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Koster becomes prime GOP target over his role in health-care suits

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, July 13, 2010 - Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster, who almost three years ago converted from a Republican to a Democrat, is finding himself at odds with his former party and its leaders.

The Missouri Republican Party zeroed in on Koster on Monday as it became aware of the briefs he'd filed in court late Friday in opposition to Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder's lawsuit challenging the new federal health-care provisions.

The state GOP accused Koster of "wasting taxpayer money in an attempt to save the federal health-care bill from a constitutional challenge."

Koster contended in his court filings that Kinder has no legal standing to bring such a suit, observing among other things that "despite these apparent assertions that he is pursuing the case in his official capacity, (Kinder) makes no explicit mention of the state of Missouri.

"Indeed, (Kinder) never names Missouri as a party and its prayer for relief does not seek any redress for the state," Koster told the court. "Thus, in substance, the complaint appears to be brought by the lieutenant governor only as a private citizen, notwithstanding his assertions to the contrary.

"This ambiguity in the pleading requires the intervention of the attorney general, both (1) to clarify the role of the lieutenant governor in the lawsuit, and (2) to represent the state’s interests in the event that the lieutenant governor is purporting to speak on behalf of the state of Missouri. In light of these two paramount issues, the attorney general has a significant interest in the litigation that warrants his intervention."

The second health-care matter involves the court suit brought by some private citizens, who appear to have Democratic ties and who are seeking to knock Proposition C off the Aug. 3 ballot.

Proposition C originated with several St. Louis area Republican legislators who want to allow Missouri to opt out of the federal health care law -- or, at minimum, for the state's voters to register their opposition to the new law.

State Sen. Jane Cunningham, R-Chesterfield and one of the leaders of the pro-Prop C effort, said recently that she was concerned about Koster's commitment to defending Proposition C against those seeking to keep it off the ballot. But Cunningham added that she had gotten personal assurances from Koster and was willing to give him a chance.

Not so state Rep. John Diehl, R-Town and Country, who told reporters Monday that Koster had failed to notify him of today's court hearing involving the case.

State GOP executive director Lloyd Smith asserted, "Clearly, Chris Koster doesn’t want Missourians to have their day in court He will do anything to silence the voices of the overwhelming number of Missourians who oppose the health-care mandates — even if it means looking incompetent or playing partisan politics with the law."

As of late Monday, Koster's spokeswoman Nanci Gonder said he has not commented on any of the GOP accusations.

Jo Mannies has been covering Missouri politics and government for almost four decades, much of that time as a reporter and columnist at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. She was the first woman to cover St. Louis City Hall, was the newspaper’s second woman sportswriter in its history, and spent four years in the Post-Dispatch Washington Bureau. She joined the St. Louis Beacon in 2009. She has won several local, regional and national awards, and has covered every president since Jimmy Carter. She scared fellow first-graders in the late 1950s when she showed them how close Alaska was to Russia and met Richard M. Nixon when she was in high school. She graduated from Valparaiso University in northwest Indiana, and was the daughter of a high school basketball coach. She is married and has two grown children, both lawyers. She’s a history and movie buff, cultivates a massive flower garden, and bakes banana bread regularly for her colleagues.

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