JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Going to chriskoster.com will take you directly to the campaign website of Chris Koster for Governor where you can read his case to be elected Governor next month. However, if you put in the wrong domain name, the Missouri Republican Party will re-direct you a website where instead you will read a litany of political attacks.
The Missouri GOP launched chriskoster.org Wednesday morning to attack Koster for what they perceive as shady practices during his time as attorney general. However, some have pointed out that many of the allegations listed are ones that could be directed at many Republican elected officials as well.
The site proclaims “Chris Koster is bought and paid for” and states that Koster has taken money from developers from the Missouri Housing Development Commission (MHDC) and lobbyists for Backpage.com, a classifieds website like Craigslist.com. It also says he stopped an investigation into 5-Hour Energy after talking to a lobbyist for the company.
John Hancock, the chairman of the Missouri GOP, said in a conference call that he expected more would be added to the site before Election Day.
“This is a website that is going to develop over the last three weeks and six days and recount a tale of pay-for-play cash to Chris Koster and a myriad of ethical concerns we have for the attorney general in his bid to become governor,” Hancock said. “There’s so much material along these lines and it will be constantly updated in the last month.”
While Hancock said he believed that Koster’s actions were unethical, he admitted that Koster had violated no laws in these dealings.
This move indicates a major step of the Missouri GOP going to bat for its nominee, Eric Grietens, even though he has been less than kind to the General Assembly. Greitens has called the Republican-dominated body “lazy”, “corrupt”, and an “embarrassment.” Hancock himself is a former member of the Missouri House of Representatives.
During the call, Hancock was quick to point out an oft-cited article by leading liberal newspaper, The New York Times which alleged that Koster made a single phone call to shut down an investigation into 5-Hour Energy after receiving donations from the company.
However, Hancock spent most of his time discussing the faults of Koster’s connection to the MHDC. The party chairman alleged that in 2015, Koster received just under $100,000 from developers from MHDC, and the commission gave $14 million in funding and tax credits to seven developers that contributed to Koster.
“This has been a cesspool for a long time,” Hancock said, saying that Koster’s involvement with the MHDC was “pay-to-play at its worse.” The MHDC administers Missouri’s tax credit programs that were passed at the national level by President Reagan and the commission established by Governor Ashcroft in the 1980s.
While Greitens hasn’t been shy about bashing leaders of his newly adopted party in the General Assembly the Missouri Republican Party’s attacks on the exact behavior other rRpublican statewide leaders have engaged in is raising eyebrows.
Over the past 30 years, three Republicans on the MHDC former Governor Matt Blunt, former State Treasurer Sarah Steelman, and Lt. Governor Peter Kinder have all taken contributions from developers appearing before the commission in the exact same manner Republicans are attacking Koster over.
When asked about attacking actions that statewide Republican elected officials engaged in, Missouri Republican Party Executive Director Jon Prouty described those MHDC members taking contributions from developers as “highly ethically questionable,” but also qualified that “Chris Koster is the only one running for Governor.”
However, Blunt, Steelman, and Kinder all ran for governor in the past and took contributions from developers while serving on the commission.
David Turner, a spokesman for the Koster campaign said that Koster and the rest of the attorney general’s office had not broken from MHDC recommendations and that most votes by the MHDC officers are unanimous. Among those officers is Republican Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder.
“Any allegations the Attorney General has acted inappropriately are completely false, without merit and merely an attempt by Republicans to deflect from the complete lack of transparency by Eric Greitens,” Turner said, referring to the Koster campaign’s recent efforts to get Greitens to release his tax returns. “Greitens shrouds his largest contributor in secrecy, breaks his own ethics proposal by accepting money from contributors on trial for bribery, and refuses to release his tax returns. The real question is, what is Eric hiding?”
Hancock responded by saying that he believed Greitens had released his required information through financial disclosure forms and that Koster was merely trying to hide from debating Greitens.
The Backpage attack from Republicans also has some irregularities. The donations Koster received “from” Backpage’s lobbyists and lawyers were made by the firm that had indeed lobbied for Backpage – Dentons. But Dentons is one of the largest law and lobbying firms in the world, representing hundreds if not thousands of clients. It has made numerous donations to a host Missouri politicians on both sides the aisle.
In the early 2010s, Koster was one of three attorneys general that led the fight against Backpage. He fought against the company until at least 2013 even though he began receiving donations from Dentons in 2011.
This incident, somehow, is not the first time sex trafficking has come into play in the election for the state’s highest office. One of Eric Greitens primary donors, Michael Goguen, allegedly abused a woman who says she was a victim of sex trafficking.
This purchase also marks the second time this election that Republicans have obtained a website domain with a Democratic candidate’s full name. Democrat Judy Baker, a nominee for state treasurer, does not own judybaker.com.