State Auditor Nicole Galloway today released a report that looked into whether former Attorney General Josh Hawley used state resources for political purposes. The review determined that coordination between political campaign consultants and Attorney General staff gave an appearance of impropriety, and the Attorney General used a state vehicle for political and potentially personal purposes.
This portion of the closeout audit was initiated at the request of Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft, shortly after his office began an investigation into a complaint that Attorney General Hawley used public funds to support his U.S. Senate campaign. In the request, Secretary of State Ashcroft cited the State Auditor's Office's experience in such audits, as well as the authority of the Auditor to subpoena individuals and documents. Former employees of the Attorney General's Office agreed to sworn testimony and did not require a subpoena. In the interest of transparency and in accordance with professional audit standards, the transcripts of the interviews are included in the report.
"At the request of the Republican Secretary of State, my office performed an in-depth audit, which confirmed media reports about the use of campaign consultants and a state vehicle the office of the former Attorney General," Auditor Galloway said. "Campaign-paid political consultants from out of state advised staff in the Attorney General's Office. Additionally, then-Attorney General Hawley used a state vehicle and state employee for trips that were partly political or appeared personal."
The audit found that consultants paid with Hawley state campaign funds interacted with and advised Attorney General's Office staff. These contacts included in-person meetings during working hours at the Attorney General's Office in Jefferson City where consultants gave advice on the administration of official duties.
Interaction between campaign-paid consultants and state employees include discussion of to-do lists created by the consultants recommending assignments to state staff. For example, prior to the roll-out of a human trafficking initiative by the Attorney General, consultants provided logistical guidance to state employees.
While these interactions between consultants and government officials give the appearance of using state resources for political purposes, no evidence exists of a violation of state law. Additionally, because the communications between campaign and AGO staff were conducted by private email and text messages, the purposes of these meetings could not always be determined.
The audit also found that Attorney General Hawley used a state vehicle and state employee as driver/security detail for some trips for which the business purpose was not documented. Some trips were partly political in nature and other trips appeared to be personal. For example, a state vehicle was used to travel to a Lincoln Day event in Platte County, which is a political event.
In some cases, the state employee took vacation time and received separate payment from federal campaign funds during the time of specific meetings. There is no record of any reimbursements to the state for the use of a state vehicle on these trips. The audit recommended that taxpayers be reimbursed for the amount of state resources used for political or personal purposes by former Attorney General Hawley. While there are no provisions in state law that allow for reimbursement for non-official use, such reimbursements by elected officials have taken place in the past.
Finally, the audit found that the Attorney General's Office did not always follow communication and retention policies. The use of personal text and email to communicate official business and the use of a Google calendar for official meeting invites were in violation of AGO policy. The audit recommends that the Attorney General's Office ensure policies are followed regarding the use of personal email accounts and personal devices, and that business communications are retained in accordance with state-approved record schedules.
At a press conference announcing the release of the report, Auditor Galloway addressed criticism by now-Senator Hawley, who released a response to the audit several weeks before the report was finalized and available to the public.
"The unfair attacks by Senator Hawley in an attempt to deceive taxpayers about the nature of this audit are disturbing, but unfortunately, they are not surprising," Auditor Galloway said. "My career staff carried out this audit professionally and in adherence to professional audit standards, sometimes in the face of abusive attacks. Now that all of the facts are available, it is clear that this report is based solely on evidence provided by current and former Attorney General's Office staff and political consultants who worked with the office. There was no bias."
The report released today focuses on the allegations of use of state resources for political purposes as requested by the Secretary of State. An additional report on the general operations of the Attorney General's Office during Hawley's two-year tenure in office is ongoing. That report is expected to be completed in the coming months.
A copy of the audit report, which runs about 450 pages, can be found here.