Here's the Koster press release on the continuing series of negative articles - its been a tough few days for Chris:
This morning, you may be reading newspaper articles inaccurately characterizing our campaign’s fundraising practices. Because you are one of the thousands of supporters who make this campaign tick, we want you to have the facts before our political opponents try to distort them.
Here are the facts:
· This article seeks to create high drama where none exists.
· Our campaign has acted in constant consultation with the Missouri Ethics Commission. In 2000, the Commission ruled that candidates could raise money from the same committees for which they raised money. In 2004, the Commission ruled that it was irrelevant who delivered these contributions – whether it be the postman or a campaign aide. These opinions and the Commission staff have guided our actions throughout this campaign.
· The only relevant issue is the independence of the Economic Growth Council. The Economic Growth Council is an independent organization that can contribute all of the money they have and give it to our opponents, and there would be nothing the Koster campaign could do about it.
· Our campaign’s relationship with the Economic Growth Council is no different than Attorney General Jay Nixon’s relationship with the Missouri Democratic Party, or Congressman Kenny Hulshof’s relationship with the Missouri Republican Party. The simple fact is that Missourians for Koster does not control the Economic Growth Council any more than the gubernatorial candidates control their respective party committees.
· As news reports have pointed out, the use of district committees is common practice among statewide campaigns and has been explicitly authorized by the Ethics Commission.
· Any fair reading of the law and Ethics Commission opinions leads to the conclusion that our campaign has acted in a completely proper way. Our consistent consultation with Ethics Commission staff confirms that conclusion.
Your support is incredibly important to us, and we will not stand idly by while the politicians try to distort Chris’s record and his actions. Please feel free to contact the Koster campaign with any questions.
Missourians for Koster
P.S. Here’s the story from the Kansas City Star if you haven’t seen it.
Fundraising by Koster called into question
By KIT WAGAR and JASON NOBLE
The Star’s Jefferson City correspondents
State Sen. Chris Koster’s campaign for attorney general found itself at the center of a storm Tuesday over allegations that his campaign used back-channel sources to skirt contribution limits. The Associated Press reported that a member of Koster’s campaign staff traveled throughout the state, funneling campaign contributions as large as nearly $27,000 from wealthy contributors and special interests into Koster’s campaign. State law currently limits individual contributions to a maximum of $1,350.
The Koster campaign denied its actions were inappropriate.
But Susan McNay — who no longer works for Koster’s campaign — told The Kansas City Star that her job was to run over-the-limit campaign contributions through political party fund-raising groups, which are allowed to donate nearly 10 times that individual contribution limit.
McNay said she created documents to justify the contributions and make it appear that the donations were independent of Koster’s campaign. “I trusted the candidate, even though I had questions about whether we were doing something that was not right,” McNay told the AP. “He assured me everything was fine, and now I have concerns that we broke the law.”
Koster was unavailable, but his campaign issued a statement calling the issue “an attempt at high drama where none exists.” The statement said all the campaign’s actions complied with the law and had been done in consultation with the Missouri Ethics Commission, which regulates campaign fundraising.
“As the article points out, use of (political party) committees is common practice among statewide campaigns and has been explicitly authorized by the Ethics Commission,” the Koster campaign said. Although party committees are widely used to funnel large contributions to candidates, the law requires the committees to make independent decisions about who will receive contributions.
The difference in this case is the degree to which Koster’s campaign was involved in those decisions. After the Missouri Supreme Court restored contribution limits last year, Koster was forced to refund about $370,000 to his supporters. On Dec. 18, the day after those refunds were issued, a fundraising committee was set up by Chuck Hatfield, a former chief of staff in the attorney general’s office who is a close friend of Koster’s, according to the AP.
Some 70 percent of the refunds that Koster’s campaign made were eventually donated to Hatfield’s committee, known as the Economic Growth Council. That included a $125,000 contribution from James Stowers, founder of the Stowers Institute for Medical Research in Kansas City.
A spokeswoman for Stowers on Tuesday acknowledged that he donated specifically to support Koster’s campaign. “When he made the contribution to the Economic Growth Council, he wasn’t in position to tell them what to do with it,” Laurie Roberts said. “They clearly gave us the impression it would be used to support Koster’s campaign.” By March 31, the council reported raising $493,825, nearly all of which eventually made its way to Koster, the AP reported.
This is the way it worked, according to the AP:
Koster’s campaign would direct contributors to send their refunds or other contributions to the Economic Growth Council. McNay then sent an e-mail on March 19 to Hatfield listing the amounts his group should give to 29 local political party committees. The Economic Growth Council wrote the checks to the political party committees. Each political party committee would then write checks to the Koster campaign, keeping a small amount for itself. McNay met with local committee directors to exchange checks.
McNay told The Kansas City Star that her assignment was to organize contributions to local political party committees, which would then give them to Koster’s campaign. McNay said she determined the amounts that Hatfield’s group would contribute to each of the political party committees she mentioned in her March 19 e-mail. It was simply part of her job.
Koster spokesman Danny Kanner said Tuesday nothing was wrong with such an exchange of checks because Hatfield made independent decisions to contribute to those party committees supporting Koster. If he had contributed to Koster’s opponents, Koster could do nothing about it, Kanner said. McNay also said that in several cases she used her computer at the Koster campaign to create a cover letter for the donations that included Hatfield’s name under an Economic Growth Council letterhead.
Koster told the AP that he was unaware that McNay used campaign equipment to create those documents. But McNay said she had informed Koster of her actions. Koster, a former Republican prosecutor from Cass County who switched to the Democratic Party last year, is one of three major candidates seeking the Democratic nomination for attorney general.
His opponents — state Reps. Margaret Donnelly of St. Louis County and Jeff Harris of Columbia — said the Koster campaigns actions went beyond routine bundling of contributions. “This story raises serious questions and demands a thorough investigation,” Donnelly said. Harris said, “There does seem to be a pattern of looking for shortcuts with him.”
Here's what I find shocking - just how quickly Koster's donors (Stowers, etc.) are bailing on him. McNay seems to have produced enough emails to cover her butt, now the donors seem to be doing a little CYA, as well.