Chris Koster

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Chris Koster
Chris Koster official portrait.jpg
41st Attorney General of Missouri
In office
January 12, 2009 – January 9, 2017
Governor Jay Nixon
Preceded by Jay Nixon
Succeeded by Josh Hawley
Member of the Missouri Senate
from the 31st district
In office
January 2005 – January 2009
Preceded by Harold Caskey[1][2]
Succeeded by David Pearce
Personal details
Born (1964-08-31) August 31, 1964 (age 57)
St. Louis, Missouri, U.S.
Political party Democratic (2007–present)
Other political
Republican (Before 2007)
Spouse(s) Rebecca Bowman Nassikas (1996–2003)
Education University of Missouri, Columbia (BA, JD)
Washington University (MBA)

Chris Koster (born August 31, 1964) is an American politician who served as the 41st Attorney General of Missouri from 2009 to 2017. Before he was elected Attorney General, he had served in the Missouri Senate since 2005 representing the 31st Senatorial District as a Republican until August 1, 2007, when he switched to the Democratic Party.[3]

He was the Democratic nominee for Governor of Missouri in the 2016 election[4] and was defeated by Republican nominee Eric Greitens in the general election.

Early life and career

Koster was born and raised in St. Louis, where he attended Saint Louis University High School. He went on to study at the University of Missouri in Columbia where he received his Bachelor of Arts degree in 1987. Four years later, he received his juris doctor degree from the University of Missouri School of Law in 1991. Additionally, he earned his master of business administration from Washington University in St. Louis in 2002. Before becoming a county prosecuting attorney, Koster practiced law with the Kansas City law firm of Blackwell Sanders from 1993 to 1994. He also served as an Assistant Attorney General for the Office of the Missouri Attorney General from 1991-93.[citation needed]

Before his election to the Missouri Senate in 2004, Koster served as Prosecuting Attorney of Cass County for 10 years. He was first elected prosecutor in 1994 and was reelected in 1998 and 2002 by wide margins. As prosecutor, he supervised a staff of 20 who enforced Missouri’s criminal laws in Cass County. Additionally, his office served as the civil counsel for all non-criminal matters before the county government. During his tenure, Koster supervised litigation in about 20,000 cases. He led investigations into many of Missouri’s most notorious criminal cases, including the investigation against serial killer John E. Robinson. He has developed extensive trial experience and has argued and won cases before the Missouri Supreme Court.

Political career

Missouri Senate

Koster was first elected to the Missouri Senate in 2004 as a Republican. He represented Missouri's 31st Senatorial District, which consists of Cass, Johnson, Bates and Vernon counties. During his time in the Missouri General Assembly, Koster played key roles in the debates over stem cell research, tort reform, and the elimination of Medicaid fraud. In 2006, he carried legislation in the Senate that overhauled Missouri’s eminent domain laws. He served on these Senate committees:

  • Economic Development, Tourism, and Local Government
  • Judiciary and Civil and Criminal Jurisprudence
  • Pensions, Veterans' Affairs and General Laws
  • Commerce, Energy and the Environment
  • Agriculture, Conservation, Parks and Natural Resources

Koster championed legislation for Truth in the Missouri Court System, and proposed a bill (SB55) that aimed to eliminate paternity fraud. On August 1, 2007, Koster made Missouri political history when he announced that he was leaving the Missouri Republican Party to become a Democrat. Citing his longstanding differences with the Republican Party on issues like stem cell research, workers' rights, and the non-partisan court plan, Koster said that the Missouri Republican Party had become too beholden to the extreme right-wing to lead the state of Missouri.[5] He said, "Today, Republican moderates are all but extinct."[6]

Before his change of parties, Koster was chairman of the Republican Caucus, the majority party's fourth-ranking position in the Missouri State Senate.[7]

Attorney General

On August 5, 2008, Koster narrowly defeated State Representative Margaret Donnelly in the Democratic primary for the nomination for Missouri Attorney General. Koster won despite accusations that his campaign violated state law in raising money from multiple committees. He also survived the disclosure that he played a supporting role in a plagiarism episode that damaged Attorney General William L. Webster’s campaign for governor in 1992. Fresh out of law school, Koster worked for Webster, a Republican, as an assistant state attorney general.[8] His campaign was not easily won because he had to overcome the label of "opportunist" as a result of switching parties during the '08 election. He then went on to defeat Republican State Senator Mike Gibbons in the general election, 52.83% to 47.17%.[9] He was sworn in as Attorney General on January 12, 2009, succeeding Governor Jay Nixon.

Chris Koster and Jay Nixon, 2011

Koster is an advocate of the death penalty, and as of July 2013, there were 21 inmates on death row in Missouri whose executions he was pressing the Supreme Court of Missouri to expedite. After the 21 inmates filed suit before the state Supreme Court against the Missouri Department of Corrections over the use of the drug propofol used in lethal injections, concerning cruel and unusual punishment, the state Supreme Court temporarily halted the further use of the death penalty until the case had been ultimately decided.[10] With Missouri law allowing for the use of other forms of the death penalty in cases where lethal injection is not available,[11] Koster has advocated the use of gas chambers to execute Missouri prisoners.[12][13][14]

In 2012, after Koster's staff of 56 moved to a portion of the Broadway Building in Jefferson City, a $3.2 million request was made for "repairs, replacements and improvements" on two floors, "to include interior demolition, construction of new interior finishes, upgrades to the HVAC and electrical systems, new furniture, fixtures and equipment." Koster's own office is in the Supreme Court Building. "Funding the proposed renovation would not come from general revenue, but rather about $400,000 in administrative allowances that accompany federal grants, and about $2.8 million from the Merchandising Practices Revolving Fund. Money recovered by the state in consumer fraud cases goes into the fund, which is available to pay expenses of the attorney general's office."[15]

Koster supports same-sex marriage, but defended his state's former constitutional ban on it because voters approved it.[16]

Koster's office defended U.S. District Judge Catherine D. Perry after she denied a motion for temporary restraining orders on six police officers enforcing a "5-second rule" that required demonstrators to move every five seconds or face arrest in Ferguson, Missouri, citing the need for law enforcement's protection of property and the availability of a "free-speech zone".[17] However, at the time of this ruling, the free speech zone was off-limits to the public.[18] This "5-second rule" was later determined to be unconstitutional by a different federal judge.[19]

In October 2014, a California judge dismissed a lawsuit Koster filed, rejecting the arguments of six states that challenged California's prohibition on the sale of eggs laid by caged hens kept in conditions more restrictive than those approved by California voters in a 2008 ballot initiative, Proposition 2. Judge Kimberly Mueller ruled that the states lacked legal standing to sue on behalf of their residents and that Koster and other plaintiffs were representing only the interests of egg farmers, rather than "a substantial statement of their populations".[20][21][22] According to the Kansas City Star. Koster's office spent more than $83,000 on the failed lawsuit.[23][24]

2016 gubernatorial election

As his second term as Attorney General was coming to an end, Koster was running for governor.[25][26] He easily won the August 2 Democratic primary and faced Republican Eric Greitens in the November 8 general election. He lost the general election with 45.4% of the vote to Greitens' 51.3%.


  • Missourians for Honest Leadership: In 2008, Koster's ex-wife Rebecca Bowman Nassikas donated $200,000 to a dormant political committee, Missourians for Honest Leadership, which paid $187,500 to purchase air time and produce television ads in an effort to oppose Koster's candidacy for Missouri Attorney General.[27][28]
  • Contingency Contracts: A 2012 audit by state Auditor Tom Schweich criticized Koster for his practice of awarding contingency fee contracts to law firms that had donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to his campaign.[23]
  • Pay to Play allegations: In October 2014, House Speaker Tim Jones announced plans to investigate charges that Koster took actions in office that were designed to benefit campaign contributors. News coverage revealed that The Simmons Firm had donated two $50,000 checks to Koster's campaign in 2013 only months after Koster filed a lawsuit against Republic Services over its underground fire at the Bridgeton Landfill(Simmons subsequently won a nearly $7 million settlement from Republic in a class-action lawsuit).; that Koster had ended an inquiry focusing on the company 5-hour Energy after conversations with a lobbyist for the company who was also a Koster contributor; and that Koster had negotiated an agreement with Pfizer, another campaign contributor, to pay Missouri $750,000 in connection with a multistate investigation of illegal marketing practices, about $350,000 less than what the state would have collected had it participated in a joint negotiation with other states, and attended a Pfizer convention as a speaker and guest during the settlement negotiation.[23][29][30][31]

Koster ultimately said that he would no longer accept gifts from lobbyists. In Missouri, it is legal for elected officials to accept unlimited campaign contributions and gifts from lobbyists, and despite his position on lobbying reform, Koster rejects the idea of placing limits on the amount of money a corporation or a wealthy individual could contribute to a campaign. He instead suggests adding more transparency to the existing system.[32]

Electoral history

As Attorney General

2012 Race for Attorney General of Missouri   (2012 MO SoS Election Report[dead link])
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Democratic Chris Koster (incumbent) 1,482,381 55.81 +2.98
Republican Ed Martin 1,081,510 40.71 -6.46
Libertarian Dave Browning 92,465 3.48
2008 Race for Attorney General of Missouri
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Democratic Chris Koster 1,471,647 52.83
Republican Mike Gibbons 1,312,719 47.17
2008 Democratic Primary for Attorney General of Missouri
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Democratic Chris Koster 118,934 34.3
Democratic Margaret Donnelly 118,105 34.1
Democratic Jeff Harris 86,550 25.0
Democratic Molly Williams 23,140 6.7

As State Senator

2004 Race for Missouri State Senate 31st District
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Republican Chris Koster 50,328 62.9
Democratic Larry Snider 28,565 35.7
Libertarian Len Ludlam 1,086 1.4


  1. Missouri State Senate Member Information
  2. Official Election Results - State of Missouri General Election December 4, 2000
  3. Sen. Chris Koster's Party Switch Press Conference YouTube, August 1, 2007
  4. "Eric Greitens wins Missouri GOP Primary, to face Chris Koster in fall".<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. Andrea Chalfin, KBIA, Koster Switches Parties,, August 1, 2007; accessed April 3, 2015.
  6. Kelly Wiese for AP, "Likely Missouri attorney general candidate switches to Democratic Party",, Southeast Missourian, August 2, 2007.
  7. Stephanie Simon,When moderates feel lost in the GOP September 3, 2007
  8. "Gibbons vs. Koster". Archived from the original on 2016-01-31. Retrieved 2016-01-25. Unknown parameter |deadurl= ignored (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. Unofficial Election Returns Missouri Secretary of State
  10. Geetika Rudra (July 10, 2013). "Missouri Death Row Legal Battle Could Bring Back Gas Chamber".<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  11. Matt Berman (July 11, 2013). "Death by Gas Chamber Is Still a Thing in the U.S."<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>[permanent dead link]
  12. Jim Salter; Associated Press (July 3, 2013). "MO. AG SAYS STATE MAY HAVE TO USE GAS CHAMBER". Archived from the original on 2015-04-11. Unknown parameter |deadurl= ignored (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  13. Eli Yokley; The Joplin Globe (July 13, 2013). "Attorney General Koster suggests return of gas chamber".<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  14. The Associated Press (July 10, 2013). "Mo. Governor Shows No Support for Gas Chamber Idea".<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  16. Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster Talks SEC, Death Penalty, and Gay Marriage,; accessed April 3, 2015.
  17. "Motion for temporary restraining orders on six police officers enforcing a 5-second rule denied",; accessed April 3, 2015.
  18. Judge Catherine D. Perry ruling discussed,; accessed April 3, 2015.
  19. Wesley Lowery (October 6, 2014). "Federal judges tosses '5 second rule' being used to police Ferguson protests". The Washington Post. Italic or bold markup not allowed in: |publisher= (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  20. Judge Kimberly Mueller tosses suit by 6 states re sale of eggs of caged hens,; accessed April 3, 2015.
  21. Judge Kimberly Mueller tosses suit by 6 states re sale of eggs of caged hens,; accessed April 3, 2015.
  22. Judge Kimberly Mueller tosses suit by 6 states re sale of eggs of caged hens,; accessed April 3, 2015.
  23. 23.0 23.1 23.2 Koster lawsuit against California ban on caged hens' eggs,; accessed April 3, 2015.
  24. Barbara Shelly. Blog regarding Koster's failed lawsuit against California ban on caged hens' eggs,; accessed April 3, 2015.
  25. "Chris Koster Files to Run for Governor". KQTV. February 23, 2016. Retrieved April 1, 2016.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  26. "Chris Koster for Governor". Retrieved April 1, 2016.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  27. Messenger, Tony Bizzarro World e-mail of the day: Koster's ex-wife is BACK! St. Louis Post-Dispatch. September 22, 2016
  28. Wagar, Kit Bad breakup: Ex-wife drops $200,000 to blast Mo. AG candidate McCarthyDC. September 22, 2016
  29. "Lobbyists bearing gifts pursue state attorneys general,; accessed April 3, 2015.
  30. Missouri Attorney General faces scrutiny,, October 30, 2014; accessed April 3, 2015.
  31. Editorial on Koster,; accessed April 3, 2015.


  • Official Manual, State of Missouri, 2005-2006. Jefferson City, MO: Secretary of State.

External links

Legal offices
Preceded by
Jay Nixon
Attorney General of Missouri
Succeeded by
Josh Hawley
Party political offices
Preceded by
Jay Nixon
Democratic nominee for Governor of Missouri
Most recent