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Democrats Sue Over Alleged Records Law Breach Under Hawley

Nathan Lawrence / KBIA

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee on Monday sued the Missouri Attorney General's Office, alleging that it violated the state's open-records laws under the leadership of Josh Hawley, who is now a U.S. senator.

The group claimed the office withheld emails between Hawley's official staff and political consultants during the Republican's 2018 campaign, the Kansas City Starreported.

Hawley defeated former Democratic U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill in November.

Hawley's Senate spokeswoman, Kelli Ford, called the lawsuit "a joke."

"The Democrat Senatorial Campaign Committee has teamed up with Claire McCaskill's personal lawyer to file yet another frivolous political suit," Ford said in a statement, noting that one of the lawyers representing DSCC in the lawsuit is Marc Elias, a prominent Democratic lawyer who has done work for McCaskill. "This is the 11th political complaint filed against Josh Hawley over the last two and a half years and not a single one has been successful."

The lawsuit focuses on a records request the group made in September 2017 for communications between Hawley's official staff and the political consultants who later went on to run his campaign.

Daniel Hartman, a former special counsel for the office who later became chief of staff, told Democrats in October 2017 that "we have searched our records and found no responsive records."

But the Attorney General's Office in December 2018 provided emails between consultants and official staffers, who used personal email accounts, to Missouri Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft.

Ashcroft was investigating whether Hawley misused public resources as attorney general. Last month he announced that the review found no evidence to back that claim up and closed the investigation.

Democrats allege in the lawsuit that "Hartman knew, or should have known, that responsive records existed, some of which were stored in Hartman's and other employees' personal email accounts."

A spokesman for current Republican Attorney General Eric Schmitt said the office is reviewing the lawsuit.

"Attorney General Eric Schmitt is dedicated to preserving, protecting, and enforcing the Missouri Sunshine Law, and we work every day to ensure that Sunshine Law requests are handled properly and efficiently," spokesman Chris Nuelle said in a statement.

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