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Third-party ad hits Koster's decision-making on health care bill

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Sept. 20, 2012 - A conservative nonprofit is getting involved in the Show Me State’s contest for attorney general, arguing that Attorney General Chris Koster didn’t do enough to oppose the Affordable Care Act.

The American Future Fund - a 501(c)(4) founded by an aide to former Iowa Republican congressman Jim Nussle - announced Wednesday that it released a television ad criticizing Koster’s decision-making on federal health care legislation.

The ad – entitled “Imposter” – chides Koster, a Democrat, for not joining a multi-state lawsuit against the federal health care law. Instead, he filed a "friend of the court" brief that the group said was confusing.

In that amicus brief, Koster opposed the Affordable Care Act's mandate requiring most Americans to buy insurance, but generally favored other provisions of the law.

“Want to know why the Post-Dispatch calls Chris Koster ‘Koster the Imposter?’” the ad’s voiceover states. “First, Koster sided with D.C. politicians. He refused to sue to stop the job-killing federal health care bill. Then, when he finally acted, a legal expert called Koster’s position ‘unclear.’ Koster the imposter. Looking out for Washington, D.C., politicians.”

Koster did not join a group of primarily Republican attorneys general in trying to overturn the federal health care law. But he did file an amicus brief last year stating that a mandate prompting everyone to buy health insurance runs afoul of the U.S. Constitution's "commerce clause," which he said "bars Congress from compelling citizens to step into the stream of commerce when they have either neglected or chosen not to do so."

He added, though, that tossing out the mandate would not affect implementation of other parts of the law.

The mandate, of course, ended up being upheld under Congress’ taxation authority.

The ‘Koster the Imposter’ article was a Post-Dispatch editorial that criticized Koster for, among other things, "offering convincing evidence that his legal brief is less about the law and more about Mr. Koster trying to be all things to all people."

The “legal expert” appears to beJosh Hawley, an associate professor of law at the University of Missouri-Columbia and former clerk to Chief Justice John Roberts. The Missouri Republican Party promoted an analysis from Hawleyin March arguing that Koster's "legal argument was so full of equivocation as to make it unclear what precisely Missouri’s position was."

Koster – who released his first television ad yesterday – has a substantial financial advantage over GOP attorney general hopeful Ed Martin. The ad buy from the group – which as OpenSecrets.org notes doesn’t legally have to disclose their donors – could be one way for Martin to cut into that cash advantage.

Koster campaign manager Rachel Levine condemned the ad as “the same kind of politics as usual that you often see out of Washington, D.C.”

“Attorney General Koster spent his career as a prosecutor making Missourians safe,” Levine said. “At the end of the day, that’s what matters to Missouri families.”

Jason is the politics correspondent for St. Louis Public Radio.