McCaskill Campaign Paid Lawyers Critical of Her Opponent

Lawyers paid $2,500 by campaign just after they wrote 'scathing open letter' to GOP's Josh Hawley

Sen. Claire McCaskill
Sen. Claire McCaskill / Getty Images

The lawyers who were lead authors of a letter criticizing Republican Josh Hawley's performance as attorney general were paid $2,500 by the campaign of his Democratic opponent Sen. Claire McCaskill (D., Mo.).

The $2,500 payment from McCaskill's campaign to Trachtenberg Germinder Hirth Litigation LLC came on April 11, 2018, about three weeks after two of the firm's top lawyers, Joanna Trachtenberg and Andrew Hirth, wrote their letter criticizing Hawley as "incompetent."

The payment, for "legal services," was the first TGH Litigation had received from McCaskill or any other federal campaign. The Missouri-based firm's specialties, according to its website, are workplace discrimination and civil rights claims.

Neither the McCaskill campaign nor TGH Litigation responded to questions on the payment and what "legal services" were provided.

Both Trachtenberg and Hirth established Democratic roots before forming TGH Litigation together, each working for Missouri's previous attorney general, Democrat Chris Koster, who ran unsuccessfully for governor in 2016 and was succeeded by Hawley. The third member of their firm, Julianne Germinder, also worked for Koster.

The payment from McCaskill's campaign to TGH Litigation adds credence to Hawley's initial response to the letter, which was to characterize it as a partisan attack from lawyers with an "axe to grind" against him.

"It is deeply disappointing to see members of the Bar inject partisan politics into the work of the Attorney General's Office because they have an axe to grind," Hawley's spokesman at his official office said at the time.

Hawley's office also pointed out that it had a year earlier formally notified TGH Litigation that it was breaking Missouri's ethics laws by representing clients in worker harassment claims against the Missouri Department of Corrections, given that all three had previously defended the department when they worked for Koster.

The lawyer's letter on Hawley was also focused on what they viewed as an insufficient investigation into workplace practices of former Gov. Eric Greitens, who defeated Koster in the 2016 gubernatorial race.

The letter was widely covered in the media, and highlighted by liberal columnist Tony Messenger of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, who said the "scathing open letter to Hawley" was written by "experienced Missouri attorneys."

Coverage of it was also highlighted by McCaskill herself, who said her "jaw just dropped" and urged her followers to read it.

TGH Litigation was recently used in Missouri by Perkins Coie, which did not have the necessary licenses it needed in Missouri to file a document disclosure lawsuit against the Attorney General's Office on behalf of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. Hirth is listed on the suit as an attorney for the DSCC, in addition to McCaskill's longtime campaign lawyer Marc Elias and two others from Perkins Coie.

The lawsuit was filed July 26, 2018, so it is yet to be disclosed whether Hirth or TGH Litigation was paid by the DSCC for the legal work. Neither the DSCC nor Perkins Coie responded to inquiries for details on how the legal work was paid for.