JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — Facing criticism about apparent conflicts of interest, Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster said Wednesday that he will no longer accept gifts from lobbyists or campaign contributions from anyone with litigation involving his office.
The move follows an October New York Times report alleging Koster and attorneys general across the country were influenced by lobbyist perks and campaign donations as they negotiated legal settlements with companies. Koster has said the newspaper's report distorts how his office dealt with companies.
"Transparency is the best way to erase any potential perception of a conflict," Koster said in a statement Wednesday.
Koster said he won't take campaign money from companies, individuals, lobbyists, attorneys and their law firms representing entities that are involved with lawsuit involving Koster's office. He said the self-imposed ban would extend to 90 days after the litigation has been resolved.
Koster said he also won't take campaign contributions from employees in his office and pledged not to accept any gifts from registered lobbyists.
He suggested legislators should approve similar campaign donation restrictions for state and local candidates, and added that campaign donor cards will include a disclaimer that donors must sign saying they comply with the new policy.
In one example cited by the newspaper, Koster received $13,500 in campaign contributions from a law firm representing Pfizer and $20,000 directly from the drug maker. He later met with lobbyists and spoke to political action committees while the company was under investigation by his office.
Koster ultimately negotiated for Pfizer to pay Missouri $750,000 in a legal settlement over the marketing practices of some drugs. Some other states took part in a joint investigation and were able to receive more than $1 million from Pfizer.
Republican House Speaker Tim Jones created a committee of lawmakers earlier this month to review the allegations against Koster, a Democrat.