Government & Politics

Committee that investigated Greitens says he hopes inquiries into former governor continue

Key figures in the Greitens saga

With so many scandals and accusations swirling around Missouri's former governor, it can be hard to keep track of the players. Here's a quick guide.
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With so many scandals and accusations swirling around Missouri's former governor, it can be hard to keep track of the players. Here's a quick guide.

A House committee tasked with investigating Eric Greitens concluded its work on Monday when it issued a final report, but its chairman hoped that another state agency would still act on evidence that the disgraced former Missouri governor violated campaign finance laws.

Jay Barnes, a Republican from Jefferson City, released the 2,100-page final report on the House Special Investigative Committee on Oversight on New Year’s Eve. The committee’s jurisdiction over the matter ended on June 1 when Greitens resigned as he faced the prospect of impeachment.

“However, the Missouri Ethics Commission has the power to investigate and act,” Barnes said in a statement. “I remain hopeful the commission will take appropriate action to enforce Missouri’s campaign finance laws against Eric Greitens and those with whom he conspired to evade reporting requirements and voter-enacted campaign finance limits.”

In July, after Greitens resigned, Barnes filed a complaint with the commission alleging that Greitens and his allies set up a nonprofit, A New Missouri, as a shadow organization for the Greitens political operation. Regulations allowed the non-profit to skirt campaign donation limits and conceal the identities of donors. The complaint also alleged that Greitens began the process of mounting his political campaign long before it established a campaign committee in apparent violation of campaign finance laws.

Among the thousands of pages released on Monday was a Jan. 23, 2014 memo titled “Greitens for Missouri Strategy Session” that called for a meeting to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of other Missouri politicians and determine how much money would have to be raised for a primary campaign.

Another document, a Feb. 27, 2014 email, discussed Greitens’ invitation to the Lewis & Clark Leadership forum two weeks later, billed as a gathering of “some of the biggest politically active donors in the (St. Louis) region,” that included developer Paul McKee, construction businessman Greg Hoberock and pharmaceutical businessman Dave Spence.

The Greitens for Missouri campaign committee was not formed until Feb. 24, 2015. Missouri law calls for a campaign committee to be formed 20 days after they start raising or spending money for political office.

“After it reviews that evidence, we are confident the commission will determine that punishment against Greitens and his associates is warranted under the law,” the committee said as it filed its report with the commission.

Officials with the commission, the agency that enforces compliance with campaign finance laws, said they could not comment on specific allegations made in Barnes’ report.

To the extent Representative Barnes has referenced the Commission in his statements, the six Commissioners and its staff consider and conduct any enforcement of Missouri campaign finance law in a thorough, professional and non-biased manner,” said director Liz Ziegler.

Attached to the committee’s final report was an extensive collection of records and exhibits used to support its findings that the Greitens administration was mired in scandal.

Catherine Hanaway, a former U.S. attorney and counsel for A New Missouri and the Greitens gubernatorial campaign, was dismissive of Barnes’ comments about the commission’s investigation.

“I’m not at all surprised by his comment since he filed the complaint last June, making those allegations,” Hanaway said. “Our position is they’re completely inaccurate...his allegations just simply aren’t true.”

The committee gathered what it believed were credible accusations by a former hairdresser who said Greitens was coercive and sexually violent during a 2015 affair. Among the accusations were that he photographed her while she was tied up and threatened to post the picture if she ever mentioned her involvement with him. On another occasion he allegedly struck her. Over the next six months other revelations followed, engulfing his political career.

Greitens reached public office for the first time in 2016 on a campaign promise to clean up an ethically-lax Missouri political culture and to do battle with “career politicians.” Instead, his tenure was short and scandal-plagued, ending with his resignation on June 1.

The Missouri House formed the special investigative committee to look into the hairdresser’s allegations, an inquiry that would expand to cover several aspects of the governor’s administration.

The House committee said the panel’s investigation found evidence of “sexual assault and domestic violence” on Greitens’ part. It also accused a nonprofit formed in 2017 by Greitens’ allies of being a “criminal enterprise.”

Barnes, in a committee memo released after Greitens’ resignation, said A New Missouri was part of a grander scheme to funnel political contributions through a political nonprofit not legally required to reveal the names of donors.

The memo depicted Greitens and his allies as involved in the very activities that as a candidate he vowed to sweep out of Missouri’s notoriously cash-obsessed legislature.

The committee sent a subpoena to A New Missouri, which the nonprofit fought in court. Greitens resigned a few days after a judge ruled that the committee’s subpoena was valid.

His resignation put an end to the special committee’s investigation.

Other scandals surfaced, too. There were claims that Greitens misused a grant from the John Templeton Foundation and Washington University in St. Louis to pay for his political staff, in contravention of the grant agreement.

There was also an inquiry into whether Greitens used a donor list from The Mission Continues, a veteran’s charity he founded in 2007, for his political campaign. The charity’s tax-exempt status would have been jeopardized if it was found to have provided a donor list to a political campaign.

But Greitens was accused, and later charged, with tampering with a computer to obtain the donor list without authorization. The charity always maintained that it did not provide the list, and an investigation by the Missouri Attorney General concluded last week that no one in decision-making authority at The Mission Continues had authorized its disclosure.

The computer tampering charge, as well as a separate criminal charge of felony invasion of privacy related to his alleged photographing of his hairdresser, were eventually dropped.

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Steve Vockrodt is an award-winning investigative journalist who has reported in Kansas City since 2005. Areas of reporting interest include business, politics, justice issues and breaking news investigations. Vockrodt grew up in Denver and studied journalism at the University of Kansas.