JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — In August 2007, Missouri Gov. Matt Blunt's top aide fired off numerous e-mails with a single purpose: to challenge then state Attorney General Jay Nixon's ability to defend the state in a lawsuit.
Revealed as part of a legal settlement with The Kansas City Star and other media outlets over access to e-mail in the governor's office, the messages cast light on what experts say can be a murky boundary between policy and politics in government.
Ed Martin, then chief of staff, wrote the e-mails to numerous members of the state's anti-abortion establishment, seeking to prevent Nixon, who is now governor, from defending a lawsuit challenging new abortion restrictions passed by the legislature.
Nixon, a Democrat, supports abortion rights and at the time was the Republican governor's top political rival.
While perfectly legal, some question the propriety of top officials engaging in what could be construed as politics from the governor's office.
Where is the line drawn between policy and politics?
When does assistance from interest groups promote the governor's agenda, and when does it promote his campaign?
Lael R. Keiser, an associate professor at the University of Missouri-Columbia and an expert on public bureaucracies, said e-mails such as Martin's are a fixture of modern government.
"As far as the reality of government service and bureaucracy and public policy, elected officials are constantly in contact with interest groups," she said.
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