Missouri Senator-Elect Josh Hawley Could Go to Prison

With Rep. David Valadao of California’s 21st District conceding to T.J. Cox, the Democrats have locked in a forty seat gain in the 2018 midterm elections. It could go as high as forty-one if a new election is held in North Carolina’s Ninth District. The absentee ballot shenanigans that have been exposed there certainly warrant one. And at a minimum, it does not look likely that Republican Mark Harris will be seated in the House of Representatives.

But the Republicans also have a problem in the Senate, as Ed Kilgore explains. It appears to be a fairly straightforward scandal–although its resolution promises to be anything but.

Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley was the Republican Party’s nominee to take on Senator Claire McCaskill, and he was successful in his effort. The problem is that he improperly used his old office to run for his new one. McCaskill raised this issue in the last days of the campaign, but Hawley scraped by nonetheless. Having won, however, hasn’t made the problem go away. He now faces an inquiry.

Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft has launched an investigation into the way Attorney General Josh Hawley ran the office, Ashcroft’s deputy general counsel wrote to a Democratic-allied group Thursday…

…The complaint came after the Kansas City Star reported on Oct. 31 that political advisers who would run Hawley’s U.S. Senate campaign also directed taxpayer-funded staff, confusing the attorney general office’s chain of command.

The advisers also worked to raise Hawley’s national profile after Hawley took office as attorney general, the Star reported.

“This office will commence an investigation into the alleged offense,” Khristine A. Heisinger wrote to Brad Woodhouse, president of the [American Democracy Legal Fund]. Heisinger asks Woodhouse to forward the secretary of state’s office any information he may have.

Jay Ashcroft is the son of former U.S. attorney general and Missouri senator John Ashcroft. According to Kilgore, he lacks subpoena power. Obviously, he has partisan motives here, too, which may influence his investigation. But these charges are similar to the ones that once put a former Missouri attorney general in prison.

In 1993, Missouri Attorney General William L. Webster was sentenced to two years in prison for conspiracy and embezzlement of state resources after an investigation revealed Webster was using state resources for political purposes.

It’s doubtful that the Senate will refuse to seat Josh Hawley, but it’s possible that they may quickly come to regret that decision.

Martin Longman

Martin Longman is the web editor for the Washington Monthly and the main blogger at Booman Tribune.