Gov. Eric Greitens may have violated an academic grant agreement by allegedly using it to pay his political staff as he was planning his campaign for governor.
Washington University in St. Louis and the John Templeton Foundation are both investigating a claim that the Republican paid his political staff partly through his $362,000 John Templeton Foundation grant.
The claim was made by Daniel Laub, Greitens’ former campaign manager, during an April 18 deposition conducted by Attorney General Josh Hawley's office.
Michael Murray, the vice president of the Pennsylvania-based foundation, said in an email Friday that the "grant agreement does specifically prohibit the use of funds 'to influence the outcome of any specific public election.' "
Murray added that the matter "is currently under investigation both by Washington University and the Foundation and so we are not in a position to comment at this time on possible future actions."
Laub told lawyers from Hawley’s office that some of the money he received for his early work for Greitens came from the grant, which was administered by Washington University.
Julie Flory, the university’s assistant vice chancellor for communications, said in an email that the university would review the claims in Laub’s testimony, which was unsealed Wednesday along with a Missouri House report that has spurred the legislature to call a special session to consider the governor's impeachment.
“This issue just recently came to our attention as part of the Missouri House legislative investigation. As a grantee, we take accountability seriously. We are looking into the matter to ensure the funds were used appropriately,” Flory said.
Greitens received the grant in 2010 for research on resilience and how people handle hardship. That work eventually turned into his fourth book, “Resilience: Hard-Won Wisdom for Living a Better Life.”
Laub began working for Greitens in late 2014, helping organize the book tour and laying the groundwork for his 2016 campaign.
He was initially paid as an independent contractor by the Greitens Group, the governor’s limited liability company.
“We were getting ready for his book tour for his new book, ‘Resilience.’ I had a hand in speaking gigs and preparing and doing — getting those ready and then I had a hand in political planning,” Laub said in the deposition.
However, he also received payments through the Templeton grant.
The attorneys asked Laub to send an email from Greitens’ executive assistant, Krystal Proctor, instructing Laub to send an invoice to Washington University listing the grant number.
“This is about Eric got allotted some amount of money through the Templeton grant at Wash U for things involving Eric I don't know the details on. And part of my work for Eric in terms of book tour and speaking stuff was paid out of this Templeton grant,” Laub testified.
Greitens intended to use the book tour to leverage his political ambitions and facilitate meetings with potential donors, Laub testified.
The attorneys from Hawley’s office asked Laub whether Greitens' team had conversations with Washington University about the "plan or expectations that the book tour would be used to leverage the political campaign” and Laub replied that he had no idea.
Laub testified that his understanding was that it “was a large grant, a lot larger than what was given here, that Eric could spend freely on ‘Resilience’-related things.”
Laub said that his income came from three sources during his work for Greitens: The Greitens Group, the Templeton grant and eventually Greitens for Missouri, his campaign committee.
He received two checks through the Templeton grant in 2015 totaling $3,250, he testified.
“The only thing I do remember is Krystal telling me that it was a sizable grant and that other promo-type companies were getting paid out of that grant too,” Laub said when asked about the arrangements with Washington University.
The official campaign committee was not established until February 2015, according to the Missouri Ethics Commission. Laub’s initial salary was $5,000 a month, he said.
Laub’s attorney, Sandy Boxerman, said that his client answered questions honestly and would be prepared to do so again if his testimony prompts additional inquiries about the use of the grant.
“I recognize why it might be an issue, but whoever’s going to follow up will follow up,” Boxerman said. “Certainly Danny doesn’t think he did anything wrong.”
Catherine Hanaway, the attorney for Greitens’ campaign, said she could not comment on this portion of Laub’s testimony because it dealt with things that happened before the formation of the campaign.
The spokeswoman for Greitens’ legal defense fund also did not immediately respond to inquiries Thursday and Friday.
Hanaway previously criticized the House report, saying that the committee “ought to ask the campaign for its version of events before acting as judge and jury in a matter that was settled long ago.”