House speaker to create panel to investigate Koster

Attorney general blasts report in New York Times

Attorney General Chris Koster

Photo by JOAN GUMMELS

Attorney General Chris Koster

By Michael Lindquist

JEFFERSON CITY — House Speaker Tim Jones, R-St. Louis County, announced he will create a special committee to investigate alleged bribes to the attorney general’s office after a New York Times report.

The New York Times report accused Koster of dropping the investigations of several companies in return for campaign contributions. Koster said Wednesday the contributions to his campaign did not influence his decisions to pull out of the investigations. Koster, a Democrat, is expected to run for governor in 2016.

“This attorney general’s office has consistently protected Missouri consumers from fraud, regardless of the identity of those responsible,” Koster stated in a news release.

Koster blasted The New York Times article in the release, stating it “misrepresents the facts, distorting events to create an appearance of impropriety where none exists.”

Despite numerous attempts to reach out to Koster’s office, it has given no comment on the story.

The New York Times reported Koster directed his office to halt further actions into the investigation of 5-Hour Energy because of deceptive advertising. The lawyer for 5-Hour Energy approached Koster about dropping the lawsuit in exchange for political contributions, according to the New York Times article.

The attorney general’s office also halted the consumer fraud investigation into the pharmaceutical giant, Pfizer, last year shortly after Koster received an invitation to speak at an event hosted by a Pfizer political action committee, or PAC. The PAC donated a reported $20,000 to his campaign — more than any other attorney general over the past five years in the United States, according to the New York Times.

Jones said Koster is not fulfilling his duty as a public official and needs to get his priorities straight.

“Missourians expect and deserve public officials who will defend their rights and, in this case, protect them from the deceptive marketing practices of unscrupulous corporations,” Jones stated in a news release. “Instead, they have an Attorney General who apparently makes filling his campaign coffers his top priority rather than fulfilling his oath to the people of Missouri to uphold our laws.”

Jones said he has yet to decide how to investigate the allegations.

“I am deeply disturbed by the multiple examples of apparent pay-to-play schemes uncovered by the New York Times, and am currently examining the options we have as a legislative body to further investigate these allegations and ensure that Attorney General Koster is held accountable for his actions,” Jones stated in a news release.

U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Kirkwood, another potential gubernatorial candidate, also commented on the gravity of the allegations.

“I’m confident Attorney General Koster is taking seriously the issues highlighted by this story,” McCaskill stated in a news release.