Government & Politics

Gov. Eric Greitens pans call for investigation into charity donor list

Gov. Eric Greitens and the Missouri Republican Party are dismissing calls by a bipartisan group of senators for an investigation into the governor’s use of a donor list from his former charity to raise money for his 2016 campaign.

But the first-term Republican governor still hasn’t clarified exactly how his campaign obtained the list at the heart of the controversy.

In late April, Greitens admitted that his campaign had acquired the donor list of The Mission Continues, a veterans charity he founded in 2007.

The charity is adamant that it did not — and would not — give its donor list to any outside entity, especially a political campaign. Doing so would violate a federal prohibition on charities engaging in political activity.

That leaves the possibility that the list was taken from the charity without permission, which attorneys interviewed by The Star say would be a crime.

Sen. Jason Holsman, a Kansas City Democrat, along with another Democrat and four Republican senators filed a resolution Monday calling for the Senate to set up a special investigatory committee to look into how the campaign acquired the donor list, among other issues.

“We must protect the integrity of Missouri’s highest office,” Holsman said in a prepared statement, “and I am pleased to join my Republican colleagues in calling for this investigation.”

Parker Briden, a spokesman for the governor, said calls for an investigation were simply “temper tantrums from career politicians.”

“They’re angry that the governor is shaking up Jefferson City and won’t accept their excuses for failure any longer,” Briden said.

Todd Graves, chairman of the Missouri Republican Party, panned the idea as well.

“This baseless and ill-informed political stunt is a desperate attempt to distract Missourians from the work the governor is doing to shake up Jefferson City and put an end to politics as usual,” he said.

Greitens originally denied using the charity’s donor database for his campaign, although an Associated Press analysis found he received nearly $2 million from donors who previously had given significant amounts to The Mission Continues.

He acknowledged his campaign had the list after an investigation by the Missouri Ethics Commission, which ruled that he violated campaign finance laws by not disclosing the list as an in-kind donation to his campaign.

The campaign agreed to pay a $1,000 fine and amended its 2015 campaign financial disclosure forms to include the list as a $600 in-kind contribution from Danny Laub, who was listed as Greitens’ campaign manager at the time.

But it remains unclear how Laub obtained the list.

Laura L’Esperance, The Mission Continues’ spokeswoman, said in an email to The Star Tuesday night that her organization does not share, sell or rent information about its donors to external parties.

“Donors’ personal information is considered strictly confidential,” she said. “The Mission Continues did not provide, nor authorize use of, our donors’ information to any persons or groups for political/campaign purposes.”

Senate Majority Leader Mike Kehoe, a Jefferson City Republican, said Wednesday that the legislation calling for the creation of an investigatory committee won’t move forward immediately but could be taken up when lawmakers return for the 2018 session in January.

Jason Hancock: 573-634-3565, @J_Hancock

The Associated Press contributed to this story.