House Attorney implies “criminal investigation” underway
First, it was Democrats claiming that the Russians had hacked their computers releasing embarrassing emails, but now Rep. Holly Rehder, a Republican legislator, has claimed her email was hacked, releasing a report detailing a long list of tax increases the Governor’s office was deliberating.
At 11:34 a.m. on Wednesday, June 28, The Missouri Times published a report including a draft version of the Governor’s Committee on Simple, Fair, and Low Taxes committee report. The report proved explosive inside the executive branch, as the final version of the report filed two days later gutted the majority of the draft, save for recommendations to eliminate several rural Missouri economic development programs.
The committee was wrought with difficulties from the start and many speculate that it’s because of the low level of confidence the Governor’s Office has in the General Assembly that they used a method called Bates stamping to identify each copy they sent to individual legislators so they could track any leaks.
The Governor’s Office used Bates stamping to track the report published by The Missouri Times back to the copy sent to Rehder, and the Governor’s office moved very swiftly, as documented in a Sunshine Law request complied with by the Missouri House of Representatives, showing that by 12:45 p.m., approximately 70 minutes after publication, Rehder sent a text message to the Chief Clerk of the House Adam Crumbliss stating, “I think my account has been hacked. Can you call me?”
According to documents turned over to The Missouri Times by The Missouri House of Representatives the rest of the exchange went as follows:
“Got your message. Having IT guys [call] you. – Adam.”
“Thank u,” Rehder texting, then again: “I may also have highway patrol look into it”
“That would likely be our recommendation as well.”
“Who do I call for that? Someone specific?”
“I’m sitting in a meeting with the Patrol Colonel and am going to ask her when she is free.”
Shortly after Rehder reached out to Crumbliss, Crumbliss texts House Director of Information Systems Rich Beckwith and tells him, “Holly Rehder thinks her account has been hacked. Please call her,” and sends him Rehder’s phone number.
Other than password issues of members, this is the only security complaint of any House member since June 15.
“My draft copy of the tax commission’s report was obtained inappropriately by outside sources, whether on the House end or the sender’s end,” Rehder told the Missouri Times Monday. “I have turned the matter over to the proper authorities and fully intend to find out.”
While Rehder hasn’t identified any individuals as the hackers after learning of the allegations that in some way hacking was involved in obtaining the draft report, The Missouri Times verified that the source who provided the report, in fact, received it directly from Rehder.
“While we received several copies of the draft report, including copies directly from committee members when I heard what was being alleged we confirmed with our source a digital trail directly back to the Representative,” said Missouri Times Publisher Scott Faughn. “The report we published was not as a result of hacking, and any inference otherwise is untrue.”
The complaint resulted in staff time being dedicated to it, and in response to our Sunshine Law request House Counsel David Welch replied, “While neither admitting nor denying that House network security was compromised records relating to such would be exempt from disclosure as operation of a computer, computer system, or computer network that could allow unauthorized access to or unlawful disruption of a computer, computer system, computer network.”
Is the Highway Patrol involved?
On June 28, Crumbliss stated that he was in a meeting with the Colonel of the Highway Patrol, and planned to speak with her after the meeting concluded, leaving the question open as to whether or not the Highway Patrol has been investigating a false claim.
House counsel David Welch’s response to the Sunshine request shed some light onto the matter, “While additional records may or may not exist, if they do, they are exempt as part of an ongoing criminal investigation.”
The Highway Patrol stated that they do not comment on ongoing investigations. However, sources inside the Highway Patrol have confirmed that initially they were encouraged by the Governor’s Office to investigate the claim, only days later to flip flop and indicate they would like the matter to go away seemingly without documentation that, under the Sunshine Law, would have to be released once any investigation was concluded.
The matter is further complicated by the Governor’s Policy Director Will Scharf being not only on the committee but one sending out draft reports. The Governor and his office have also been active in supporting Rehder’s run for House Speaker.
Within days of the report becoming public detailing hundreds of millions in new taxes the Governor’s dark money committee A New Missouri began an $500,000 campaign claiming that the Governor would not raise taxes.
Lastly, should the Missouri Alliance for Freedom’s lawsuit, being handled by the firm of the Chairman of the Missouri Republican Party Todd Graves, be successful, any emails Rehder sent from her personal account containing state business, such as a draft of the government report would be open to disclosure after a Sunshine Law request.
Rachael Herndon is the editor at The Missouri Times, and also produces This Week in Missouri Politics, publishes Missouri Times Magazine, and co-hosts the #moleg podcast. She joined the Missouri Times in 2014, returning to political reporting after working as a campaign and legislative staffer.
Rachael studied at the University of Missouri – Columbia. She lives in Jefferson City with her husband, Brandon, and their two children.
To contact Rachael, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or via Twitter @TheRachDunn.