Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley’s office has launched an inquiry into Gov. Eric Greitens’ veterans charity, placing the Republican Party’s top Senate recruit in Missouri on a potential collision course with the state’s embattled Republican governor.
Hawley’s investigation comes at a time when the governor faces a felony indictment in St. Louis and a related legislative investigation, which could be the first step toward impeachment.
The investigation was announced the same day that Hawley’s office concluded a separate investigation into the governor’s use of a private messaging app.
Hawley on Tuesday officially filed to challenge U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, the Democratic incumbent, in a race that could determine control of the U.S. Senate.
“The Attorney General’s Office has an open inquiry into the charitable activities of The Mission Continues, pursuant to the AGO’s enforcement responsibilities under the consumer protection and charitable registration and reporting laws,” Hawley’s state spokeswoman Loree Anne Paradise said in an email.
Hawley had previously opened an inquiry into the governor's use of a private messaging app, which concluded Thursday without any finding of wrongdoing.
The announcement of an investigation into a Mission Continues comes a day after the Missouri Democratic Party accused Hawley of “turning a blind eye to Governor Greitens’ improper behavior” in reference to a St. Louis Post-Dispatch report that a Greitens staffer emailed the charity’s donor list to Greitens’ campaign in 2015.
Hawley's decision to launch an inquiry into the campaign could increase the pressure from Democrats.
"The Attorney General has spent the last year making excuses, looking the other way, and hiding from allegations of corruption in Jefferson City," said Meira Bernstein, communications director for McCaskill's campaign. "Real prosecutors are now looking at the Greitens charity and his campaign. After months of looking the other way, Hawley is now finally paying attention? Too little, too late."
Democrats have frequently noted that Greitens' campaign made a $50,000 donation to Hawley's campaign for attorney general. They are referring to a nearly $49,000 in-kind donation of mailers.
"I guess that's what happens when you receive $50,000 from the Governor — you put his political survival above your obligation to Missourians,” Brooke Goren, the Democratic Party’s spokeswoman, said Wednesday, a day before Hawley’s charity investigation was announced.
The donation was for mailers that featured multiple Republican candidates.
"You can't return mail," said Kyle Plotkin, Hawley's campaign manager, when asked if the attorney general would return the donation.
Hawley declined Tuesday to speculate on whether the various scandals plaguing Greitens would affect Republican candidates in 2018. “That’s your job,” he said to reporters.
A spokesperson for The Mission Continues said she was not aware of any inquiry by Hawley's office.
"If we are contacted, obviously we would cooperate," the spokesperson said.
Greitens, a retired Navy SEAL, in 2007 founded the Mission Continues, a nonprofit that helps military veterans adjusting to life after they leave the service. Greitens has faced scrutiny for campaign fund-raising emails that went out to the charity’s donors.
He admitted late last year that his 2016 campaign for governor possessed the charity’s donor list as part of a consent decree for a campaign finance violation, but how his campaign obtained the list has remained unclear.
Sharing the list with the campaign could violate federal law and endanger the charity’s tax-exempt status.