A GOP senator was suspected of misusing state funds — but private email use hindered the probe: report

A GOP senator was suspected of misusing state funds — but private email use hindered the probe: report
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Missouri State Auditor Nicole Galloway released a report Thursday reviewing allegations that Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) may have misused government funds while he served as the state's attorney general. Galloway said her audit was potentially hindered because his office used private emails and texts to conduct government work.

"Various employees did not comply with [Attorney General Office] policy by using personal email accounts and calendars, and personal phones (text) to conduct official business, communicate, and schedule meetings," the report said.

Under scrutiny was Hawley's use of political consultants. They worked with staff in his office as attorney general when he took office in 2017, and they ran his successful 2018 Senate campaign to defeat former Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill. The Kansas City Star first reported on the overlap between the consultants' work and the attorney general staff, which raised the possibility that government employees could have improperly aided Hawley's political campaign.

"By allowing campaign-paid consultants to interact and advise AGO staff, former Attorney General Hawley potentially used state resources for political purposes," the report said. "If better documentation had been maintained to show these interactions were solely official in nature, any appearance of impropriety could have been avoided. However, because most of the communications between the campaign and AGO staff were conducted via private communication channels, the full content and context of these interactions cannot be determined."

Hawley does appear to have used some state travel services for campaign purposes, the report found.

"Former Attorney General Hawley used a state vehicle and driver/security detail for some trips for which the purpose was not documented on travel itineraries and state vehicle mileage logs. Records reviewed determined (1) at least a portion of some of these trips had political purposes and (2) other trips had the appearance of being personal in nature," it explained. "We did not see documentation that all potential political costs associated with these trips were paid for from non-state sources or reimbursed to the state."

Galloway recommended that the attorney general should seek reimbursement for inappropriate state travel costs from Hawley.

A representative for Hawley told the auditors: "We are not aware of any additional outstanding invoices from the state, but if you can identify any such invoices or expenses, we are happy to pay them."

The report also noted that another portion of the audit of Hawley's time in office is ongoing.

Hawley has responded to the audit by criticizing Galloway, a Democrat.

“I think these questions about what’s going on in her office are really important ones, and I just think it’s important that we have an independent auditor that’s actually discharging the duties of her office as the constitutional laws require,” Hawley said, according to KCUR.

On Wednesday, he told the Star: “I have nothing to hide on this or any of the many accusations Democrats made during the last campaign."

Galloway is a candidate for Missouri governor in the 2020 race. She denied any political bias in her report, saying in a statement: "The unfair attacks by Senator Hawley in an attempt to deceive taxpayers about the nature of this audit are disturbing."

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