MU, 1983; juris doctorate from University of Missouri-Kansas City, 1987.

BACKGROUND: Chairwoman of the Jackson County Board of Equalization; president of the American Judges Foundation; active in the Association for Women Lawyers of Greater Kansas City; practiced law in Kansas City for nearly 20 years, including stints at the Kansas City Missouri Prosecutor’s Office, the Jackson County Counselor’s Office, and the Missouri Attorney General’s Office; co-conceptualized and organized AWL’s “Step-Up For Women in Shelters” in 2006; national president of the American Judges Foundation from 2006 to 2007; secretary of the Board of Directors for the Jackson County Public Building Corp. from 1997 to present; director of Midwest Adult Abuse Prevention Program from 1995 to 1997.

*Repeated attempts by the Missourian to reach Williams were unsuccessful.


Michael Gibbons

Kirkwood

PERSONAL: 49. Married to Elizabeth Gibbons. They have two grown children.

PARTY: Republican

CAMPAIGN WEB SITE: michaelgibbons.com

OCCUPATION: 15th District state senator, practices law at Stinson, Morrison, Hecker LLP in St. Louis.

EDUCATION: Bachelor’s degree from Westminster College, 1981; juris doctorate from St. Louis University, 1984.

BACKGROUND: Practiced law with his father, Michael Gibbons, for 20 years in Kirkwood; elected to the Kirkwood City Council in 1986; served eight years as a state representative; elected to the Missouri Senate in 2000 and 2004; served as majority floor leader in 2003-04; Senate president pro tem since 2005.

Issues

ENVIRONMENTAL PRESERVATION: Says he is an advocate of the people and that the environment deserves the same protection as other areas of interest.

MEDICAID CUTS: Approved the legislative action to cut Medicaid, saying it was a difficult choice but one that was necessary to prevent the system from going bankrupt and that it reduced eligibility for able-bodied people while preserving protections for seniors, children, pregnant women and people with disabilities.

CONSUMER PROTECTION: Says the attorney general’s role in consumer protection is critical and that he hopes to make the state a national leader in aggressively going after those who defraud consumers.

WORKERS’ PROTECTION: Says he recognizes that the attorney general’s office is not a policy-making position but that he will work aggressively within parameters set by statute to protect employers from fraudulent health-insurance and other claims that lead to higher premiums. That strategy, he says, will expand job availability.

OPEN GOVERNMENT: Says that public access to government records and meetings is critical and that the Sunshine Law needs to keep up with technology; believes the attorney general’s office is obligated to teach officials how to comply. Would aggressively pursue violators.

UNDOCUMENTED IMMIGRATION: Advocates a more aggressive approach and says he would use every resource available to enforce national and state immigration laws in order to safeguard taxpayer-funded services

CYBER CRIMES: Says laws need to keep up with technology; supports local prosecution of Internet criminals; would aggressively enforce laws against con artists and protect against Internet predators.


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