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Hanson: Auditor's office should not be political stepping-stone

October 17, 2002
By: Amy Menefee
State Capital Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY - Al Hanson avoids endorsements, and for that matter political parties, and he says he's a better candidate for it.

The Republican running for state auditor contrasts himself with Democratic incumbent Claire McCaskill, whom he says is affected by her political aspirations.

"She can't audit everyone she wants to because it could hurt her politically," Hanson said. "I can do that because I don't have any responsibility to the Republican party or the Democratic party."

Hanson has run in nine elections, four in Minnesota and five in Missouri. He ran as a Democrat in seven of them. Why the party switch?

"Well, I have four daughters who are Republican," he said. Hanson said he finds his lack of party loyalty refreshing.

"It's actually a relief to not have to pay homage," he said.

Although some Missouri Republican Party officials promptly disavowed his candidacy following his 65 percent victory in the primary, Hanson said he has been well accepted by local Republicans.

The father of four and grandfather of nine has been married to wife Janette for 50 years. They have been Missouri residents for 12 years, and they live in a house owned by St. Paul Lutheran High School in Concordia, where Janette Hanson works as a security guard.

Hanson's varied background includes a stint as a rifle company commander in the military, a seat on the Minneapolis Grain Exchange and membership in the Inter-Mountain Stock Exchange. He has been involved in a family tire business and more recently in his own investment consulting business. He said he gives investment advice to contacts he's known for years.

He also runs the Al Hanson Prison Ministry, also known as Lutheran Prison Ministry, which facilitates Bible distribution in prisons. Hanson, the son of Lutheran missionaries, often travels to speak on behalf of his ministry.

Hanson said there are two main qualifications to have a prison ministry, and that he possesses both: communication skills and a socially acceptable crime.

His crimes, of which he was convicted in 1978, were felony theft and theft by swindle. They netted him nine months in a Minnesota prison. In one case, Hanson collected fees from sales of wheat and corn, but the market did not support the prices he charged. The other case involved collection of deposits on sales of surplus military Jeeps, which were never delivered.

He said his crimes would be viewed differently now.

"It would take a lot more to get me in trouble," he said. "I've been told that today I'd have to repeat that action five times to get a prison sentence."

Hanson said his experiences give him a valuable background that would enable him to monitor state accounting practices.

"The shady side of it is right up to where the law will allow," he said. "The state of Missouri needs someone who understands this rather than a prosecutor for state auditor."

Hanson said he thinks it is important for the auditor to have financial knowledge.

"I realize the auditor does not handle money," he said, adding that the office still plays the role of "chief financial watchdog." However, he also said he would like to make use of the information he's sharing with a few investors for the benefit of Missouri.

Hanson's campaigning efforts have been small, mostly attending local community groups. He lost his home city in the primary election, which he said is not that uncommon for a hometown candidate.

"I talked to my neighbor, and he didn't even know I was running," Hanson said.

He contrasts his own campaign with that of McCaskill, who has said she plans to run for governor.

"We can no longer afford the luxury of using the auditor's office as a political stepping-stone and neglecting the real reason for the auditor's office -- the safety of public funds during these perilous financial times," Hanson wrote in a summary of planned changes to the auditor's office.

Hanson said he wants to be involved with Missourians and how they relate to government.

"I'd like to use this experience for public service," he said. "I think I can do a better job for the state."

Hanson said if elected, he would want to do regular newspaper columns and radio broadcasts "on subjects of interest to Missourians concerning their day to day financial affairs with government."

Though he says he thinks he can win, Hanson allowed that "beating a Democratic incumbent in Missouri is very difficult."

But if he does win, Hanson promises to be easy to reach.

"If I lose, there'll be something on the answering machine," he said. "If I win, there'll be a news conference."