Attorney General Ashcroft speaks to Mo. Chamber

John Ashcroft, U.S. Attorney General

John Ashcroft, U.S. Attorney General

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft came to the Capital Plaza Hotel Feb. 18 to speak to the Missouri Chamber of Commerce.

“I was asked if I was glad to be in my old stomping grounds,” Ashcroft said. “Yeah, I remember a lot of stomping being done to me in the Senate. I don’t know if that is good or not.”

He said he had long told his staff how beautiful the Missouri state capital was and that now he had the opportunity to show and not just tell.

The attorney general gave a speech that focused on the importance of ridding the state, the nation and the world of corruption.

In 2003, corruption cost the United States $40 billion in growth, $170 million in retirement and $ 1 million dollars in jobs. Corruption made up seven percent of the annual federal income. Corruption made $2.3 million last year, which is more than the entire federal budget. The general asked the crowd to imagine how this money could have been put to better use.

He spoke how since the beginning of his term, challenges had faced the United States. First was 9/11, then the on going threat of terrorism, the corrupt activity of some of the country’s leading corporations, the misuse of stock information and the threat of weapons of mass destruction that ultimately lead to war in Iraq.

“Democracy is a lesson in trust,” he said. “Corruption destroys trust.”

Ashcroft spoke on the work that had been done by President George W. Bush to end corporate fraud.

In December of 2003, the United Nations met in Mauta, Mexico, to work on corruption compliance codes in the United States and abroad. There are currently 94 countries involved in the treaty.

The president’s 2003 Corporate Fraud and Accountability Act has helped to detain 354 corrupt groups. Currently, there are 617 different subjects, with 290 cases and 640 charges. Some 250 people have already been convicted.

“Words must be backed up by action,” Ashcroft said. “As long as there are terrorists to strike, politicians to bribe and stock to be sold, corruption will occur.”

Secrecy, he said, helps to continue the spawn of corruption and must be stopped. Open boardrooms equal open markets.

The general said no executive should be above the law, no politician above the government and no individual too low to be raised up to their full potential.

He mentioned the tourism in Jefferson City and how people come to view the capital every day.

“To see Jefferson City is to see genius at work every day, the genius of the Missouri State government,” he said.