JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – The Missouri Ethics Commission (MEC) has thrown out a complaint against Missouri Attorney General candidate Josh Hawley, saying it could find “no reasonable grounds” that the MU law professor violated any campaign finance laws.
The commission received a report on June 3 alleging that Hawley, a Republican, did not comply with Missouri campaign finance law by using two not-for-profits corporations whose contributions were not disclosed to campaign for the office of Missouri Attorney General before and after he officially declared as a candidate.
The complaint also alleged that Hawley met the definition of a candidate without registering a committee under the required statutory guidelines and failed to report the use of the not-for-profit’s Twitter account as an in-kind contribution to the campaign.
The Missouri Liberty Project was created by Hawley to fight government overreach and inform citizens about his work on religious liberty issues. Hawley was informed last week of the commission’s decision to dismiss the complaints in a letter from commission Executive Director James Klahr.
“Based on the evidence considered, the commission did not find reasonable grounds to believe that you violated campaign finance law,” Klahr wrote. “You have maintained that your work and activities for the not for profits were not used to promote your candidacy and prior to declaring your candidacy. In July 2015 you resigned your positions for the not for profits.”
The commission did not identify any evidence to establish “reasonable grounds” that the not for profits were used to promote Hawley’s candidacy, nor did they make contributions or expenditures on Hawley’s behalf, Klahr said. Evidence was not found that Hawley met the definition of a candidate before officially declaring as a candidate and registering a committee.
Specifically alleged was the use of a Twitter account belonging to one of the not for profits, but Klahr said in his letter that evidence was not found to support the Twitter account even belonged to the not for profit, which is the only way such a reporting of an in-kind contribution would even be required.
Calls to the Secretary of State’s office were referred to the Missouri Ethics Commission. Betsy Byers, who heads campaign finance with the MEC, said the commission does not typically comment about a finding other than providing a copy of the letter.
Candidates are required to form committees if they plan to spend more than $500 out of their own pockets or spend $500 in activities, Byers said. But once that threshold is reached, candidates are required by state statute to form a committee and to register with the MEC at that point.
Even candidates who aren’t going to spend more than $500 have to file a statement of exemption that states they are going to have to stay under the $500 mark and continue to submit reports every filing period saying they are still under that $500 mark, Byers said.
Candidates who spend more than $500 have to file quarterly reports itemizing who their donors are, how much money is donated and expenditures have to be listed.