Kurt Schaefer is facing an onslaught of attack ads questioning his conservative bona fides and accusing him of unethical behavior during his legislative career.
But exactly who is paying for those ads is unclear.
A trio of nonprofits and a Virginia-based political action committee have spent nearly $2 million on television and radio advertising attacking Schaefer, who is running in the Republican primary for attorney general against University of Missouri law professor Josh Hawley.
The groups have also spent big on direct mail, but an exact tally of that spending is difficult to quantify.
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Tea Party Patriots, Public Integrity Alliance, and Faith & Freedom Coalition are all nonprofit organizations, and therefore aren’t required to disclose their donors. The State Conservative Reform Action PAC files donor disclosure reports with the Federal Election Commission, but the last one filed was in April.
Schaefer’s campaign said Wednesday that an ad paid for by the Faith & Freedom Coalition arguing that Schaefer does not oppose abortion has been taken off the air by several radio stations around the state.
The Georgia-based group, which was founded by longtime evangelical political leader Ralph Reed, did not respond to a request for comment.
“This is just another example of the lies and distortions of my record being spread around the state by Washington, D.C. groups and East Coast money,” Schaefer said in a statement. “To this point, nearly $3 million have been spent to promote Josh Hawley by these groups who will not disclose their donors or their agendas, and Missourians are seeing through their attempts to buy an attorney general they can control.”
Hawley’s spokesman Scott Paradise said the ads have no affiliation whatsoever with the campaign.
But Paradise said for Kurt Schaefer to criticize any advertisement while he is “running a statewide smear campaign that has been referred to by leading national security experts like John Bolton and Michael Mukasey as ‘libel,’ ‘shameful,’ ‘not true’ or ‘grossly inaccurate’ ...is the exact sort of hypocrisy voters expect from career politicians.”
Even without the out-of-state groups, the Republican attorney general primary was already an expensive campaign.
Schaefer has accepted more than $2 million from retired investor Rex Sinquefield, while Hawley has taken $1.75 million from Joplin businessman David Humphreys.
There’s also big money being spent by outside groups in the Republican primary for Missouri governor.
A political action committee called Patriots for America, founded by a former staffer for Republican gubernatorial hopeful John Brunner, created a website urging Republicans to vote for anyone in the GOP gubernatorial primary but Eric Greitens.
The site prompted Greitents to call Brunner a “weasel” in a taped phone conversation that was leaked to the media.
The group disclosed its only donor, which turned out to be a nonprofit group. It is also facing scrutiny for spending money mailers and has run digital ads criticizing Greitens without filing reports with Missouri’s campaign finance authorities
Brunner has faced a barrage of TV attacks ads paid for by a political action committee called LGPAC. The Kansas-based group has also not registered with the Missouri Ethics Commission, but did file with the FEC. The group has denied any connection to Eric Greitens’ campaign.