Political expert calls Hawley investigation "unusual and unfortunate"

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JEFFERSON CITY - As Missouri's Secretary of State waits for a response from the State Auditor, a political expert weighed in on the investigation of the Attorney General's office. 

Last week, Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft announced he would launch an investigation of the Attorney General's office, after November brought claims that Josh Hawley was misusing state resources. 

Just days before the November mid-term election, the Kansas City Star reported accusations that Hawley had hired political consultants to run his office and boost his race for the Senate seat. Now those claims have erupted into an investigation.

Monday, Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft invited State Auditor Nicole Galloway to help with the investigation. In a letter, Ashcroft mentioned Galloway's office has subpoena power that his office does not. 

A local political expert said this would help with the investigation, but there is another reason why Ashcroft, a republican, might want the help of Galloway, a democrat. 

"Her participation and her office’s participation would lend greater credibility to whatever findings that are made by this report, so that, people on both sides of the political aisle can have greater comfort that the report was done well and appropriately," said Peverill Squire, MU political science professor. 

At this point, the state is waiting to see whether Galloway will participate in the investigation. 

"I think there’d probably be some pressure on the auditor’s office to participate simply because, again, they have the resources available to do this and, obviously the Attorney General’s office can’t be brought into it," Squire said.

Squire said this investigation is "unusual and unfortunate" for Missouri politics.

"But, we’ve seen a lot of unusual and unfortunate things in Missouri politics over the last year," he said. 

Hawley's First Assistant and Solicitor responded to Ashcroft's investigation in a letter Monday, calling the claims "frivolous." Squire said even if they are not true, the claims should not be taken lightly. 

"[Hawley] may dismiss them and say that there’s no evidence to support the accusations but the accusations themselves are not trivial," Squire said. 

The same letter from the AG's office said the complaint was politically motivated, as it came from American Democracy Legal Fund's president, Brad Woodhouse. Woodhouse was not available for comment Tuesday. Squire said it is important to look at motive, but more so, the evidence. 

"You have to separate that from the complaint itself, you have to examine the merits of the complaint. They should rise or fall based on the support of it," Squire said.

Squire said it is not clear whether this investigation would affect Hawley's Senate seat.

"We’ll have to see whether in fact the story that came out of the Kansas City Star can be substantiated, how much evidence there is and what that evidence tells us," he said. "It’s a problem for the senator-elect and we’ll have to see, in fact, if its enough of a problem that it raises any questions about the legitimacy of his position."

Squire said even though people are probably warn out by the unpredictability of political accusations in Missouri, he said they should be concerned about this investigation. 

"In this case, we’re talking about the misuse of state resources and whether people were involved in state decision-making who weren’t authorized to be involved," Squire said. "So, the issues really are important and they do demand some scrutiny." 

Squire said, at this point, all Missourians can do is wait and see what happens next.  

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