Republican legislative leaders are unsure whether Gov. Eric Greitens' political nonprofit will have to turn over documents to House investigators now that he has announced he's stepping down on Friday.
But a source close to the House investigation says lawmakers will continue to probe into the source of $120,000 in payments to the attorney of the man who first publicized blackmail allegations against Greitens.
A Cole County judge on Tuesday ordered A New Missouri Inc., a nonprofit founded by Greitens' political advisers, to turn over communications and documents showing potential coordination among the nonprofit, the governor and the governor's campaign committee, as well as expenditures related to advertising.
Emerging Wednesday morning from a meeting in the office of Lt. Gov. Mike Parson, the Legislature's top Republican leaders said the fate of that subpoena is up in the air.
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"The judge has an order," House Speaker Todd Richardson, R-Poplar Bluff, said. "We’ll have discussions with them about whether they intend to comply with that order, but the House’s jurisdiction over those matters will go away at some point with the governor’s announcement yesterday. I don’t have a better answer for you at this point."
The House committee investigating the governor as a precursor to impeachment issued subpoenas to the nonprofit and the governor's campaign seeking documents lawmakers think might demonstrate efforts to illegally circumvent the state's campaign disclosure laws.
The governor also had been informed by GOP legislative leaders that it expected him to comply with a separate subpoena ordering him to testify before the House committee on Monday.
Several sources with knowledge of the nonprofit told The Star that donors to A New Missouri had been quietly panicking behind the scenes at the prospect that the House's investigation could reveal their identities.
Catherine Hanaway, a former House speaker who is representing A New Missouri, said Tuesday that she was considering options for an appeal. She did not respond to a request for comment Wednesday.
Wednesday morning, St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner announced that Greitens offered to resign as part of an agreement to dismiss a felony computer-tampering charge against him.
The deal did not require Greitens to admit guilt.
Yet the timing of the judge's Tuesday order — coming just hours before Greitens shocked Missouri's political world by announcing his resignation — had many speculating that the prospect of divulging the inner workings of his secretive nonprofit may have contributed to his decision to quit.
“I think the trigger today was the courts saying that they were going to demand that the subpoenas were fulfilled for his donors and that whole area," said state Rep. Kevin Engler, R-Farmington.
Sen. Kiki Curls, D-Kansas City, said, "The ruling by the court this morning was particularly a huge blow. ... I’m sure there were a number of things. I would suspect that the ruling this morning that would have had some impact on his decision.”
Sen. Rob Schaaf, a St. Joseph Republican and among the governor’s fiercest critics, said he believes there was information that would have been disclosed by the subpoena that "he did not want out there."
“It looks like Eric Greitens came to power protecting his secret donors," Schaaf said, "and now he’s leaving power protecting his secret donors."
In recent weeks, the House investigative committee also has focused on the source of $120,000 in payments to St. Louis attorney Al Watkins.
Watkins represents the ex-husband of a woman who had an extramarital affair with Greitens and who accused the governor of coercive and sexually violent misconduct. The money was paid to him by Scott Faughn, a newspaper publisher who testified under oath that it was payment for secretly recorded tapes of the woman confessing the affair that he planned to use for a book.
Watkins disputed that claim, testifying under oath that Faughn told him the money came from an out-of-state Republican donor with a personal grudge against Greitens.
Greitens' attorneys have requested that the House investigative committee issue subpoenas to a developer and a banker involved in low-income housing tax credits, an industry the governor has sharply criticized and has suggested may have conspired to intensify his legal problems.
Asked about the future of the House investigative committee's work, Richardson said that's not yet been determined.
"We’ll have that discussion over the coming days, but our focus right now is on ensuring the lieutenant governor has a smooth transition," he said.
Engler said he hopes the House gets to the bottom of who was actually behind the money, because, "they need to be exposed.” And a source close to the committee's investigation said it will continue to look into the source of the payments.
The lawsuit against the Governor's Office over its use of a self-destructing text messaging app called Confide will continue unabated.
A judge on Wednesday ordered Greitens' attorneys to turn over a list of everyone in the Governor's Office who used Confide and the telephone numbers they used.
Confide is an app that allows someone to send a text message that automatically erases after it is read.
The app also prevents anyone from saving, forwarding, printing or taking a screenshot of the text, raising concerns among government transparency advocates that the app could be used to subvert the state’s open records laws.
Two St. Louis attorneys sued in December, alleging Greitens and his staff conspired to use Confide to circumvent the state's Sunshine Laws.
"The Confide litigation has never been about removing a particular person from office. The litigation is about exposing secret communication systems within our government and revealing the truth about those communications," said Mark Pedroli, one of the lawyers who sued the governor. "That litigation continues."
All told, 12 senior members of Greitens' staff have admitted they had Confide accounts associated with their personal cellphones. Greitens also has an account under the user name "Er Robert," and he has admitted that he “occasionally used Confide to communicate with members of the Office of Governor about scheduling in a manner that was consistent with the requirements of the Open Records Law.”