How Missouri Republicans Bleeped an Election

Before any more time passes I want to explain something that happened in the recent gubernatorial election in Missouri. It was between the Republican incumbent, Mike Parsons, and the Democratic State Auditor, Nicole Galloway.

For a time the polls in this race were close — which may not have been accurate, but whatever — possibly because Parsons has no discernible personality and is mostly inactive. I think if he disappeared for a week, no one would notice, including his wife. Going into the election Galloway had a sterling repulation and was endorsed by all the major newspapers.

Then Missouri’s new nutjob Republican U.S. senator, Josh Hawley, filed a complaint against Galloway. This is from September:

The Missouri State Board of Accountancy has opened an investigation into a complaint he filed against Auditor Nicole Galloway earlier this year, U.S. Senator Josh Hawley said Wednesday.

Hawley blasted Galloway on social media, accusing her of altering audits for political reasons and keeping political consultants on her office’s payroll. He referred to her office as a “case study in corruption.”

Note that before he was elected senator Hawley was the state attorney general, so he’s thick with the other Republicans in Jefferson City.

Soon Galloway also was being investigated by Missouri Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft. If that name rings a bell, he’s the son of John “Crisco” Ashcroft who was U.S. Attorney General in the George W. Bush administration. Yeah, that guy. You remember him.

So this investigation is in the newspapers and was prominently featured in Parsons campaign attack ads against Galloway. The major newspapers continued to endorse Galloway, anyway.

In October Galloway filed a suit.

Democratic state Auditor Nicole Galloway, in the midst of a heated election for governor, is asking a judge to block an investigation of her by Republican Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft.

In a complaint filed Tuesday in Cole County Court, Galloway’s attorney said Ashcroft’s office lacks the legal authority to issue a subpoena for documents related to the probe.

And the filing says the move by the secretary of state is politically motivated because voters are already casting ballots in the race for governor.

“In less than 30 days before a major election, the Secretary of State is commencing an entirely unlawful investigation against another statewide elected official based upon a fatally flawed complaint from a dark money organization,” wrote Joel Anderson, chief litigation counsel for the auditor’s office.

And here we get to what’s really bugging Missouri Republicans:

Liberty Alliance, a not-for-profit organization trying to get Republicans elected, says an opinion piece by Galloway that ran in the Post-Dispatch last year focusing on a restrictive state abortion law was submitted to the newspaper by one of her state-paid press aides, violating state law barring the use of taxpayer dollars for campaign purposes.

The auditor’s office said there is no law prohibiting her, as an elected statewide officeholder, from speaking on any variety of topics.

In launching his investigation, Ashcroft first submitted a public records request for emails related to the abortion issue.

Be sure not to miss that last paragraph above. Ashcroft apparently believes it’s unlawful for a public official to be in favor of legal abortion. (You may remember the saga of Missouri’s last abortion clinic, which is still open, possibly because Rachel Maddow shone a bright light on what was going on with it.)

Back to the Liberty Alliance — even before the investigation into Galloway was opened, Missouri Democrats had filed an ethics complaint against Liberty Alliance.

The complaint alleges that the nonprofit was created to work against the candidacy of state Auditor Nicole Galloway, the Democrat challenging Gov. Mike Parson this fall. Because of this, the complaint argues that the nonprofit shouldn’t be allowed to shield its donors from public view. It should be required to file disclosure paperwork with the Missouri Ethics Commission like a political action committee.

“Liberty Alliance has been releasing videos, statements, creating a website and soliciting donations all for the primary or incidental purpose of advocating against the election of Nicole Galloway for governor of Missouri,” the complaint says, later adding: “Liberty Alliance USA has violated Missouri law by influencing or attempting to influence voters against the election of Nicole Galloway for governor and failing to register with the MEC as a continuing committee.” …

…Liberty Alliance USA was created just three days after Galloway announced she was going to run for governor. On its incorporation paperwork it lists its owner as nonprofit Cornerstone 1791 as its owner.

As nonprofits, the groups are not required to disclose their donors. They may engage in some political activities, so long as that is not its primary activity.

Both Liberty Alliance USA and Cornerstone 1791 share an address with the Kansas City law firm of former Missouri GOP Chairman Todd Graves.

The Missouri Ethics Commission dismissed the complaint. So the dark money continued to flow. Here’s the Wikipedia page on Cornerstone 1791, if you’re interested.

Anyway, in the closing days of the campaigns, Missouri was saturated with television ads accusing Galloway of all kinds of moral malfunctions. Here is a television news fact check of one of them. You really want to watch this. Among other things, it clarifies why Josh Hawley is pissed at her.

The ethics investigation into Hawley was ended by Jay Ashcroft, btw.

On November 3, Parsons defeated Galloway 57.2% to 40.6%.

Oh, and Ashcroft closed the investigation into Galloway on November 12, admitting there was no evidence.

Mike Parsons and Nicole Galloway, St. Louis Post-Dispatch photos

11 thoughts on “How Missouri Republicans Bleeped an Election

  1. Hmm…

    In Raffensperger from GA, did we stumble upon the one non-corrupt RepubliKKKLAN in the entire country?

    Must be kinda lonely to be him, huh? 

  2. This is an excellent description of the problem. It's a widespread tactic, not an incidental occurrence. Remember when they found the common denominator of firing all those A/G's in the Bush administration? They were all guys who refused to open ungrounded investigations into Democrats just before an election. This is a practice I've considered the solution for – and there is one. (Probably more than one, but I'm going to discuss mine.)

    For those who are not familiar with my political fetish, I'm against big money in politics – not because it's the worst problem but because it's the first problem. It's the one we have to solve before we can address any of the other issues.

    To go back to Maha's blog, the accusation of corruption wasn't enough – they had to advertise the investigation. It was a third party, Liberty Alliance and their financiers, who did the dirty work for Parsons who never had his fingerprints on the knife. (Otherwise, he'd have to defend the accusation.) 

    What if, as an election standard, the candidates "owned" the election advertising. That means that from the time a candidate declares they own their name and image in terms of media. To be clear, Parsons could use Galloway's name and picture and vice versa. The media could report in unpaid news and editorials but nobody else could weigh into the election to support or do a hit job on the candidates. Obviously, this would require a reversal of Citizens United but I'd go further. Even the parties should be banned. 

    Why? Because I vote for someone to represent me, not the party. If the party can contribute or withhold election support, the party has leverage. Once upon a time, members of Congress talked to each other, even across party lines. A practical bill with concessions to the other side might attract support from across the aisle. That's the system I want. It won't give me everything I want, but it has resulted in good (not perfect) government and progress on damn near all issues.

    How far into state elections the federal government can go is untested to any significant degree. We need to go there, even if we lose, to push the principle of corruption into public view and be the party for honest elections.

    BTW, and off-topic, somebody needs to take note of the Republicans who have stepped up in the last two weeks to protect election integrity. They are there – in office and among the Republican electorate. We should be building bridges there becuase the virtue of free and fair elections is under attack. 

  3. I have to admit the sheer density of the story defeated me. But thanks for trying. I don't know about the polls before this attack on the Democrat started, but if you were to tell me that in a Republican state the incumbent governor defeated a younger female Democrat by 57-40, my first thought wouldn't be, 'Well, clearly she should have won. Something's wrong here.'

    • 'Well, clearly she should have won. Something's wrong here.'

      Not the point, of course, but I suspect you are being deliberately obtuse. You must be a Republican.

      The point, which is written clearly enough, is that a U.S. senator, a state secretary of state, and a dark money outfit operated by the state GOP chair, conspired to fabricate a totally bogus criminal investigation against the governor's political challenger, which generated headlines and attack ads against the challenger, and which then was dropped a week after the election because there was absolutely no substance to the charges.

      The U.S. senator was the state attorney general until 2018. The current attorney general was appointed by the governor to serve the rest of the senator's AG term, so he was not about to interfere in the scam. 

      I strongly suggest a remedial reading class. Also, if you show up here again and try to gaslight my blog, you will be permantly blocked and your comment will be deleted. See the commenting rules. 

  4. Parson was supposed to spend eight providing "gravitas" to Eric Greitens, then retire as a comfortable lobbyist.  Greitens's unmitigated assholery elevated a complete hack into a position where Parson is way over his head.

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