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Editorial: Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens’ transparency problems grow

Eric Greitens sworn in as Missouri's 56th governor

Eric Greitens took the oath of office Monday, Jan. 9, 2017 on the steps of the Missouri Capitol in Jefferson City. He is the state's 56th governor.
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Eric Greitens took the oath of office Monday, Jan. 9, 2017 on the steps of the Missouri Capitol in Jefferson City. He is the state's 56th governor.

In the weeks since he took the oath of office, Missourians have largely supported Gov. Eric Greitens. They cheered his call for ethics reform. They accepted the governor’s $146 million in budget cuts. They supported his emphasis on law enforcement.

Now, though, a more complete picture of the Greitens administration has started to emerge, and it’s troubling.

Greitens held a news conference Monday to discuss allegations of abuse at a residential care facility for children. But beware: “Questions unrelated to this situation,” the notice said, “will not be answered.”

Say what you will about former Gov. Jay Nixon, he usually stood for questions on any topic. Greitens and his staff would do well to employ that same strategy, lest Missourians conclude the governor won’t answer questions because he can’t.

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Candor with journalists is a medium-level problem that can be fixed. But there’s a bigger transparency concern: Greitens’ do-as-I-say, not-as-I-do approach to ethics reform. It’s unacceptable.

The Republican has loudly demanded much-needed ethics changes designed to limit the influence of lobbyists and cash in Jefferson City. But as we’ve noted before, Greitens’ acceptance of millions of dollars in secretly sourced campaign money hurts his cause.

Now The Star reports the governor won’t tell voters how much donors gave to his inaugural celebration. Greitens formed a nonprofit for the event, officially obscuring corporate and personal contributions.

Dark money fueled Greitens’ campaign last year. And dark money paid for his inaugural festivities. The governor can hardly insist on sunshine for the General Assembly while he takes checks in the shadows.

Many legislators already may have had enough. They bitterly criticized Greitens’ interference in a Monday debate over a pay raise, accusing the new governor of improperly pressuring lawmakers for political gain.

Greitens was unmoved. “The last thing we need to do is to give politicians a pay increase,” he tweeted.

Perhaps. But the governor’s views are harder to hear when he’s scooping up millions in secret cash to further his own ambitions.

There will be plenty of time to contemplate your political career, governor. First, focus on your own behavior — and the interests of the state that elected you.

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