‘Dark money’ in Missouri
Gov. Eric Greitens’ nonprofit just donated $250,000 to a political action committee working to protect Missouri’s right-to-work law.
But where that $250,000 originally came from will likely never be known.
Tracking campaign spending in Missouri is getting more difficult, thanks in part to the emergence of a crop of politically active nonprofit organizations.
Nonprofits aren’t required to disclose their donors. When contributions are routed through a nonprofit to a political campaign to hide the source of the donation, it’s referred to as “dark money.”
Greitens’ nonprofit, A New Missouri Inc., was founded by his political team in February. In the five months since, the organization has garnered controversy as it has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars promoting the governor and attacking his political enemies.
On Monday, A New Missouri Inc. donated $250,000 to a political action committee called Missourians for Worker Freedom. The PAC was started by James Thomas III, a Kansas City attorney tied to numerous campaign committees used over the years by Republican political consultant Jeff Roe.
In addition to the donation, the governor’s campaign finance director, Meredith Gibbons, is helping raise money for another PAC, called Liberty Alliance.
Gibbons sent out a fundraising mailer for Liberty Alliance from her Greitens campaign email address, and she was listed as the contact for potential donors. However, she says Liberty Alliance has no connection with the governor’s political campaign.
“I separately assist Liberty Alliance,” she said. “I have multiple email addresses and accidentally sent an email from the wrong address. This was just a mistake.”
Both Missourians for Worker Freedom and Liberty Alliance were created to help stave off efforts by labor unions to repeal Missouri’s right-to-work law. They share the same mailing address and phone number.
In addition to A New Missouri Inc.’s political spending, two more nonprofits appear poised to get more active — Missouri Alliance for Freedom and American Democracy Alliance.
Both nonprofits have ties to prominent GOP donor and St. Joseph businessman Stan Herzog.
Kristen Blanchard Ansley, the former executive director of the Missouri GOP, founded two political action committees in May, and she said each is connected to one of these nonprofits.
Grace River PAC is connected to Missouri Alliance for Freedom, and Ridgely PAC is connected to American Democracy Alliance. Both PACs share the same address as the Graves Garrett law firm.
Ansley says a recent ruling by the state ethics commission means the nonprofits aren’t permitted to contribute to their connected PACs.
However, Herzog’s construction company did cut a check to each PAC: $50,000 to Grace River PAC and $100,000 to Ridgely PAC. And
“As time goes on, these PACs may determine the causes and candidates they will support,” Ansley said, “but are not dedicated to any specific race or political party.”
Herzog also has ties to Greitens’ nonprofit.
Shortly before A New Missouri Inc. was founded in February, a company associated with Herzog purchased the building in downtown Jefferson City where the nonprofit is now housed.
The recent flow of campaign cash is reminiscent of the situation in 2008, after lawmakers repealed voter-imposed campaign contribution limits.
In the years leading up to the 2008 law change, big donors formed multiple committees to skirt limits and funnel money to candidates. That made it difficult to track campaign cash.
Missourians voted last fall to put contribution limits back in place, and critics say the previous practices used to skirt the law are making a return. Those methods are aided, they say, by the use of nonprofits.