Government & Politics

Nonprofit formed to pay Greitens’ legal bills says it raised no money last month

Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens
Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens

A nonprofit created to raise and spend money to cover Gov. Eric Greitens' legal expenses is reporting that it neither raised nor spent any money during the first month of its existence.

ERG Defense Fund was founded by Greitens' allies in early March. In paperwork filed Tuesday with the Internal Revenue Service, it reported no financial activity during the first quarter, which ends March 31.

The governor's full name is Eric Robert Greitens.

The lack of fundraising activity during its first month doesn't necessarily mean ERG Defense Fund's bank account is empty.

It could have begun raising money after April 1, which would be similar to how a pro-Greitens group called SEALs for Truth avoided immediate disclosure of its funding during the 2016 campaign.

SEALs for Truth filed campaign disclosure paperwork in the summer of 2016 showing it had raised no money. Not long after that, the group donated $1.9 million to Greitens.

It wasn't until SEALs for Truth was required to file new disclosure paperwork in October 2016 that it was finally revealed that all of its money had come from a nonprofit that wasn't required to reveal its donors.

ERG Defense Fund must file its next disclosure paperwork with the IRS by July 15.

A spokesman for the governor's attorneys did not respond to a request for comment.

The legal defense fund was designed to help offset Greitens' legal bills as he attempts to fend off allegations of misconduct and criminal behavior on multiple fronts.

Greitens faces a felony invasion-of-privacy charge in St. Louis, and is scheduled to go to trial in that case on May 14.

At a hearing Thursday morning in that case, Greitens was represented in court by six attorneys.

Attorney General Josh Hawley said Tuesday that he turned over to the St. Louis prosecutor evidence of potential criminal behavior regarding Greitens' use of a veterans charity’s donor list to benefit his 2016 gubernatorial campaign.

Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens is under investigation by the attorney general's office over his use of a list of donors belonging to a veterans charity to benefit his 2016 campaign.

A Missouri House committee continues to investigate accusations of wrongdoing against Greitens, a first step toward possible impeachment. Last week, the committee released a report detailing allegations of sexual coercion and blackmail. It is also looking into the use of the charity donor list.

Greitens also faces a lawsuit in Cole County court alleging that his office used a text-message destroying app to circumvent the state's open records laws. His attorneys in that case are being paid by the state, not the legal defense fund.

A second nonprofit called Missouri Legal Expense Fund was created by Missouri GOP Chairman Todd Graves’ law firm to pay legal expenses for the governor’s taxpayer-funded staff. It has not yet filed disclosure paperwork with the IRS.

The legal defense funds were each created as “527” organizations, a term that refers to the section of tax code that governs such entities. They can raise unlimited funds from individuals, corporations, labor unions and even foreign entities, but they must register with the IRS and disclose their contributions and expenditures.