Monday, July 14, 2008
Koster Has Pending Ethics Complaint
The Koster ethics scandel continues to grow, including this revelation (an article in yesterday's Star by Kit Wagner) that an ethics complaint was filed LAST MONTH.
Ethics complaint filed last month against Koster mirrors this week's allegations of skirting contribution limits
Chris Koster’s campaign for attorney general is the target of an ethics complaint accusing him of engaging “in what can only be described as a laundering of campaign contributions.”
The complaint, filed early last month with the Missouri Ethics Commission, describes 55 transactions involving 42 political party fundraising committees that funneled nearly $475,000 to Koster in contributions that exceeded the legal limit on individual donations.
The complaint mirrors the news reports earlier this week in which a former Koster staff member said she ran over-the-limit contributions through political party fund-raising committees. The staffer said she sometimes created documents to make it appear that the donations were independent of Koster’s campaign.
Danny Kanner, a spokesman for Koster’s campaign, said all fund-raising was within the law and done in consultation with Ethics Commission staff. He said campaign officials expect the complaint to be dismissed and saw no need to file a formal response to the allegations.
“This is the system, whether we like it or not,” Kanner said. “Koster doesn’t like the system and that’s why he voted twice to reform it.”
The complaint, a copy of which was obtained by The Kansas City Star, lays out its accusations in an eight-page narrative that starts with the creation of a fund-raising committee called the Economic Growth Council.
The Economic Growth Council was formed last December by Chuck Hatfield, a close friend of Koster and former chief of staff to Attorney General Jay Nixon. The complaint calls it a sham committee formed to accept over-the-limit contributions, then distribute the money to a variety of political party committees, which then passed the money to Koster.
Political party committees are often used to bundle large contributions because they can give up to $13,450 to a candidate and contribute another $13,450 in in-kind services. Individual contributions to candidates are limited to a maximum of $1,350.
State law allows the formation of private fundraising committees as long as they are not controlled by a candidate and are not formed solely for the benefit of a particular candidate. Hatfield said Friday that he formed the committee to raise money for Democrats, including Koster. But he said he never requested or expected the party committees to give to a particular candidate.
However, campaign disclosure reports show that of the 43 political party committees that received money from the Economic Growth Council, 42 contributed to Koster. The only committee that did not give to Koster never reported receiving any money.
The complaint notes that within a few days of receiving the contribution from the Economic Growth Council, each party committee would skim about $300 for itself and pass the rest to Koster.
“With many of these committees, the only money received was from the Economic Growth Council and the only money donated was to Missourians for Koster,” the complaint said. In addition, 10 committees each wrote checks for $13,450 to LUC Media, Koster’s ad buyer.
“These donations must have been coordinated by Chris Koster… _ how else would the committees have known to donate to this particular advertising agency?” the complaint said.
Koster’s campaign, meanwhile, filed an amended campaign finance report with the Ethics Commission on Thursday. The report eliminated references to donations from 11 political party committees and attributed $94,150 in contributions to the 2nd Senatorial District Legislative Committee in St. Charles.
Kanner said the amended report was erroneous. The campaign intended only to remove contributions that were received after the March 31 and place them into the second-quarter report that will be due next week. He blamed internal accounting glitches for the errors and said a corrected version would be filed as soon as possible.