With less than a week to go before Election Day, the candidates for Missouri governor continue to spar over Republican Eric Greitens’ refusal to release his tax returns.
But even without Greitens’ tax returns, which he is under no legal obligation to disclose, analysis of publicly available records offers a glimmer of insight into his financial dealings in the years leading up to his run for governor — ranging from his salary as leader of a nonprofit he founded to thousands in fees he earned on the lecture circuit.
A recent poll by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch found that 68 percent of respondents believe all candidates for statewide office in Missouri should be required to release their income tax returns.
Democrat Chris Koster released four years of his tax returns in September, then refused to participate in any future debates until Greitens followed suit, arguing that releasing their returns is the only way to shed light on possible conflicts of interest.
Greitens said he has no intention of making his tax returns public and accused Koster of looking for any excuse to avoid public debates.
“(My wife) and I turned in all the personal financial disclosures that everyone does when they run for office,” Greitens told The Star in an interview last month. “We’re not going to respond to Chris Koster’s arbitrary political demand.”
Elected officials in Missouri file personal disclosure forms with the state Ethics Commission. If they’ve earned more than $1,000 from an employer or entity, they must disclose it, along with investments and other financial information. But the forms don’t provide any detail about exactly how much a candidate earned or how they earned it.
Greitens’ form shows he earned more than $1,000 last year from a company he owns called “Eric Greitens LLC.” It also shows Greitens and his wife own stocks, bonds and equity investments in seven accounts each valued at more than $10,000.
In 2007, Greitens founded The Mission Continues, a nonprofit aimed at empowering wounded and disabled veterans to begin new lives as citizen leaders. He took no salary from The Mission Continues in 2007 or 2008.
Kaj Larsen, who helped found the organization and sat on its board of directors, said a grant from the Draper Richards Kaplan Foundation in 2009 allowed Greitens to be paid a salary, which started at $150,000 from mid-2009 through 2010 and was bumped to $175,000 in 2011. It remained at that level until he stepped down as CEO in 2014.
Greitens began a public speaking career in 2007, earning $10,000 to $20,000 per speech, according to the company that booked his speaking engagements, Leading Authorities.
According to press releases and other public statements, Greitens has given at least 70 speeches over the last decade. But it’s unclear how much he earned for those speeches and how many were paid speaking engagements.
For example, Greitens has delivered an annual speech at Missouri Boys State since 2007 for which he’s received no compensation. Missouri Boys State is an annual gathering to teach Missouri high school students leadership and the workings of government.
Other speeches were more lucrative, such as one he gave in 2015 at Virginia Tech, where he was paid $16,500. In 2014, he was paid $15,000 for a speech at Missouri Southern State University. In 2013, he was paid $15,000 for a speech at Texas A&M University and $20,000 for a speech at the Virginia Military Institute.
In 2013, he spoke at the national conference of Investicorp Inc., a Florida-based financial services firm. The event was held at El Conquistador Resort in Fajardo, Puerto Rico. Investicorp is a private company, so how much Greitens was paid for speaking at the conference isn’t a public record.
Greitens has written four books, including two New York Times best-sellers.
In 2010, Greitens won a $362,000 grant from the Templeton Foundation to do research on resilience and how people handle hardship, which eventually turned into his fourth book, “Resilience: Hard-Won Wisdom for Living a Better Life.”
According to Publishers Marketplace, Greitens received a six-figure book deal from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt to write “Resilience,” which was published in 2015. The exact size of the deal, as well as how much he has made off royalties for book sales, is not publicly available.
Greitens also worked as a part-time professor at the University of Missouri, with his annual compensation starting at $18,000 in 2008 and rising to $36,000 from 2010 to 2012.
Koster’s tax returns show that the two-term attorney general received a taxpayer-funded salary that ranged from $113,000 to $116,000 annually. He also earned income through investments managed by a firm where his brother is a partner. In 2012, those investments totaled $123,000, but they’ve declined every year after that and he reported a $3,000 lost last year.
Asked to comment on Greitens’ financial history, Austin Chambers, his campaign manager, said that while Greitens was running The Mission Continues, “Chris Koster was pocketing hundreds of thousands of dollars from Missouri’s taxpayers, taking gifts and trips from lobbyists and special interest groups, and was featured on the front page of The New York Times for corruption.”
Koster’s campaign spokesman David Turner said Greitens has no room to attack Koster’s ethics.
“Being lectured on ethics by Eric Greitens is like getting advice about fire prevention from an arsonist,” Turner said. “He has run the least transparent, most hypocritical campaign in Missouri history.”