Koster's ex-wife pays for ad questioning his ethics

Thursday, July 31, 2008 | 7:36 p.m. CDT

 KANSAS CITY —  The former wife of Chris Koster, a Democratic attorney general candidate, is financing a television ad questioning his fundraising and ethics.

Rebecca Bowman Nassikas donated $200,000 to a political committee last week that plans to use the money for TV ads. The committee, Missourians for Honest Leadership, has already posted the piece on its Web site,

Nassikas, who was married to Koster from 1996 to 2003, told The Kansas City Star that ethics complaints filed by her ex-husband's rivals prompted her to donate the money, although she said she had no say when it came to ads. Nassikas, who lives in Scottsdale, Ariz., said she's not connected to any of Koster's rival campaigns.

Koster, a state senator and former Cass County prosecutor, faces state Reps. Margaret Donnelly of St. Louis County and Jeff Harris of Columbia and Kansas City teacher Molly Williams in the Democratic attorney general primary on Tuesday. Sen. Michael Gibbons is the only Republican candidate.

Supporters of Donnelly, Harris and Gibbons filed complaints with the Missouri Ethics Commission after The Associated Press in July reported how Koster's paid campaign staff shuttled money among various committees to get around the state's campaign contribution limits.

The ad posted to the Web site of Missourians for Honest Leadership includes headlines and excerpts from several newspaper stories delving into Koster's fundraising practices.

"I hope this gets people to look into (the allegations)," Nassikas said. "They might still decide to vote for Chris. But this will be a way to make it more fair."

Koster's campaign spokesman, Danny Kanner, said the ad is an effort by political rivals to undermine Koster's candidacy. Koster has defended his fundraising tactics as legal, based in part on the advice of the Ethics Commission.

"This is a direct attack from the other two Democrats in this race," Kanner told the AP on Thursday. "It's politics at its worst and hypocrisy at its highest level."

Barbara Kemery, treasurer of Missourians for Honest Leadership, said the committee's goal is to publicize ethics complaints about Koster. The committee was formed in Columbia in October 2006 and spent $17,599 to oppose three Republican state representatives.

After Nassikas donated $200,000 to Missourians for Honest Leadership, documents filed with the Ethics Commission show the committee used $2,000 to set up a Web site. The committee also paid $187,500 to a New York company to produce television ads against Koster and buy air time.

Nassikas said she also wanted to help level the playing field in the primary, because she believes Koster was able to loan his campaign $200,000 partly as a result of their 2005 divorce settlement in which Koster received $580,000.

"This was not some diabolical plan," Nassikas told the Star. "This was me feeling that I was partly responsible for Chris being in a position that put his opponents at an unfair disadvantage."



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