A construction company owned by one of Gov. Eric Greitens’ biggest financial backers spent nearly $60,000 in 2017 to pay for the governor to travel across the country, according to disclosure paperwork filed Tuesday with the Missouri Ethics Commission.
The governor’s personal financial disclosure forms also reveal that he owns a company called J&J Escape LLC. He used the company to buy a lakeside home in Innsbrook, an eastern Missouri resort community.
Greitens vowed when he took office to stop using the state plane for travel, arguing that it would save taxpayers' money. But critics worried that by relying instead on private and campaign funds to pay for travel around the country, the governor would be able to avoid disclosing exactly who was picking up the tab.
He also signed an executive order on his first day in office banning himself and any members of his staff from accepting gifts from lobbyists.
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The lion’s share of the cost of Greitens’ 2017 travel included on his personal financial disclosure was picked up by Herzog Contracting Corp.
The company is owned by Stan Herzog, a St. Joseph businessman who gave Greitens’ campaign $650,000 in 2016. Herzog’s company also owns a building in Jefferson City that houses Greitens’ political nonprofit, A New Missouri Inc. Herzog is also close with U.S. Rep. Sam Graves and Missouri GOP Chairman Todd Graves.
Herzog’s company paid for the governor to travel to Las Vegas for a Republican Jewish Coalition conference in February 2017, to the American Enterprise Institute World forum in Georgia in March 2017, to a Republican Governor’s Association event in New Jersey in October 2017 and to Des Moines, Iowa, the same month to attend a campaign kickoff event for Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds.
The company also spent an undisclosed amount on “in-state travel” in 2017 that was listed as a gift or honorarium.
Greitens' spokesman, Parker Briden, said in an email Tuesday evening that the reliance on donors for travel is part of the governor's commitment to "spending as few taxpayer dollars as possible on travel."
"To that end, the Governor’s Office limited travel on state planes to a last resort, typically involving natural disasters, the Department of Public Safety, and funerals for fallen first responders," Briden said. "In a departure from past administrations, Governor Greitens’ primary mode of transportation within the state is by car. For out of state travel, the Governor typically flies commercial or on aircrafts not paid for by tax dollars."
St. Louis-based Drury Development Corp. paid $3,800 for Greitens’ trip to Washington, D.C., for President Donald Trump’s inauguration.
Also paying for Greitens’ travel last year was Raj Mantena, chairman and founder of Integra Connect, a Florida-based health care technology company. He listed the travel as a gift or honorarium, so the value of the travel is not disclosed.
Cequel III, a St. Louis-based investment and management firm, spent nearly $4,000 to send Greitens to Kansas for “meetings” and $5,400 for a trip to Arkansas to attend a rally with former Gov. Mike Huckabee.
Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts spent $15,293 to fly the entire Greitens family to Grand Island, Neb., to attend a campaign event.
The governor’s new disclosure form does not list any real estate holdings, but it does list a company called J&J Escape LLC under the governor’s business holdings.
The company was incorporated on Jan. 17, 2017 — a week after Greitens was inaugurated — and Greitens’ name appears nowhere on the articles of organization that were filed with the Missouri secretary of state’s office.
But the governor is listed as the manager of the company for a deed of trust signed a month later after the purchase of a lakefront property in Innsbrook.
Among the reasons people use LLCs to buy real estate are to reduce liability and maintain privacy.
The deed lists the mailing address for Greitens' LLC as the St. Louis home address of Mark Bobak, an influential lawyer and close confidant of Greitens'.
Bobak, a former chief legal officer for Anheuser-Busch, serves on the board of directors of the CBX Corp., which owns Carrollton Bank, the Illinois-based bank that granted J&J Escape a $675,000 loan for the purchase of the the $750,000 Innsbrook property, a six-bedroom, four-bathroom resort home near a lake.
Public documents obtained by The Star confirmed that the Warren County tax collector sent the property tax bill for J&J Escape to Bobak’s address.
"I served as his lawyer at the closing. I wanted to make sure his taxes were paid. I wanted to make sure they didn't get lost in the mail," Bobak said in a brief phone call.
He said that after receiving the taxes, he forwarded them to the governor and first lady. The bill was paid on time by a personal check drawn on a Carrollton Bank account and signed by Sheena Greitens, the governor’s wife.
Bobak and his wife were major donors to the charity Greitens founded, The Mission Continues. Although he was never on the campaign payroll, he was an influential adviser during the governor’s successful 2016 campaign.
The lawyer contributed nearly $27,000 to Greitens and served as co-chair of the 2016 campaign and also of Greitens’ inauguration planning committee. He was also one of a handful of "benefactors" that the governor says helped pay for inaugural festivities, although Greitens has refused to disclose how much donors contributed.
Bobak has been seen leaving the St. Louis courtroom with Greitens' attorneys in the run-up to the governor's May 14 criminal trial.