Editorial

When it comes to the contest for Missouri attorney general, there is no question about our sympathies or judgment. Democratic nominee Rich Finneran is one of the most highly qualified candidates ever to seek the office. As an assistant U.S. attorney in St. Louis, Finneran prosecuted the two largest criminal fraud cases in the history of our state, including a $435 million insurance fraud scam that sent several corporate executives to lengthy sentences in federal prison. During his storied career at the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Finneran recovered millions of dollars for crime victims and repeatedly received accolades for his high-profile trial victories while passing on the craft to the next generation of advocates at Washington University School of Law.

His Republican opponent, the unelected incumbent Attorney General Eric Schmitt, had never even tried a criminal case before being appointed to his office by our unelected Governor Mike Parson. Schmitt ascended to his position, not because of his qualifications as a lawyer, but because of his fealty to the Missouri GOP. And, since assuming office, Schmitt has been at the conservative establishment’s beck and call, demeaning both himself and the dignity of his office as he embraced the party of Trump in its ignorance and belligerence.

Schmitt has spent countless of our tax dollars on a lawsuit to overturn the Affordable Care Act, President Obama’s signature policy achievement that ensures guaranteed coverage for pre-existing conditions and gives access to healthcare to so many underserved communities throughout our state. He did his predecessor Josh Hawley’s bidding by bringing a hopeless lawsuit against China over the COVID-19 pandemic, which attempted to provide political cover for Trump’s bungling of the pandemic – an unethical use of the courts as political distraction.

Even more offensive to us, he has intervened to halt St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kimberly Gardner's efforts to obtain justice for Lamar Johnson, a wrongfully convicted Black man who has now unjustly sat in prison for 26 years. And he has connived with Parson and the Republican-dominated Legislature to demonize St. Louis and try to undermine Gardner’s authority – an unelected attorney general who does not live in St. Louis trying to usurp authority from a circuit attorney elected twice by St. Louis voters.

While filing a show suit against a foreign nation and meddling with an elected prosecutor in a city where Schmitt neither lives nor votes, he also has failed to do the people’s business – for example, by settling massive lawsuits with major campaign contributors for mere pennies on the dollar. Finneran has rightly called out these maneuvers for the partisan, self-serving stunts that they are. 

In an interview with The American, Finneran eloquently describes a vision of the Attorney General’s Office that serves all Missourians, not the interests of political parties or wealthy donors. He has pledged to increase enforcement of civil rights and environmental laws, ensure pay equity and promote diversity within the Attorney General’s Office, and expand conflict-of-interest policies to restore integrity to our state government. With Finneran rather than Schmitt doing the people’s legal business, Kimberly Gardner would face no conflict in seeking a new trial for Lamar Johnson and other victims of wrongful prosecution, and she would not be forced to defend her constitutional authority to consider and prosecute cases within her jurisdiction without politically motivated meddling from Jefferson City. At this critical and unprecedented time for our city, state and country, there is no person better qualified to bring the changes we need to our justice system and rid the Attorney General’s Office of the disruptive and distracting partisanship that has slowed our progress for far too long. We strongly endorse Democrat RICH FINNERAN FOR MISSOURI ATTORNEY GENERAL.

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