Editorials

From beyond the political grave, former Gov. Eric Greitens is still hurting Missouri

Publisher won’t say where he got money he delivered to lawyer involved in Greitens case

Missouri Times publisher Scott Faughn wouldn't say where he got the money he gave to Al Watkins. Faun says it was for audio outlining allegations against Gov. Greitens. Faughn's lawyer, Chuck Hatfield, sparred with Rep. Jay Barnes in this clip.
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Missouri Times publisher Scott Faughn wouldn't say where he got the money he gave to Al Watkins. Faun says it was for audio outlining allegations against Gov. Greitens. Faughn's lawyer, Chuck Hatfield, sparred with Rep. Jay Barnes in this clip.

A year after leaving office in disgrace, former Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens is influencing lawmakers from beyond the political grave. And he’s still hurting the state in the process.

It isn’t only that his legacy lives on because he ended the important Missouri program that issued tax credits to developers of low-income housing. Until two years ago, these were being used to build some 2,500 desperately needed units a year.

No, more than that, Greitens continues to have an impact because his success in demonizing those credits has made lawmakers hesitant to simply fix the program and put it back into effect.

You’d almost think they were allowing themselves to be stymied by the fear that some score-settling future Greitens tell-all could paint them as beholden to the industry he so maligned. That couldn’t be right because those most hurt by the disappearance of the credits aren’t “fat cats,” but the elderly, disabled and other Missourians most in need of affordable housing.

Suspicion that someone in the industry had something to do with Greitens’ downfall does persist, though, and it is playing a role in suppressing the political will to act.

Back when he was still trying to hold onto his job, Greitens accused the low-income housing industry of conspiring to publicize allegations that he sexually coerced his former hairdresser. Only a month after Greitens managed to get rid of the tax credit, Missouri Times publisher Scott Faughn paid $50,000 in cash to the attorney for the ex-husband of the woman who accused Greitens of violent sexual misconduct.

Faughn later paid the attorney another $70,000 in cash, and in contravention of all journalistic ethics, kept right on covering Greitens in his newspaper and on his TV show, which is sponsored by Sterling Bank, a Poplar Bluff-based bank heavily involved in low-income housing tax credits.

The attorney who received the payments testified he was told the money came from a GOP donor who wanted Greitens gone. Faughn insisted that the money came from him, because he wanted access to the ex-husband’s secret recordings for the book he hoped to write.

If developers were involved, their efforts to expose Greitens’ very real misdeeds have now boomeranged.

And if this were just a matter of punishing those “greedy developers” Greitens used to rail about, we’d be happy to let the whole program fade from memory. But not everyone in this business is the “rip-off artist” of Greitens’ caricature.

With an estimated 100,000 people on waiting lists for low-income housing in Missouri, officials have a responsibility to act.

Phil Glynn, whose Kansas City-based company Travois builds affordable housing in indigenous communities across the country, said it’s “absolutely crucial” that the program be brought back ASAP.

“Most of the 22 states where we work have state LIHTC (low-Income housing tax credits) to complement the federal credit,” Glynn said. He calls some of the criticism of the way it worked in Missouri “a fair critique.”

“But rather than shutting it down, the governor should tell MHDC (the Missouri Housing Development Commission) to publish fair and transparent criteria to address these concerns,” he said.

Affordable housing was a top-of-mind issue in the recent Kansas City mayoral campaign, and Eric Greitens aside, the statewide lack of it deserves urgent attention in Jefferson City.

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