I don’t have cable and watch very little broadcast TV so my knowledge about the political ads Missouri pols are airing is relatively limited. Which is probably why I was gobsmacked the other night when I saw a TV ad for Josh Hawley, the Republican running for Attorney General. I learned from that ad that Mr. Hawley is promising to tirelessly fight the federal government. And here was me who didn’t even know we were at war with the Feds!
When you look a little closer it seems that Hawley, a professor of constitutional law, really wants to go to the mat over what he and like-minded conservatives term “federal overreach” – the kind of overreach that got insurance for 10,000 Americans who didn’t previously have it, or the kind that at least tries to keep our food and drugs from killing us and to keep our air and water unpolluted. This type of overreach is manifested through laws and regulations, and although they emanate from democratically elected bodies or their proxies in government agencies, they seem to have excessively inflamed Hawley’s anti-government sympathies.
Among the regulations that Hawley wants to wrestle down is the EPA’s Clean Power Plan. These new regulations are not just essential to slow down global warming and halt climate change, but to the thousands of Missourians who experience adverse health effects due to toxic air pollution. In 2012 the NRDC ranked Missouri the 15th worst state when it comes to toxic air pollution from coal-fired power plants. Such high levels of pollution can cause serious conditions like lung cancer, emphysema, asthma, and heart attacks, resulting in hospitalization, and even premature death.
For obvious reasons, entities like Koch Industries, Murray Energy, the American Petroleum Institute, Exxon Mobil, the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity are also embroiled in the war on regulation and, in particular, the EPA’s new rules. The fossil fuel industries along with some utilities have got lots to loose if the rules are implemented. That’s why they give big bucks to organizations like the Republican Attorneys General Association (RAGA) in order to finance the campaigns of regulatory foes like Hawley. The RAGA, true to its contributors’ mission, passed along a little over $3 million dollars to put Hawley in the Missouri AG’s office.
Which brings us to another anti-regulation group that really likes Josh Hawley: Citizens United. That’s right, the same Citizen United behind the Supreme Court ruling that put government up for sale to the highest bidder has enthusiastically endorsed Hawley whose opposition to government regulations when it comes to free speech emanating from the pocketbook is very convenient for billionaires with a political agenda. Nor has Hawley waited to be elected AG to test the ethical waters swirling around campaign finance. In regard to the RAGA campaign contribution:
A St. Louis alderman is accusing Republican Josh Hawley, a law professor running to become Missouri’s next attorney general, of attempting to conceal the source of nearly $3.1 million in campaign contributions.
In a complaint filed with the Missouri Ethics Commission, Alderman Scott Ogilvie wants regulators to investigate whether Hawley’s campaign violated state campaign laws by accepting money from the Washington DC-based Republican Attorneys General Association that was funneled to Hawley through a separate state-level political action committee.
Ogilvie is also worried that RAGA failed to register in Missouri as an out-of-state political committee, which would be “required to file with the state and disclose contributions from its individual donors meant to benefit Hawley.”
I’m aware that the Democratic gubernatorial candidate, current Attorney General Chris Koster, has joined the lawsuit some states have filed against the new EPA rules and has blathered about federal overreach. What can I say? The ostensibly Democratic Koster is a politician in pink verging on red Missouri and he, like Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill, believes he has to play politics on the margin, borrowing political capital from old-timey Republicans. What he is not, however, is a holy warrior charging full-tilt into anti-regulatory territory, a place Hawley calls home sweet home. Nor, in spite of his ample campaign kitty, does Koster endorse the Citizens United ruling.
It can’t fail to strike at least a few voters that the questionable views of “constitutional” foes of so-called government of overreach, such as Hawley, are usually very compatible with the interests of the guys that hand out unregulated money. In the case of the EPA’s Clean Power Plan, for example, Hawley seems more than willing to allow the Koch brothers to use their shouting greenbacks to drown out everybody else’s free speech. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to hand the State’s legal reins over to a guy who interprets the Constitution in a way that delivers government into the hands of billionaires.