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Law firm defending Greitens in criminal investigation hires statehouse lobbyist

Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens has admitted he had an affair in 2015. But he denies he threatened to blackmail the woman involved to keep her silent.
Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens has admitted he had an affair in 2015. But he denies he threatened to blackmail the woman involved to keep her silent.

The St. Louis law firm defending Gov. Eric Greitens in a criminal investigation into allegations of blackmail has hired a lobbyist to work in the Missouri Capitol.

Aaron Baker, who is employed by the consulting firm of veteran Republican operative Jeff Roe, disclosed to the Missouri Ethics Commission on Thursday that he is lobbying on behalf of the Dowd Bennett law firm.

Jim Bennett, one of the firm's partners, represents Greitens as part of the St. Louis circuit attorney's criminal investigation of allegations that the governor threatened to release a nude photograph of a woman, taken while she was blindfolded and her hands were bound, if she spoke about their 2015 affair.

Greitens has admitted to the affair but has denied the blackmail accusations.

The firm also represents the governor's office in a lawsuit filed last last year alleging that Greitens and his staff engaged in a conspiracy to violate Missouri's open records law by using an app called Confide that erases text messages.

Baker could not immediately be reached for comment.

Under state law, lobbyists cannot register solely as representing a law firm if they are also representing the interests of one of the firm's clients. In those instances, they must register with the ethics commission as representing the client as well.

Earlier this week former St. Louis circuit judge Jack Garvey confirmed to The Star that he has joined Greitens' defense team.

"I have been retained by the Greitens team, I'm one of the lawyers now," he said Monday, "and that's about all I know at this stage."

Asked about the lobbyist's hire on Thursday, House Speaker Todd Richardson, a Poplar Bluff Republican, said he's not met with a lobbyist from the firm and would not "unless they want to talk about something other than that," referring to the criminal investigation of the governor.

More than a month after the blackmail allegations went public, the St. Louis prosecutor's criminal probe of Greitens hangs over the Missouri Capitol.

Last week investigators from St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner's office were dispatched to the Capitol to interview lawmakers. Before they left town they had talked to roughly two dozen legislators, including Richardson and Senate Majority Leader Mike Kehoe, a Jefferson City Republican.

The investigators, both of whom have FBI experience, returned to Jefferson City this week.

According to lawmakers who were interviewed, the questions focused on the conversations and interactions legislators had with the governor about the affair and alleged blackmail before and after the story went public.

Greitens has repeatedly said he has not been contacted by law enforcement about the allegations. In response to an open records request by The Star seeking copies of any subpoenas his office or staff may have received, special counsel Sarah Madden wrote that the office "is not in possession of any documents that are responsive to your request."

She added: "However, for your background, please be advised that grand jury proceedings are conducted in secret and generally must remain secret to ensure the functioning of the process. Accordingly, even if this office maintained any documents related to grand jury proceedings, those documents would be considered closed."

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