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Koster involved in national effort to curb Craigslist prostitution listings

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, May 4, 2009 - Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster is flying out to New York tonight so that he can join Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan and their Connecticut counterpart in a meeting Tuesday morning with executives of Craigslist, the free online advertising site.

The trio are representing state attorneys general from around the country who, Koster says, have been concerned for some time about the open sexual solicitations on Craigslist.

Koster said in an interview Monday that his involvement in Tuesday's New York meeting was at the request of some of the leaders of the National Association of Attorneys General, including Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, who is that state's longest-serving attorney general (in his 5th term).

Last November, about 40 states signed a consent order with Craiglist that called for the Website to "clamp down on blatant discrimination,'' said Koster.

But as someone who just took office in January, Koster said the issue that "sparked my attention'' was the recent spotlight on the alleged "Craigslist killer'' accused of assaulting and killing women who had advertised their services on the site.

Koster said Tuesday's meeting is aimed at "negotiations toward an agreement with (Craigslist) to eliminate ads for prostitution on the site."

“Craigslist is allowing advertisements for illegal activities like prostitution on its site,” Koster said in a statement issued earlier Monday. “It is blatant. It is irresponsible. It is illegal.

“Our investigators found advertisements that clearly were offering sex-for-money or seeking a sex-for-money relationship on Craigslist’s Kansas City, St. Louis, Columbia/Jefferson City and Springfield sites,” Koster continued. “These arrangements advertised are not only illegal but dangerous, and we aim to stop this type of advertising in Missouri.”

Koster's involvement at Tuesday's New York meeting could signal that he's quickly becoming a major player in the group's national activities, which in turn could elevate his political profile.

(That could improve his Missouri political credentials, which still get a lot of scrutiny from both parties since he switched to Democrat from Republican in August 2007.)

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.