THREE DAYS, FIVE STORIES: Josh Hawley and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Weekend
MISSOURI — In case you missed it, Josh Hawley had a rough weekend. First, Politico
This morning, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that Hawley’s investigations in the Attorney General’s office have gone nowhere, leading some to wonder “Is this about yelling from the mountaintops, or is this about doing a straight up, legitimate, thorough investigation of an issue?,'” while the Kansas City Star reported that Hawley refuses to use email to evade the Sunshine law — the very law he claims to champion.
- Josh Hawley has criticized Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill repeatedly for using a private plane to travel around Missouri. But the Republican Senate hopeful isn’t above taking a ride in a private plane himself.
- Hawley received an in-kind contribution of more than $5,225 for a charter flight in September on a plane owned by lobbyist Travis Brown and his wife, according to public records. Hawley attended a West Virginia fundraiser on that day, social media posts show, before returning to Springfield, Missouri that night – and posting a Facebook video of him driving into the city for a rally with President Donald Trump the next day.
- Brown is a registered lobbyist in Missouri, whose clients include the St. Louis Blues hockey team and wealthy businessman Rex Sinquefield, a Hawley donor who’s linked to a state-level effort to permit medical marijuana use. The plane Hawley flew in, a Pilatus PC-12/47, is registered to Brown’s business address, and flight records show it leaving Missouri for West Virginia on Sept. 20 and returning later that night.
- Hawley also reported charter plane expenses of $8,732 for a flight in August and three flights in September in campaign finance disclosures. It is unclear who owned those planes or where Hawley went; his campaign declined to provide details about the flights.
- “You sort of expect it’s going to be chaotic for the first three months, and then it became through six months, and then it was the first year,” said one former attorney, who spoke to the Post-Dispatch on the condition of anonymity for fear of retaliation.
- “I think the attorney general position is being short-changed, without question,” [a separate attorney in Hawley’s office who spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of being fired] said.
- The first attorney added that Hawley’s litigation section was plagued by departures and one particularly bad hire, Michael Quinlan, who left after less than a year.
- Among the most controversial new hires: Loree Anne Paradise and Daniel Hartman. Paradise says in an online resume that she graduated law school in 2016; Hartman says he graduated in 2014. Both worked on Hawley’s 2016 campaign. Paradise and Hartman earned two of the agency’s top 20 salaries last year, records show.
- The effect of departures, low morale and restructuring may have manifested itself in the courtroom. At least two judges have scolded the agency for failing to provide documents to opposing counsel.
- Former employees say the emphasis on federal issues diverted attention away from state business. “The sort of, day to day, defending the state against lawsuits or consumer protection suits or things like that — are de-emphasized and under-resourced,” the first attorney said.
- Hawley’s office did not directly answer whether the attorney general was putting in 40 hours per week or whether he was increasingly absent as his Senate campaign heated up.
- The Post-Dispatch reported last year that Hawley had not moved to Jefferson City as did previous attorneys general, in possible violation of state law. He rented an apartment in the capital after the report.
- …a review of public records and internal documents, as well as interviews with current and former employees, reveals a chaotic tenure as attorney general that has been costly for state taxpayers. Judges have criticized the office over its slow pace of discovery, and Mr. Hawley’s staff had to renege on a settlement in a high-profile civil case.
- And while Mr. Hawley focused on politicized issues, like joining a federal effort to dismantle Obamacare, his office was hollowed out of experienced litigators, leading to a sharp increase in settlement costs.
- The biggest problems in the office under Mr. Hawley have come in the civil litigation division, which defends the state against lawsuits. Only a single litigator who worked under Mr. Hawley’s predecessor is left in the main office in Jefferson City, Missouri’s capital. And the problem extends beyond the transition; eight civil litigation attorneys hired under Mr. Hawley have already left, in a division typically staffed by 25 to 30 lawyers.
- Some attorneys who worked in the office said a large part of the division’s problem stemmed from Mr. Hawley’s pick of Mr. Quinlan for such an important position. Before his hiring, Mr. Quinlan was a “mediator and conflict coach” at Christian Family Renewal, a marriage counseling group he founded. His LinkedIn profile indicated that his litigation experience took place mostly in the 1980s and early 1990s…Mr. Quinlan left the office in December after nine months, weeks after a female attorney in the office complained about receiving an unwelcome lecture from him about her sex life.
- Adding to the instability in the office’s top management was the departure of Evan Rosell, a lawyer who was serving as a Kansas City pastor when he was tapped to serve as Mr. Hawley’s chief of staff.
- …internal messages obtained by The Times raised questions about the robustness of the [Confide] inquiry. One text message sent by a senior aide to Mr. Greitens suggested she knew well ahead of time when the attorney general’s investigation would wrap up. And internal email traffic showed that Mr. Hawley’s deputies accommodated the governor’s office’s demand that interviews with members of the governor’s staff be limited to 15 minutes.
- Amid the missteps by Mr. Hawley’s office, some judges have expressed frustration. In one case, Sandra C. Midkiff, a circuit court judge in Kansas City, Mo., spent a hearing working over Mr. Hawley’s staff at its lagging efforts to produce documents, telling it at various points “you can’t have it both ways,” “you can’t hide the documents” and “I have heard three different versions of what happened or what did not happen.”
- “Those investigations are going to take years to complete,” Bindbeutel said, referring specifically to [Hawley’s] tech probes. “When you yell them (investigation announcements) from the mountaintops, it makes one wonder, ‘Is this about yelling from the mountaintops, or is this about doing a straight up, legitimate, thorough investigation of an issue?’”
- Hawley has not updated the public in months on his investigation into Greitens’ former charity, The Mission Continues, and whether Greitens or others illegally used charity resources for personal or political gain.
- To Hawley’s critics, the headline-grabbing announcement [to the St. Louis Housing Authority over the Clinton-Peabody housing complex] was just that: a headline-grabbing announcement. The two sides are not even scheduled to appear in court for an initial review until Nov. 13, after the election.
- …Hawley, 38, is one of two statewide officials who do not use email on the job, making it difficult for voters — or his political opponents — to know how he conducts official business.
- First Amendment advocates say it’s concerning to see public officials such as the attorney general purposely avoiding the creation of public records while giving public “lip service” to government accountability and transparency.
- His office did not directly answer whether Hawley or his staff had previously used Confide, What’s App or other applications that automatically erase messages, saying only, “All records are disclosed and retained pursuant to law.”