Sen.-elect Josh Hawley issued a defiant repudiation Friday of allegations that he misused public funds to aid his campaign, after Missouri’s top elections official, a fellow Republican, said he would investigate the claims.
In combative tweets that resembled some of President Trump’s social media messages, Hawley portrayed himself as the target of a baseless political assault from Democrats, including an ally of Hillary Clinton.
“This is the SEVENTH legal complaint Democrats have launched against me in last 18 months,” Hawley wrote. “All frivolous. All political. Not one has succeeded. Election is over and Dems lost. Get over it.”
Hawley, who is Missouri’s attorney general, said that his state office never spent money on campaign efforts and that “no employee ever asked to participate in political activity.”
The comments came a day after the office of Missouri Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft (R) said it would open an investigation into Hawley’s practices.
In a letter communicating the decision to the head of a Democratic watchdog group that requested the probe, Khristine A. Heisinger, deputy general counsel in Ashcroft’s office, asked for any relevant documents or information.
“If you have firsthand knowledge of any facts in your complaint (other than the documents cited to in your footnotes), please contact me so we can discuss,” Heisinger wrote to Brad Woodhouse of the American Democracy Legal Fund.
Four days before the Nov. 6 election, Woodhouse filed a complaint stating: “Evidence strongly suggests that Hawley used public funds as Attorney General to support his candidacy for U.S. Senate, by instructing political consultants to direct state, taxpayer-paid staff to undertake tasks that would raise Hawley’s profile in his bid to represent Missouri in the U.S. Senate.”
The complaint cited an Oct. 31 report in the Kansas City Star, which revealed that not long after he was sworn in as attorney general, Hawley’s political consultants were giving direct guidance and tasks to staffers in his state government office. The report cited emails, text messages and other records it obtained in its reporting.
The circumstances confused and concerned some members of Hawley’s staff, the Star reported.
The American Democracy Legal Fund was founded by David Brock, a Clinton ally. In one of his tweets, Hawley named Brock and Clinton.
A spokeswoman in the attorney general’s office issued a statement pledging not to stand in the way of the probe.
“We are delighted to cooperate with the Secretary of State’s Office and put these ridiculous allegations to bed once and for all,” communications director Mary Compton said. She called the allegations a “partisan attempt to slander the work of the Attorney General’s Office.”
Hawley defeated the Democratic incumbent, Sen. Claire McCaskill, in the midterm election. He ran as an ally of Trump, campaigning and raising money with the president.
On Friday, Hawley tweeted a photograph of Air Force One and wrote that he was waiting to greet the president upon his arrival in Kansas City. “Always a privilege,” Hawley tweeted.
The Missouri race was seen as a key front in the battle for control of the Senate and attracted considerable resources from national Republicans and Democrats.
Felicia Sonmez contributed to this report.