Government & Politics

Inquiry of Greitens' nonprofit likely to continue, despite House decision on subpoena

Former Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens
Former Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens AP

Former Gov. Eric Greitens’ dark money nonprofit no longer has to turn over records to a Missouri House investigative committee.

But the efforts to pull back the curtain on the secretive organization continue.

A pair of attorneys suing the governor’s office over its use of a self-destructing text message app say they expect the nonprofit, called A New Missouri Inc., to be a big part of their ongoing litigation.

A former assistant attorney general under Democrat Chris Koster is trying to use the state’s consumer protection laws to uncover information about A New Missouri’s finances.

And despite giving up on the subpoena, House Republicans continue to ponder whether there’s a path forward to rekindle the inquiry.

“I think it’s unlikely that this is the end of the road,” said House Budget Chairman Scott Fitzpatrick, R-Shell Knob. “People in Missouri deserve to know who is trying to influence their government.”

A New Missouri Inc. was ordered last month by a Cole County judge to abide by a subpoena and turn over documents to a state House committee that had been investigating Greitens for months as a precursor to possible impeachment.

Republican legislative leaders believed the requested documents might demonstrate efforts to illegally circumvent the state's campaign disclosure laws.

A New Missouri is not required to disclose its donors, and it does not have to abide by the state’s campaign contribution limits. To its critics, the House’s efforts to peer into A New Missouri’s inner workings was critical to rooting out any possible corruption that may have taken place during Greitens’ stormy 17 months in office.

Greitens resigned last week, and initially the House argued A New Missouri should still have to comply with the subpoena.

But on Wednesday the House relented and asked the judge to dismiss its petition to enforce the subpoena.

“The governor resigned. This thing is over,” said Catherine Hanaway, a former Missouri House speaker who represents A New Missouri. “That’s why the House dismissed its case. It is time for everyone to move on.”

House Democrats responded with outrage that the investigation into A New Missouri was over, insinuating that Greitens’ resignation was an attempt to avoid having to comply with the House subpoena.

“The dark money influence on Missouri government is so strong that Eric Greitens abruptly resigned the governorship after five months of steadfast defiance rather than risk the public learning the identities of his secret donors,” House Minority Leader Gail McCann Beatty, D-Kansas City, said in a statement. “To safeguard the integrity of our democracy, the investigation into this corruption must continue.”

A spokesman for House leadership didn’t respond to a request for comment.

The governor’s office still faces a lawsuit in Cole County over Greitens and his former staff using Confide, an app that deletes text messages after they are read.

The lawsuit alleges Greitens used the app to circumvent the state’s open records laws. Mark Pedroli, one of the attorneys who filed the suit, noted that Greitens refused to answer written questions about whether he used Confide to communicate with "employees or agents of A New Missouri."

“His answer was a refusal to admit or deny,” Pedroli said. “So, provided the opportunity to deny, he didn't deny using Confide to communicate with A New Missouri. Therefore, A New Missouri is now part of the Confide litigation.”

Elad Gross, a St. Louis attorney and former assistant attorney general, has sent a letter to A New Missouri demanding it turn over records about its finances under the state’s nonprofit laws and the Merchandising Practices Act, which prohibits deceptive and unfair business practices.

He contends A New Missouri is obligated to reply. If it doesn’t, or if it refuses to turn over documents, he said he’ll file a lawsuit.

“The records requested are evidence of the actions A New Missouri Inc. has taken and plans on taking to influence Missouri government and policy, the extent of the corporation’s influence, and the methods by which money is used to impact Missourians’ lives without transparency,” Gross says in his letter.

Gross said the state’s attorney general, Josh Hawley, should be taking the lead in investigating A New Missouri.

Hawley has launched previous investigations into allegations of wrongdoing against Greitens, including a probe of his use of Confide, his social media and whether he illegally used a donor list from a veterans charity for his 2016 campaign.

The donor list investigation led to criminal charges against Greitens in St. Louis that were ultimately dropped as part of a plea deal leading to his resignation.

"The Attorney General's Office has jurisdiction over charitable organizations, but not political organizations," spokeswoman Mary Compton said. "We will continue to refer any evidence of wrongdoing we uncover to the appropriate authorities."