Election 2020

Shady Dark Money Group's Mailers Attack Josh Hawley from the Right, Benefiting Claire McCaskill

Shady Dark Money Group's Mailers Attack Josh Hawley from the Right, Benefiting Claire McCaskill
Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo. talks to supporters during a campaign stop Wednesday, Oct. 24, 2018, in Kansas City, Mo (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

For the past week, Missouri voters have been receiving political mailers attacking Republican U.S. Senate candidate Josh Hawley from the right on issues like gun rights and his push to oust Republican Gov. Eric Greitens.

Some of the mailers, like the one below, ask voters to support the independent candidate on the ballot, Craig O’Dear.

Others ask voters to support Libertarian Japheth Campbell.

Hawley, the state’s attorney general, is running against incumbent Democrat Sen. Claire McCaskill in one of the tightest Senate races in the country.

The mailers come from an anonymous source and fail to identify who paid for them as required by law.

But according to The Kansas City Star, they’re connected to a shadowy dark money group called Coalition for a Safe Secure America, which is also running ads against Republican candidates in Montana and Indiana. The group is not registered with the Federal Elections Commission or the Internal Revenue Service, according to the Star.

The group has a website that is “currently under construction,” and bare-bones Facebook accounts for Missouri, Montana, and Indiana that currently show only stock images of CSSA’s emblem.

The Missouri CSSA Facebook account includes a generic mission statement on its “about” page.
Coalition For a Safe Secure America- Missouri was organized for the purpose of promoting social welfare by supporting public policies that make the United States safer and more secure for all.
According to the Star, the group has run 21 different Facebook video ads in Missouri. Their mailers appear designed to suppress the Republican vote.
One of them, for instance, says Hawley “wants to make it harder to buy guns” and calls independent Senate candidate O’Dear a “tireless defender of our 2nd Amendment rights.”
Another mailer tells voters they can’t count on Hawley “to protect our gun rights,” and promotes the positions of Libertarian candidate Campbell.

Actually, the National Rifle Association Political Victory Fund has endorsed Hawley and calls him a “champion of our Second Amendment freedoms.”

“The stakes for this election are clear. If you value your constitutional right to self-defense, vote Josh Hawley for U.S. Senate. Josh Hawley will always defend our Second Amendment freedoms,” said Chris W. Cox, chairman of NRA-PVF, in a statewide ad.

Another mailer attacks Hawley for calling on Greitens to resign earlier this year. Greitens was facing two felony charges, as well as allegations that he engaged in coercive and sexually violent misconduct during a 2015 affair.

He resigned June 1.

“Josh Hawley led a witch hunt against Governor Eric Greitens,” the mailer states, later adding that Hawley “unfairly attacked Governor Greitens before he had all the facts, like Washington liberals attacked Judge Kavanaugh.”

O’Dear disavowed the gun rights mailers in a Facebook post on Monday.

“The flyer, as described to us, attacks Josh Hawley for his Second Amendment position, and does so in a misleading manner,” he said. “It’s not ugly; it’s just misleading. Anyone who is familiar with our campaign would know the flyer makes no sense — it criticizes Hawley for purportedly taking positions we actually support.”

O’Dear’s spokeswoman, Kelli Ford, blamed McCaskill for the mailers. “Sounds like another dirty trick by Claire McCaskill,” she said. “She wrote the book on it. This is just more of the same.”

By “the book,” Ford was likely referring to McCaskill’s memoir, Plenty Ladylike, where she discussed the behind-the-scenes efforts to support Todd Akin in the 2012 Missouri Republican primary.

“Democrats must be getting desperate — they’ve sent out multiple dark money mailers (that are illegal) that repeat disgusting attacks on Ann Wagner and Josh Hawley,” the Missouri Republican Party wrote on Facebook. “Will Claire McCaskill and Cort VanOstran denounce these mailers?”

McCaskill, who has been running as a staunch opponent of dark money, denied having any connection to the illegal mailers.

“Claire condemns all dark money efforts, including these mailers,” said Meira Bernstein, McCaskill’s spokeswoman. “Josh Hawley supports anonymous political giving, and Claire will continue to work hard to end it.”

“What a fraud Clair McCaskill is, using ‘dark money’ as an excuse to vote with the smear campaign against Judge Kavanaugh and then having allies try to save her with the darkest of dark money — illegal, no-disclaimer mailers designed to depress Republican turnout, ” Phil Kerpen, president of American Commitment, wrote on Twitter Thursday.

PJ Media reached out to CSSA Missouri for comment and did not receive a reply.