Two Missouri police officials quoted then governor John Ashcroft as having told them he'd "`look the other way'" should they ignore an upcoming Missouri State Supreme Court ruling that might direct asset forfeiture monies to be distributed to local school boards in accordance with the state constitution.
The statements were made independently and at different times by both a sheriff in uniform and a police chief at a meeting at the office of then US Attorney for the Western District of Missouri, Jean Paul Bradshaw, a decade ago, according to Don Burger, then an official with the US Department of Justice. Representing Justice, Burger attended in his role as a community affairs specialist seeking to steer to Missouri schools and treatment programs some of the drug-bust money being illegally kept by police.
John Ashcroft drapes himself in the mantle of "integrity." He used the word in reference to himself several times during his introduction by President-elect Bush as the Attorney General nominee. The repeated characterization fuels the oft-proclaimed notion that Sen. Ashcroft is a man of such moral rectitude that the nation can count on him to fully enforce all laws - no matter his personal views. During the first day of his Senate confirmation hearings, Sen. Ashcroft declared, raising his right hand for emphasis, that, "When I swear to uphold the law, I will keep my oath, so help me God." Yet, during Sen. Ashcroft's tenure as governor of Missouri, he blithely told two senior law enforcement officials he would ignore a serious matter of law, according to Burger.
Says Burger, recalling the meeting at Bradshaw's office in Kansas City, MO a decade ago, the two law enforcement officials said Gov. Ashcroft had told them he would "`look the other way'" should the police proceed to ignore a ruling about to emerge from the Missouri Supreme Court. The ruling, ultimately issued in November 1990, mid-way through Sen. Ashcroft's second term as governor, concerned a case brought by a local school board that argued that Missouri law enforcement must follow the state constitution and turn proceeds from asset forfeiture cases over to education rather than keep the money for themselves. Millions of dollars were at stake, money Missouri law enforcement agencies had used for years to buy everything from computers to radio systems to cars and guns.
Now, with a ruling expected shortly, the cops were nervous that their well might run dry. But, according to Burger's recollection of statements by the two top cops, who spoke independently at different times during the meeting, police - especially the highway patrol that reports to the governor's office - need not fear interference from the same cabinet nominee who now pledges to rigorously and impartially enforce the nation's laws.
Hosted by US Attorney Bradshaw, the meeting was attended by members of what was known informally as the Law Enforcement Coordinating Committee, says Burger. Among the items on the agenda was a discussion of the "problem of state law," he says - that is, the provision in Article IX, Section 7 of Missouri's constitution that requires "the clear proceeds of all penalties, forfeitures and fines collected hereafter for any breach of the penal laws of the state