Attorney General's office counters claims by New York Times
JEFFERSON CITY - The Attorney General's office released documents Thursday designed to show the New York Times misrepresented actions by Attorney General Chris Koster in two articles released this week.
The Times released the first article Tuesday. It outlined a specific series of events in which the Times claimed a lawyer from 5-Hour Energy attended an event by the Democratic Attorneys General Association in California. The article stated Koster changed his stance on investigating the product after meeting with the lawyer at the event. The article states the lawyer's firm contributed thousands of dollars in campaign gifts. The Times called the change "a clear victory for 5-Hour Energy."
Times reporter Eric Lipton wrote,"The quick reversal, confirmed by Mr. Koster and Ms. Kalani, was part of a pattern of successful lobbying of Mr. Koster by the law firm on behalf of clients like Pfizer and AT&T - and evidence of a largely hidden dynamic at work in state attorneys general offices across the country."
Lipton published a second article Wednesday stating the Missouri House of Representatives planned to investigate if financial gifts contributed to Koster impacted his handling of several consumer fraud cases.
House speaker Tim Jones released a statement following the Wednesday article saying, "The thorough investigative work of one of our nation's most prominent news outlets has exposed what appears to be an egregious violation of the public's trust perpetuated by Attorney General Koster. I am deeply disturbed by the multiple examples of apparent pay-to-play schemes uncovered by the New York Times, and am currently examining the options we have as a legislative body to further investigate these allegations and ensure that Attorney General Koster is held accountable for his actions."
Koster's office denies the claim and provided a copy of the letter sent by the Attorney General's office to the Times reporter before the articles were written. Koster's office contends the letter bolsters its claim of misrepresentation. KOMU 8 News received a copy of the letter and includes it here: Responses_to_NY_Times.pdf
The letter stated the Times inquired about four specific issues and the Attorney General's office responded to each. They include:
- Missouri's settlement with Pfizer regarding allegations of off-label marketing of Zyvox and Lyrica by the drug company
- Missouri's criminal prosecution of Larraine Brown, president of DocX, and Missouri's case against DocX's parent company, LPS
- An internal policy process implemented by the AGO regarding review of multistate actions
- Legislation filed in the Missouri General Assembly regarding regulation of online lenders.
In the letter Koster addresses these instances and specifically mentions the 5-hour energy incident described in Tuesday's article. The letter states the Attorney General did not know the office was investigating the energy drink at the time of the conference. The office wrote this "exposed a weakness" in its processes, which has been changed in response to the miscommunication.
Chief of Staff James Farnsworth sent the letter and said he hoped the responses better clarified the Times' concerns.
Koster's office also released this statement Thursday in response:
"This Attorney General's office has consistently protected Missouri consumers from fraud, regardless of the identity of those responsible.
Contrary to the inferences contained in today's New York Times article, this office reviews each case on its merits. We have taken legal action against Pfizer at least six times and have taken legal action against AT&T at least twice. Together, these cases have resulted in millions of dollars on behalf of Missouri consumers. Currently, Missouri is among the 44 states in the country that have not filed suit against 5 Hour Energy.
Today's article in the New York Times misrepresents the facts, distorting events to create an appearance of impropriety where none exists. The factual explanations provided weeks ago to the New York Times are attached."