Federal Politics

Published — January 30, 2001 Updated — May 19, 2014 at 12:19 pm ET

Ashcroft used state employee to fund-raise, records show

Introduction

While he was attorney general of Missouri, John Ashcroft made use of a state employee to conduct fund raising and other election activities, used letterhead with the attorney generals seal to solicit donations from contributors, and had an associate solicit campaign contributions from a business consultant to a company being investigated by Ashcroft’s office, court records show.

On November 9, 1982, Ashcroft visited the office of Peter Merrill, president of Merrill Marine Services. During the visit, according to a court affidavit signed by Merrill, an associate of Ashcroft named Rick Freeburg told Merrill that Ashcroft, who had just stepped out of the room, was planning to run for governor, and “said something to the effect that the three most important things a candidate needs if he wants to be elected are money, more money, and still more money.”

Merrill, who said he had never been active in politics, was asked to help Ashcroft. “He indicated that John Ashcroft wanted me to raise $10,000 by the end of the year” that is, in the seven weeks left in 1982.

At the time Ashcroft made his fund-raising call on Merrill, his office was investigating charges that Inland Oil & Transport Co., and its president, Herbert Wolkowitz, were selling gasoline adulterated with an alcohol-based additive that could damage engine components of cars. Merrill said in his affidavit that his company provided surveying and other services for companies in the barge and marine business. One of his clients was Inland Oil. In January 1983, Ashcroft announced at a news conference in St. Louis that his office had filed a lawsuit against Inland Oil.

Inland Oil and Wolkowitz filed a countersuit in federal court, claiming that Ashcroft’s investigation violated their civil rights. In one filing, they claimed that, “Ashcroft has gone off on a lark of his own for his own, politically expedient purposes.”

“The way Inland Oil reads it,” Merrill told The Public i, “it was an attempt to shake them down.” Merrill expressed skepticism about the company’s reading of the case. “If he were trying to shake Inland Oil down, it seems he would’ve targeted them themselves.

“But even if Inland had given all 10 grand, would that have been enough for Ashcroft to soft-pedal the investigation? It doesn’t sound to me like it.”

Ashcroft has denied any wrongdoing. He declined to comment for this report, as did the White House. The suits were eventually settled.

Thomas Deuschle, Ashcroft’s administrative assistant and an employee of the state of Missouri, arranged the November 1982 meeting between Ashcroft and Merrill. When deposed by attorneys for Inland Oil, Deuschle admitted that he regularly contacted fund raisers on public time. Deuschle scheduled meetings for Ashcroft, accompanied him to various events, and was the person in Ashcroft’s office who was primarily responsible for the day-to-day activities of the attorney generals political campaigns.

Using letterhead called regular practice

Deuschle, who did not return calls from The Public i, also testified that it was regular practice to send out fund-raising letters on stationery adorned with the attorney generals seal, and signed by “John Ashcroft, Attorney General.”

One of those letters was sent to Wolkowitz, the president of Inland Oil, inviting the executive to join the “Golden Elephant Club,” a fund-raising vehicle of the state Republican Party.

The letter wasnt the last solicitation for donations Wolkowitz received on Ashcroft’s behalf. After his meeting with the Missouri attorney general, Merrill contacted the Inland Oil president the very same day. Wolkowitz declined to give any funds to Ashcroft. Since 1998, he has been a generous donor to political campaigns: He gave $44,000 to Democratic candidates, including $1,000 to Ashcroft’s opponent in the 2000 U.S. Senate campaign, the late Mel Carnahan.

The allegations against Ashcroft were spelled out in a letter sent last January 18 by John C. Bonifaz, executive director of the Boston-based National Voting Rights Institute, to Sen. Patrick Leahy, then chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

“Its troubling because at the least it demonstrates an insensitivity to the appearance of propriety, and also it disregards the rule of law,” Bonifaz told The Public i in an interview. “The public wants to know to what extent John Ashcroft misused the power of the office to raise money for the gubernatorial race. The public has the right to have answers before he is voted as the nations top law enforcement official.”

The Senate Judiciary Committee voted 10-8 on January 30 to send Ashcroft’s nomination for a full vote in the Senate.

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Mark Sullivan
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Mark Sullivan

Trump needs to conduct these activities because the entire MSM media, excluding Fox, is campaigning against him 24/7/365.

Didn’t Monica’s boyfriend’s wife and various criminal enterprises outspend Trump by almost 2-1?

CapitalistRoader
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CapitalistRoader

Why wouldn’t he get an early start on fund raising? Hillary outspent him two-to-one in 2016. The Dem’s are the party of big money. The President knows this and is attempting to get a jump on it. Of course the Dem candidate will outspend him in 2020 so it’s only rational that he starts fund raising now.

George Young
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George Young

Oh brother. We just 8 years of the Campaigner – in – Chief. Where was this journalistic rectal thermometer then. Just another article about 2000 words too long that merely takes another slap at Trump for something he far from initiated.

j stevenson
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j stevenson

The big difference between Trump and all the rest is his refusing to accept funds from lobbyists, so they don’t have the White House access they are used to. These are the donors who buy the presidency and are as pixxed off that he won the election as are the media and the Dems. Lobbyists have never been shut out of the WH and Trump has told them he is not for sale.

jan v
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jan v

all the lobbyists are running all our government agencies and all the career civil servants who know how to run the country have been fired. YOU think this is a good thing ? what a crock…

thomas alessi
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thomas alessi

I am for Trump

Martin Shellabarger
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J. Stevenson, what are you drinking? Trump has more lobbyists in his administration than probably any other president. Trump is totally “for sale”, and the corporations know it. Grow a brain!

Anonymous
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Anonymous

Trump needs to be impeached and tossed in prison. Then have the key thrown away so he will never be free. Then he can see how it feels not to have freedom.

Mark Sullivan
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Mark Sullivan

Thank you for the usual insightful leftist low IQ Snowflake response.

barney
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hes not imprisoning them hes sending them back to their country chill tf out

SOUTH JERSEY
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SOUTH JERSEY

WHY DONT YOU HAVE FREEDOM?

Tom Larkin
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Tom Larkin

First, something positive. I was happy to learn of empirical information in article. BUT, the article was so slanted against President Trump as to be deemed fake news (“Perhaps Trump just lied.” (Two different issues)). The article mentions that President Trump raised over $67 million, but ended 2018 with $19 million. President Trump spent over $40 million 2016 and 2017. President Trump conducted 57 political rallies. The article notes the hats and T-shirts sold, but NEVER MENTIONS THE INCREASE IN THE NUMBER OF REPUBLICAN SENATORS during a mid-term election that lost the House and the number of political rallies in… Read more »

Ted Sirois
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Ted Sirois

At least Trump is getting donations from willing donors. Fresh from his first election, Obama used billions of our children’s tax dollars to save thousands of union jobs in the car industry and bailed out the banks and many Wall Street businesses. This secured his source of reelection funds for his reelection four years later.

South Jersey
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South Jersey

TRUMP 2020; IS AN AMAZINGLY SMART MAN! VERY ORIGINAL & CREATIVE. I AM HAPPY TO HAVE HIS AS POTUS.

SOUTH JERSEY
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SOUTH JERSEY

THIS ARTICLE WAS OBVIOUSLY WRITTEN BY, A TRUMP-HATE-GROUP. THAT FEELS; IT IS NOT NORMAL TO BE SUCCESSFUL WITH YOUR OWN BRAND NAME. WHEN, IF FACT, IT IS NORMAL! >>>>> THIS IS >>> FAKE NEWS!!! <<<< ie: A PACK-OF-LIES; SPUN INTO; DEFAMATION OF CHARACTER. FOR A SINISTER-AGENDA OF; FASCIST DEMOCRATIC SOCIALIST, COUP D'ETAT

David
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David

Are you on some kind of drugs? Writing in caps makes me think that you are grumpy old fart or a uneducated hillbilly.