Democratic Super PAC Ties Hawley to Scandals in New Ad

Ad references the ongoing scandal involving GOP Gov. Eric Greitens

Senator Roy Blunt. R-Mo., greets newly elected Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley (right) at a campaign event in 2016. A new television ad seeks to tie Hawley to recent scandals in the state.(Michael B. Thomas/Getty Images file photo)

Updated 4:06 p.m. | A Democratic Super PAC launched a new television ad Thursday night that seeks to tie Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley to recent scandals in the state. Hawley is running against Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill.

The ad from the Senate Majority PAC appears to be the first paid media tying Hawley to GOP Gov. Eric Greitens, who has been indicted with a felony charge of invasion of privacy for taking a nude photo of a woman with whom he had an affair. Greitens been accused of using the photo as blackmail, which he has denied. 

The 30-second ad, first shared with Roll Call, begins with news coverage of Greitens' indictment.  

“Scandals in Jeffesron City,” says the ad’s narrator, “Now real questions about Attorney General Josh Hawley.”

The ad goes on to detail donations Hawley accepted from Republican mega-donor David Humphreys when Hawley ran for Attorney General in 2016. Humphreys was accused of participating in a “pay-to-play” scheme with a top state legislator, who sponsored a bill that would have benefited Humphreys’ company. The ad’s narrator points out that Hawley told the Kansas City Star that his office had “received no evidence in that case that would suggest any wrongdoing.”

“Josh Hawley: He’s just part of the problem in Jefferson City,” says the ad’s narrator. 

The ad will air on broadcast and cable as part of a broader ad buy. Senate Majority PAC originally made a $900,000 and is adding $500,000. A spokesman for Senate Majority PAC declined to comment on the length of the ad buy. 

In response to the ad, Hawley campaign spokeswoman Kelli Ford tied McCaskill to Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer, since Senate Majority PAC is aligned with Senate Democratic leadership.

“It’s clear [McCaskil] is more worried than ever," Ford said is a statement late Friday afternoon. “She’s in the worst position of her 36-year political career because she broke her promise to be bipartisan and votes with Schumer every time it matters. Schumer is taking a prominent role in these efforts because he wants to keep Claire McCaskill’s vote in his back pocket.”

Hawley’s campaign has also faced Democratic criticism Friday for his office’s investigation into Greitens and his staff's use of a secret messaging app. The Kansas City Star reported that Hawley ended the investigation into whether staffers used the app to skirt the state’s transparency laws. A report issued by Hawley's office concluded there was no evidence of wrongdoing, according to the Kansas City Star.

McCaskill slammed Hawley in a Friday statement, accusing him of mishandling the investigation and not interviewing the governor as part of the investigation. The Springfield News-Leader reported that Hawley had sent the report to Greitens and Democratic State Auditor Nicole Galloway as a courtesy, and his office did not authorize the report's public release. 

“The Attorney General’s handling of this investigation and his decision to provide the report to the Governor and not the public has lost him all credibility with the people of Missouri,” McCaskill said. “He wasn’t even willing to challenge the Governor’s ability to hide behind ‘executive privilege.’ This wasn’t a real investigation. How can any of his investigations be taken seriously after this?”

McCaskill is considered one of the most vulnerable incumbents running for re-election, as a Democrat running in a state President Donald Trump won by 19 points in 2016. Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales rates the Missouri Senate race a Toss-up.

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