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State attorney general candidates discuss campaign issues at MU

Thursday, September 11, 2008 | 9:45 p.m. CDT; updated 10:01 a.m. CDT, Monday, September 15, 2008
Republican Michael R. Gibbons, right, and Democrat Chris Koster debate Thursday in Gannett Hall at MU.

COLUMBIA — Missouri attorney general candidates Mike Gibbons and Chris Koster declared their opposition to a campaign tactic that they both admitted using: automated telephone calls.

The denunciations — and admissions — were made at the candidates' first debate, held Thursday at the Missouri School of Journalism.

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Gibbons, the Republican candidate and senate president pro tem, advocated an extension of outgoing Attorney General Jay Nixon's "No-Call" list to apply to political automated phone calls.

"They are offensive and drive people nuts," Gibbons said. "Even in my household, and in my parents' home, the volume of calls is unbelievable."

Koster, who is running on the Democratic ticket, said political automated calls should be eliminated altogether. If they are not, he said, the calls should provide a disclaimer identifying who paid for the call and providing contact information.

But in response to a follow-up question posed by moderator and Associated Press reporter David Lieb, Koster admitted using automated calls during the primary election season.

"I did have a fairly aggressive primary where I needed to defend myself a fair amount," Koster said. "I would be happy to disarm if the legislature would call a truce to all this craziness."

Gibbons did not use automated calls during the primary, largely because he was uncontested for the Republican nomination. He did, though, use them to promote community meetings regarding property tax law earlier this spring.

Gibbons said legislation to expand the state's no-call law restricting telemarketing has been in the Senate for several sessions.

"We have passed it," Gibbons said. "I have voted for it. It dies out in the House."

Additionally, both candidates said they would continue investigating Gov. Matt Blunt's office regarding access to deleted e-mails.

After both declared their support for the Missouri Sunshine Law, Lieb brought up the "ongoing battle between the attorney general's office and governor's office over access to e-mails," and asked whether the candidates would continue with the investigation of the governor's office.

"There have been too many fights between the governor's office and the attorney general's office over the last four years," Koster said. "I hope that that era is over, and I will pledge to work in that direction. But the investigation will continue.

"I don't know what conclusion it comes to, but it should be brought to an appropriate and approved conclusion as quickly as possible," Koster added.

Gibbons emphasized the ease with which government should be able to maintain and bring forward public documents.

"I don't understand how it could cost anything in the electronic age, at least going forward," Gibbons said. "Old records may be different, but going forward - why can't they be produced at virtually no cost?

Gibbons also pledged to continue the investigation of Blunt's office "if the law and the facts warrant its continuation."

Other issues addressed in the debate included Internet crime, illegal immigration, eminent domain and methamphetamine. The debate was sponsored by the journalism school, the Missouri Press Association and the Missouri Broadcasters Association.


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