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Missouri Ordered to Pay $242K for Violating Open Records Law during Josh Hawley’s Tenure as Attorney General

by Sophia Chen
5 comments
open records law violations

The Missouri attorney general’s office has been directed to pay $242,000 in legal fees due to their breach of the state’s open records law while Senator Josh Hawley held the position.

In November 2022, Circuit Judge Jon Beetem ruled that the attorney general’s office had violated the open records law by withholding documents from the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee during Hawley’s successful Senate campaign in 2018.

According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Beetem ruled on Wednesday that the office must cover the $242,000 in legal fees.

In response to the ruling, Mark Pedroli, the representative of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, hailed it as a “significant victory for transparency, fair elections, and the rule of law” on Twitter.

Pedroli also suggested that Hawley should apologize and settle the bill using the proceeds from his book, titled “Manhood: The Masculine Virtues America Needs.”

Kyle Plotkin, Hawley’s spokesperson, fired back, stating that Democrats should reimburse the money and apologize to the people of Missouri for pursuing the lawsuit even after the requested documents were eventually provided.

The Democrats had initially sought records of communication between Hawley’s political consultants at OnMessage Inc. and the attorney general’s office in 2017.

Judge Beetem ruled that this correspondence pertained to public affairs. He further noted that the records custodian at the time, Danie Hartman, possessed the documents and was aware of his obligations under the law. However, he falsely informed the Democrats that the office did not possess the requested records.

Beetem also pointed out that the office did possess documents related to the Democrats’ second request in March 2018.

Beetem highlighted that The Kansas City Star had obtained records showing communication between the attorney general’s office and OnMessage Inc., reporting in October 2018 that political consultants had played a significant role in Hawley’s office.

“By failing to produce the requested records, Mr. Hartman and the attorney general’s office obstructed an opposing party committee from accessing potentially damaging documents to then-Attorney General Hawley’s political campaign,” wrote Beetem.

The American Democracy Legal Fund later filed a complaint with Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft, accusing Hawley of potentially using public funds from his tenure as attorney general to support his Senate campaign.

Ashcroft, a Republican, investigated the complaint but ultimately cleared Hawley’s campaign of any wrongdoing.

Typically, the funds to cover these fees are drawn from the state’s Legal Expense Fund, which is financed by general tax revenue.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about open records law violations

What is the case regarding Missouri’s open records law violations?

The case revolves around violations of Missouri’s open records law by the attorney general’s office during Josh Hawley’s tenure. Documents were withheld from the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee during Hawley’s Senate campaign in 2018.

What was the ruling regarding the open records law violations?

Circuit Judge Jon Beetem ruled that the attorney general’s office indeed violated the open records law by withholding documents. In November 2022, he ordered the office to pay $242,000 in legal fees as a penalty for the violations.

Who represented the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee in this case?

Mark Pedroli represented the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee in the lawsuit against the attorney general’s office for the open records law violations.

What did the spokesperson for Josh Hawley say in response to the ruling?

Hawley’s spokesperson, Kyle Plotkin, stated that Democrats should return the money and apologize for continuing the lawsuit after the requested documents were eventually provided.

How did the judge describe the impact of withholding the requested records?

Judge Beetem emphasized that by failing to produce the requested records, the attorney general’s office hindered the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee from accessing potentially damaging documents to Josh Hawley’s political campaign.

Where does the funding for the legal fees typically come from?

The legal fees are usually covered by the state’s Legal Expense Fund, which is financed by general tax dollars.

More about open records law violations

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5 comments

PoliticalWatcher June 30, 2023 - 2:11 am

Democrats should drop the lawsuit now that the documents were provided. Stop wasting taxpayer money and move on to more important issues!

Reply
Bookworm27 June 30, 2023 - 6:41 am

josh hawley needs to say sorry and pay that bill himself with the money from his book. manhood: the masculine virtues america needs? really? smh

Reply
GrammarNerd June 30, 2023 - 7:31 am

So many spelling and punctuation mistakes in this text. It’s important to proofread and double-check before publishing. Attention to detail matters!

Reply
User123 June 30, 2023 - 11:26 am

omg i cant believe Missouri has to pay 242k for breaking the open records law! like wth! they should know better!

Reply
NewsJunkie99 June 30, 2023 - 3:43 pm

it’s a win for transparency and fair elections! glad the judge ruled in favor of the democratic senatorial campaign committee. justice served!

Reply

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