Josh Hawley

FILE - IN this Jan 15, 2019 file photo, Senate Judiciary Committee committee member Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., questions Attorney General nominee William Barr during a Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington.

JEFFERSON CITY, MO (AP) -- Missouri Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft announced Thursday that his office didn't find evidence to back up allegations Josh Hawley used public resources as the state attorney general to bolster his successful U.S. Senate bid.

Ashcroft said he's closing the investigation , which centered on political consultants' work giving direct guidance and tasks to official Attorney General's Office staffers. Those consultants later went on to work for Hawley's campaign against former Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill.

Missouri law bans public officials from using taxpayer resources for their personal benefit.

"The consultants were used to advance Attorney General Hawley's priorities as Attorney General for the State of Missouri," Ashcroft wrote in a letter to the complainant. "There is nothing showing that the consultants were used to promote him as a candidate."

Ashcroft's investigation stems from a November complaint by the liberal group American Democracy Legal Fund.

In the complaint, group President Brad Woodhouse wrote that it appears Hawley misused state resources "by instructing political consultants to direct state, taxpayer-paid staff to undertake tasks that would raise Hawley's profile in his bid to represent Missouri in the U.S. Senate."

Woodhouse's complaint followed reporting by The Kansas City Star, which obtained records showing the consultants' work with official staffers.

The Attorney General's Office has previously dismissed the complaint as "frivolous."

"As expected, the Secretary of State report completely vindicated Josh Hawley," said Kelli Ford, Hawley's Senate spokeswoman, in a statement. "This marks the latest failed attempt by partisan Democrats."

Copyright 2019 The Associated Press.

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