The publisher of The Missouri Times refused to answer questions Wednesday about whether money he delivered to a St. Louis attorney originally came from a Republican donor with a grudge against Gov. Eric Greitens.
Scott Faughn repeatedly told a special House committee that both the $50,000 he personally delivered to attorney Al Watkins and a second cash payment delivered by another person was his own money and was intended for audio recordings that outlined allegations against Greitens. Faughn said he planned to use the recordings as part of his research for an upcoming book.
However, he refused to answer questions about whether he had received the money from someone else, how long he had the money before he began talking to Watkins and whether he had kept the money in a bank or at his home.
In a series of heated exchanges with lawmakers, Faughn’s attorney Chuck Hatfield shut down down questions that were meant to clarify how Faughn obtained the money.
“If it was a birthday check from his grandmom ... he doesn't have to disclose,” Hatfield said at one point.
Hatfield also served as Watkins' attorney when he was a witness in the now-dropped criminal case against Greitens and faced questions about the money.
Faughn testified that the second $50,000 was delivered by one of his employees at the newspaper’s Clayton office, but he could not remember which one even though only three people work out of that office and one of them is his wife.
Rep. Don Phillips, R-Kimberling City, called this explanation "mind-boggling" and questioned how Faughn could not remember the identity of the employee he entrusted with thousands of dollars.
Rep. Jay Barnes, the Jefferson City Republican who chairs the committee, agreed that Faughn’s statements inspire incredulity.
“You just say, 'Somebody over there, take this sack of cash?' ” Barnes said.
Faughn would not answer whether he received the money from someone connected to the low-income housing industry, a claim that has been promoted by Greitens’ legal team, or from a wealthy Republican donor, which Watkins has suggested.
Watkins said last week that he had been led to believe the money came from a single source and that he understood it was from a Republican with a personal dislike of Greitens.
Faughn explained the differences between his version of events and Watkins’ as a miscommunication resulting from the fact that Watkins is a Georgetown University-educated lawyer and Faughn is a self-described hillbilly.
Faughn said he had no recollection of telling Watkins that the money came from a GOP donor.
He testified that he paid an additional $20,000 to Watkins to retain him as an attorney, but could not recall specific legal advice that Watkins had provided since the payment. He also could not say for sure whether Watkins was still his lawyer.
Faughn that he did not receive a receipt for the exchange for the audio from Watkins and that he did not enter into an exclusivity agreement for the material, which was widely available to other media outlets for free.
"Was there anything in writing? Was there a sales agreement?" asked Rep. Gina Mitten, D-St. Louis. "I think for most members of the general public $100-or-120,000 on a handshake is a considerable sum of money."
Faughn replied that the arrangement with Watkins was "unlike anything I've ever experienced, so it was odd to me, too."
Faughn said that the decision to pay the money in cash was at Watkins' request.
Watkins said last week that he alerted the FBI upon receiving the money. He did not immediately respond to an email Tuesday asking him to respond to Faughn's testimony.
Greitens and his legal team have repeatedly implied a connection between the money and business interests upset with his decision to zero out a low-income housing tax credit.
Faughn was questioned about his advertisers, including Sterling Bank, a Poplar Bluff, Mo., bank that is highly involved in low-income housing tax credits and is a sponsor of Faughn’s weekly television show, “This Week In Missouri Politics.”
The bank has not returned multiple inquiries from The Star.
Faughn, who has been an outspoken critic of elimination of the tax credit, testified that he had no knowledge about whether the bank was involved with the low-income housing industry.
He also said that if he spoke about the money with Steve Tilley, the bank's lobbyist and former Missouri House speaker, it would have been because it was in the news. Tilley could not be reached by phone Wednesday.
Faughn denied that any business associate instructed him to deliver the money to Watkins.
His testimony before the committee comes after several weeks where neither the governor's legal team, nor the legislative committee could locate him to deliver subpoenas.
Faughn said that he left the state because of the death of a friend and that he recorded an episode of his show in Memphis, but he repeatedly denied intentionally avoiding a subpoena in either the criminal case or in the legislative investigation.
"Mr. Faughn, I'm not sure why you won't just admit you were avoiding a subpoena in the St. Louis case," Barnes said with frustration.