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Columbia Missourian

Ethics Commission not finished with Koster

By DAVID A. LIEB/ The Associated Press
August 21, 2008 | 10:31 p.m. CDT

JEFFERSON CITY — Although he already has prevailed on several fundraising complaints, attorney general candidate Chris Koster still has complaints pending against him at the Missouri Ethics Commission.

The day after Koster proclaimed victory in a close Democratic primary, the Ethics Commission said Aug. 6 that it had dismissed nine complaints related to fundraising by Koster and a political action committee that supported him.

Koster said at the time that the Ethics Commission action put the matter to rest.

But those dismissals did not actually end the complaints against Koster. The dismissals related only to complaints filed in July by supporters of Koster's one Republican and two Democratic opponents.

The Ethics Commission still has not acted on several similar fundraising complaints filed by a Lee's Summit resident in June.

Koster's campaign said it was unaware additional complaints were pending until contacted by The Associated Press, but it confirmed Thursday that was true.

"Given that the substance of all the complaints are the same, and those were dismissed, we expect the commission will rule the same way - that we've acted appropriately and within the law," said Koster campaign spokesman Danny Kanner.

The Associated Press reported July 8 that Koster's paid campaign staff helped channel donations from a political action committee called the Economic Growth Council to various regional political party committees and onto Koster's campaign - allowing Koster to receive amounts that were larger than allowed if those donors had given directly to his campaign.

The June ethics complaints, which were not publicized until after the AP article, alleged the money transfers amounted to "laundering of campaign contributions." A Lee's Summit resident filed four separate but similar complaints naming Koster, his campaign committee, the Economic Growth Council and the council's creator, Chuck Hatfield.

Hatfield said Thursday that he believes there are no pending complaints against him.

"I was assured by the investigators that all the complaints were going to be handled at once, and I have not been asked for any additional information," Hatfield said. "As the investigators told me, I believe this matter is closed."

The July ethics complaints also alleged Koster used "a laundering scheme" to evade campaign contribution limits and conceal the identity of donors. Those complaints were filed by supporters of his Democratic challengers, Margaret Donnelly and Jeff Harris, and by a supporter of Republican attorney general candidate Mike Gibbons.

Because the July complaints were filed within 60 days of the election, the Ethics Commission by law had to decide them within 15 days. But the commission has 90 days to take action on the complaints filed in June.

The Ethics Commission can neither confirm nor deny whether complaints are pending, but it does release the results of its decisions several days after they are made.