As the slate of 2016 GOP gubernatorial hopefuls and their respective supporters would tell it, Attorney General Chris Koster has (yet again) been caught in another broken promise; this time for failing to uphold a pledge to institute “sweeping new transparency measures”, according to a recent audit form the State Auditor’s office, the first audit report released since the passing of former State Auditor Tom Schweich, a gubernatorial candidate himself.
This whole episode, of course, stems from an October piece in The New York Times that contended that the Attorney General’s office had either altered or dropped entirely, investigations of certain companies after his campaign, Missourians For Koster, had received financial gifts from lobbyists with direct or indirect ties to those companies in question.
Regarding this most recent audit, Deputy State Auditor Harry Otto said:
“The campaign is relying upon donors to self-identify themselves as not having a conflict with the AG’s office,” Otto said. “There’s no way a donor should or could know what’s being investigated.”
St. Louis Post-Dispatch, March 24, 2015
Otto also advised that Koster’s office adopt the policy of establishing a position within the office to oversee donation activity. He also advised that the Attorney General’s office should simply return the sum of the donation in question back, if the particular donor was under investigation from the AG’s office, rather than terminating the investigation entirely, as was suggested.
A completely fair suggestion.
As for the audit itself, among its findings were:
• The office doesn’t accurately document the selection of outside counsel and expert witnesses.
• Employees traveling on official business made hotel reservations without comparing prices to make sure lodging costs were reasonable.
• The office has not created “strong password controls” to prevent unauthorized access to office computers and “certain data.”
So what does it all mean?
In our eyes, not much.
Obviously we understand the motivation behind the audit itself. When our nation’s “paper of record” raises an issue, it would be imprudent not to investigate, at least somewhat. It’s completely justifiable.
This particular audit’s findings, however, are more boring and uninteresting than they are particularly useful.
We acknowledge that the State Auditor’s Office’s head was in the right place with this report. The Attorney General’s office, did indeed, display some activity that in its most innocent understanding could be seen or, at minimum, be misconstrued as questionable. Yet, questions regarding some hotel rates and computer passwords hardly pique our interest. Hardly.
This story is proving to have little traction, and rightfully so.
Attorney General Koster’s march toward the Democratic gubernatorial nomination should continue unabated.