JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – The ongoing struggle between the Senate and the Governor’s Office has taken another turn, this time with different players.
Following the events of the past weekend, in which political nonprofit A New Missouri attacked Sen. Rob Schaaf on issues of lobbyist gifts, term limits, and ethics while releasing the Senator’s personal cell phone number to the public, senators retaliated on the floor against Gov. Eric Greitens’ senior advisor and the person speaking on behalf of the not for profit, Austin Chambers.
A New Missouri, Inc. was created to support Gov. Eric Greitens and his agenda, and while the governor has stated that it is a separate entity in which he is not involved. Hoskins said that Chambers, on the other hand, works for three bodies: the Governor’s Office, the governor’s campaign, and A New Missouri.
Austin Chambers told the Associated Press, A New Missouri is using radio ads, digital ads, and robocalls against Schaaf and added that similar tactics would be used to push Greitens’ agenda.
Chambers was vocal over the weekend, taking to Twitter to speak out against Schaaf.
“This isn’t about just something against Sen. Schaaf,” Chambers told AP. “If there are others who are standing in the way or if there are others who are being very supportive of the agenda, then we will engage with them.”
That quote, however, proved to be the line for members of the Missouri Senate.
Sen. Denny Hoskins, R-Warrensburg, spoke out against the actions and words of Chambers on the Senate floor Tuesday morning, calling for an end to “dirty politics”.
“I’ve got a message for Austin Chambers,” Hoskins said at the beginning of a long denouncement of Chambers’ tactics. “Number one, beware those with a sharp tongue, for they may cut their own throats, and number two, don’t throw stones in a glass house.
“When Austin Chambers, the senior advisor to the governor, throws out corruption charges against my colleagues, I take offense to that,” he continued. “In my heart, I know that my colleagues here, whether Republican, Democrat, liberal, or conservative, they are not corrupt.
“It’s really easy to go around and throw corruption charges around, especially when you’re a 21-year-old senior advisor to the governor, and flop out bombs on Twitter or Facebook. That’s just dirty politics. These dirty politics has to stop.
“Mr. President, I’ve never met this Austin Chambers, nor do I care to meet him. But I know that we have a job to do here in the Senate, and by God, I’m not going to let some 21-year-old immature senior advisor to the governor derail what voters put me here to do.”
— Denny Hoskins, CPA (@DLHoskins) April 25, 2017
Sen. Schaaf also rose from his seat to address Chambers’ comments, pointing to the Governor.
“He takes his marching orders from the governor,” Schaaf said. “Everything that Austin Chambers does, it’s the governor who is doing it. We have a balance of power, we have checks and balances, and basically what Chambers is saying is ‘we now have another lever to put onto the legislature.’
“That is not OK. We are not going to change the structure of our state government, and we are not going to allow this. Every single member of this body has to be able to have a free and fair discussion, not a discussion in which we are afraid of doing the right thing because we fear the governor running $3,000 in our home district to stop us, to push us to do his work, his agenda, when it may not be ours. That is not OK. We are not going to stand for this, and as far as I’m concerned, Governor, I don’t care what your agenda is.”
Schaaf said his agenda is to do the work of the people, and pass the budget, as they are constitutionally required to do so.
But Schaaf didn’t stop there. He then named A New Missouri as “public enemy number one,” saying it is the enemy of both the House and the Senate and the people of Missouri. He said it must be stopped.
“The only way it can be stopped, and we can move forward, is to pass ethics legislation that discloses the dark money that’s being used against us,” Schaaf said. “Else, every single one of us will be under the threat of the governor using his newfound power and stopping us from having a fair discussion that we have to be able to have.”
The Missouri Times reached out to Chambers for comment on this story, but as of the time of publishing, no response had been given. As of this time, he has not taken to Twitter to respond either – an outlet he frequently uses to address politics.
Benjamin Peters is a reporter for the Missouri Times and Missouri Times Magazine, and also produces the #MoLeg Podcast. He joined the Missouri Times in 2016 after working as a sports editor and TV news producer in mid-Missouri. Benjamin is a graduate of Missouri State University in Springfield. To contact Benjamin, email email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @BenjaminDPeters.