Government & Politics

Conservative Missouri group sues state auditor, lawmaker over Sunshine Law

‘Dark money’ in Missouri

Eric Greitens' political career is intertwined with the rise of "dark money" in Missouri. This video was originally published May 24, 2017.
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Eric Greitens' political career is intertwined with the rise of "dark money" in Missouri. This video was originally published May 24, 2017.

A conservative nonprofit is suing Democratic state Auditor Nicole Galloway and a Republican state senator, alleging violations of Missouri’s open records law.

Kansas City-based Missouri Alliance for Freedom filed lawsuits in Cole County Circuit Court this week against Galloway, a Columbia Democrat, and state Sen. Rob Schaaf, a St. Joseph Republican.

The two lawsuits contend that Galloway and Schaaf are violating open records law by refusing to turn over documents that were requested by Missouri Alliance for Freedom.

“We always prefer to avoid litigation if possible, but we are confident that (Missouri Alliance for Freedom) will succeed and its right to review the requested public documents will be vindicated,” said Edward Greim, an attorney with Kansas City’s Graves Garrett law firm who is representing the nonprofit.

Gena Terlizzi, spokeswoman for Galloway’s office, said in a statement that the auditor disagrees with the “unfounded claims made by Missouri Alliance for Freedom.”

Schaaf was not immediately available for comment.

Missouri Alliance for Freedom is a nonprofit founded in 2013. Its president is Kristen Blanchard Ansley, the former acting executive director of the Missouri Republican Party, and its secretary is James Thomas III, a Kansas City attorney tied to numerous campaign committees used over the years by Republican political consultant Jeff Roe.

Missouri GOP Chairman Todd Graves’ law firm is representing the nonprofit in its lawsuits. St. Joseph businessman Stan Herzog is believed to be one of its primary donors.

According to the lawsuit, Missouri Alliance for Freedom asked Galloway’s office to produce various records. Among the requested records were those concerning her audit of the Missouri Department of Revenue and whether it was complying with a state law requiring that income tax refunds be paid out within 45 days of filing.

As for Schaaf, Missouri Alliance for Freedom requested he turn over records of his communications with staff and outside individuals. In denying Missouri Alliance for Freedom’s records request, Schaaf noted that the Missouri General Assembly has argued for years that the state’s Sunshine Law doesn’t apply to individual state representatives and senators or their staff.

“I’m sure you know that as a legislator, my communications are exempt from the Sunshine Law,” he wrote in response to the group’s request. “If they were (not), I would gladly respond to your request.”

The Missouri Alliance for Freedom has been a longtime critic of the General Assembly’s refusal to comply with the Sunshine Law. The legislature’s interpretation of the law has been questioned by critics but never directly addressed by a Missouri court.

Galloway is running for re-election next year. Schaaf is prohibited from running for re-election because of term limits.

Jason Hancock: 573-634-3565, @J_Hancock