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Recent Missouri Editorials

December 18, 2018

The Kansas City Star, Dec. 14

Missouri GOP should butt out and stop playing politics with Hawley investigation

The Missouri Republican Party’s attempt to prevent attorney Khristine Heisinger from investigating allegations that outgoing state Attorney General Josh Hawley illegally used public resources to support his U.S. Senate campaign is just plain silly.

Heisinger, who is deputy general counsel for Republican Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft, was tapped to lead the formal investigation into potential illegal use of public funds for personal or political purposes inside Hawley’s office. But in a desperate effort to derail the inquiry, the Missouri GOP is demanding that she recuse herself.

Never mind that Heisinger actually works for a Republican — or that Ashcroft and Missouri Auditor Nicole Galloway, a Democrat, are coordinating efforts on the investigation, giving this process bipartisan credibility.

Both Hawley and Ashcroft are Republicans, but the state party seems to be placing a priority on protecting Missouri’s soon-to-be U.S. senator. Hawley, who has denied any wrongdoing, defeated Sen. Claire McCaskill in last month’s election.

GOP officials claim Heisinger is compromised because she has contributed at least $24,000 to Democratic candidates since 2006. All of the donations were made before she went to work for Ashcroft.

Chris Nuelle, spokesman for the Missouri GOP, told The Star that Heisinger’s contributions are a conflict of interest. But Heisinger was hired by secretary of state’s office to do a job, and her boss has high praise for her work.

“She is an excellent attorney who takes her responsibility to serve the people of Missouri in a nonpartisan manner very seriously,” Ashcroft told The Star this week.

The investigation was launched in response to a complaint filed by The American Democracy Legal Fund, a liberal group that accused Hawley of violating a prohibition on using public funds for political campaigns. The complaint cited reporting by The Star that raised serious questions about whether political consultants working on Hawley’s behalf gave guidance and tasks to his taxpayer-funded staff.

To his credit, Ashcroft has put politics aside and set about the important work of conducting a fair and thorough investigation. He stands by the selection of Heisinger and his decision to solicit help from Galloway, whose office has subpoena power.

The GOP’s maneuvering is a disservice to all Missourians. We should be able to trust Ashcroft, Heisinger and Galloway to do their jobs, and they should be allowed to proceed without outside interference or partisan pressure.

Ashcroft and Galloway have taken a professional approach to the investigation. Meanwhile, Missouri GOP officials are the only ones playing politics.

_____

The Jefferson City News Tribune, Dec. 12

Tackling Prison Overpopulation

Missouri’s Department of Corrections has had its share of problems over recent years, but we’re excited about the prospect of solving one big one: prison overpopulation.

Several of the state’s top officials — including Gov. Mike Parson, Public Safety Director Sandy Karsten and Corrections Director Anne Precythe — seem to be on the same page, all committed to addressing the problem.

As we reported, Missouri has one of the highest incarceration rates in the country. As of 2016, our state had more than 32,000 inmates. That’s close to the size of Jefferson City, and it was 634 more inmates than the prisons were built to hold.

If the trend continues, Missouri could be forced to build more prisons at a cost of millions to taxpayers.

Parson plans to create a task force to look at the problem. We believe that’s a good way to start the process.

Such a task force could come up with multi-pronged recommendations that could result in new programs aimed at reducing the prison population.

We believe one component that should be used more in substance abuse courts.

Precythe said in the Sunday story that such courts could treat some offenders for their addictions rather than sending them to prison.

She said that probation violators who are sent to prison account for 3,477 of the state’s inmates. They spend an average of a year there, costing taxpayers $58 a day.

“When you do the math, those 3,477 are costing us $74.7 million annually — that’s just the simple math and what it’s costing us in Corrections dollars,” she said last Friday, at the State Forum on Public Safety held at State Technical College in Linn.

“That doesn’t add in the social costs — the fact that somebody’s not able to work and provide for their family, and there’s no role model in the home for the children.”

Precythe and Karsten emphasized the effort to keep more people out of prisons shouldn’t be seen as them being “soft on crime” but, rather, as a way to keep people who really shouldn’t be in prison from going there.

We agree.

Drug courts have been used successfully in Missouri and other states. They have the potential to rebuild lives through sobriety. Each recovery is a win for society, which potentially gains another productive employee and a healthier family.

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