This article, originally written for the St. Louis Beacon, outlines what will be Ed's first priority as Attorney General - restoring integrity to the office.
- Gabe Jones
When former Missouri Attorney General Jack Danforth endorsed me in the race for Attorney General, he highlighted an important point, which is often lost in my opponent’s rhetoric. Senator Danforth said:
“When you elect an attorney general, you’re not voting for some positions on matters of public policy. You’re voting for a lawyer, a law office, and a way of putting a law office together. I think this is what Ed offers. I know he will put together a law office that attracts very good people to it, and that is not so active in playing politics."
His conclusion is perhaps the most important. For over twenty years, the Office of Attorney General in the state of Missouri has been controlled by Jay Nixon and Chris Koster, two Democrats intent on using the office for political gain. Another former Attorney General, John Ashcroft, told me that the biggest difference between his time in the office and now is that Democrats learned how to use the office to make money from trial lawyers. As we all know, money and politics go hand-in-hand. But as the chief legal officer in the state, the Attorney General must be above scheming, corrupt political calculations. Unfortunately, for two decades Missourians have been bereft of honest leadership in their Attorney General.
When I am elected Attorney General, I will change that. I will provide honest leadership for all Missourians. I believe in the shared values that made this country great, which are espoused in the Constitution, and form our nation’s rule of law. I also believe there is a tenuous balance that exists between upholding the rule of law and profiting from it. For too long the office of Attorney General has been controlled by special interests and trial lawyers who contribute to the incumbent with a near-guarantee of a state contract or a special appointment.
The proof is in an audit release by State Auditor Tom Schweich in June 2012. Auditor Schweich caught our current Attorney General accepting hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from the very same law firms who were bidding on and receiving contracts to represent the state in legal cases. The amount Chris Koster received in campaign contributions? Nearly $750,000.
Those law firms contributed because they stood to have big paydays by winning the cases they argued, supposedly on behalf of Missourians. Additionally, the audit showed that over $4 million was spent on “legal and expert witness services” but the Attorney General did not document how and why the money was spent.
Beginning the moment I take office in January 2013, I will put an end to pay-to-play corruption in Jefferson City. I will clean up the office of Attorney General from top to bottom by ending the practice of contingency fee contracts, and making the office more transparent.
For example, my plan will expand the Missouri Accountability Portal to include all office costs, legal or otherwise with backup documentation, all fees to outside lawyers with backup documentation, and all campaign contributions to the Attorney General’s campaign or related committees while in office.
Under my plan, the Attorney General’s office will meticulously document exactly where and how tax dollars are being spent on legal fees and witnesses because we need a government that is subject to the people, not controlled by interest groups and high-profile law firms.
My opponent has compromised the integrity of his elected office by engaging corrupt pay-to-play political schemes. We would expect something of the sort in Obama's Chicago, not in Jefferson City.
Contrary to my opponent, I do not believe the Office of Attorney General, or any government office is worth $750,000. In fact, our government is not worth any conceivable amount, because the real value of our precious form of government truly is invaluable. Unfortunately for Missourians, the current Attorney General has ruined the integrity of his office. He might as well have a “For Sale” sign outside his office door.
As Attorney General, I will restore the integrity of the office and I hope to restore Missourian's trust in their Attorney General.
- Ed Martin