Missouri Gov. Greitens Ran an Illegal Campaign, According to New House Report
By Jack Suntrup and Kurt Erickson
Gov. Eric Greitens ran an off-the-books political campaign as early as 2014, took a charity donor list to raise campaign funds and ultimately lied about that list in a signed statement to the state's ethics commission, according to documents and testimony from six of his former employees.
The findings are outlined in a 23-page report released Wednesday by a Missouri House committee investigating Greitens, a Republican. The report contains evidence that Greitens and associates lied in campaign filings, a class A misdemeanor, and violated campaign finance law _ a civil offense _ when he operated a shadow campaign a year before filing required paperwork with election authorities.
The report and its reams of exhibits plot Greitens' methodical rise from nonprofit founder to "conservative outsider" governor of Missouri _ by relying on money he raised from members of the charity's donor list he had pledged to keep private.
Among the findings:
_ Greitens signed an agreement dated Nov. 27, 2012, with the charity he founded, The Mission Continues, vowing to hold in strict confidence "lists, databases ... trade or business secrets" of the charity. Greitens' assistant, Krystal Taylor (whose last name is now Proctor), signed the same agreement earlier that month.
_ Greitens had considered running for state political office at least as early as Oct. 16, 2013, according to an email the committee obtained. Before forming his campaign committee in February 2015, he paid advisers personally and through The Greitens Group. Candidates for statewide office are required to register a campaign committee with the Missouri Ethics Commission once they spend more than $500.
_ Greitens himself received the donor list in question on May 8, 2014, through an email from The Mission Continues employee Lori Stevens. Greitens was sent the list so that he could call donors to prepare them for a leadership transition as he prepared his campaign. However, he used the donor list for political purposes, something that Spencer Kympton, the president of the charity, testified was not an authorized use.
_ Danny Laub, a former Greitens adviser, said he was "affirmatively misled" by campaign manager Austin Chambers. Laub said that in April 2017, days before the campaign settled an ethics complaint, Chambers convinced Laub to "put (his) name down" on the settlement _ but Laub didn't know that his name would be affixed to a report that was "false in every particular" and blamed him for providing the charity donor list, he said.
The report does not contain a recommendation on whether the governor should be impeached. The Republican leadership of the Missouri House is collecting signatures of representatives on a petition to call a special session that may result in an impeachment vote.
Greitens, a former Navy SEAL, founded The Mission Continues in 2007. His alleged use of a fundraising list from the charity is under investigation.
Before the new report's release, Greitens already faced a tidal wave of legal troubles. In St. Louis, he will be tried May 14 on a felony invasion of privacy charge alleging he took and transmitted a photo of his partially undressed lover without her consent. A second felony case charges him with felony computer tampering for taking the donor list in question. He also faces a lawsuit in Cole County Circuit Court over alleged destruction of public records.
Hours before the latest report was issued, Democrats in the House expressed frustration that House Speaker Todd Richardson, R-Poplar Bluff, wasn't moving fast enough to impeach Greitens based on the committee's first report on Greitens' affair.
In a letter Wednesday, Rep. Peter Merideth, D-St. Louis, said the people of Missouri are waiting on lawmakers to act.
"The President Pro Tem of the Senate has called for immediate impeachment, and the Attorney General has confirmed that we have sufficient cause for impeachment, but the responsibility to impeach begins in the House," Merideth wrote.
"Democrats are demanding action. Enough is enough. The people of Missouri are waiting for us to act," added Rep. Michael Butler, D-St. Louis.
According to an email the committee obtained, Greitens had mulled a run for statewide office "at least as early as Oct. 16, 2013" _ at which point a political consultant named Steven Michael sent a donor list from then-Auditor Tom Schweich, who was planning a run for governor before he died by suicide on Feb. 26, 2015.
As he prepared his run, Greitens sought advice from Laub and consultant Michael Hafner in early 2014, the report says. Greitens took sabbatical from the organization between late 2013 and spring 2014, according to the report.
Greitens also transitioned from chief executive of the charity to one of its board members that spring.
Greitens hired Laub in December 2014 and Hafner in January 2015, the report says. Neither was initially paid out of a campaign fund because one had not been established, and payments to them were never reported in campaign filings, according to the report.
"Although Hafner's work was strictly political, his initial pay was from either The Greitens Group or Eric Greitens personally," the report says.
It wasn't until February 2015 that Greitens formally registered a campaign committee with the ethics commission.
Although the report doesn't mention it, state law requires candidates to form campaign committees after they spend more than $500.
The Missouri Attorney General's Office deposed Laub on April 18. Laub declined to testify before the House committee, but the attorney general's office forwarded Laub's deposition to the panel, according to the report.
Mason Fink, a national political fundraiser, sent an email on May 26, 2014 stating that Greitens should open a campaign committee that spring. But Laub responded that "this is silly," the report says.
"The later the better," Laub thought at the time, he told the attorney general's office. "Eric's key to victory was timing and this would have disrupted that."
The amount of how much Laub and Hafner were paid before the campaign fund was created is not clear. But, once they began complying with state campaign laws, records show Laub was being paid $5,000 every two weeks. Hafner was receiving $4,000 every two weeks.
Based on that rate, Laub and Hafner received well over the $500 threshold set forth in state ethics law.
As Greitens was transitioning from CEO to a board member of the organization, an employee at The Mission Continues emailed the donor list in question to Greitens, Proctor, Kympton and Lyndsey Reichardt (formerly Hodges) on May 8, 2014.
The goal, Proctor told the House committee, was to prepare donors for the change in leadership by having Greitens contact them. Proctor said it was Greitens who directed employees to send him the list.
"He asked the development team to send him a list of donors of The Mission Continues, and then also a list of calls that he would be making to The Mission Continues sort of top donors to let them know that he would be transitioning and stepping down as CEO," Proctor testified.
She also pulled donor data in November 2012 to compile "a holiday card list for Greitens," according to the report. She sent the list to The Greitens Group, and warned "please DO keep this private. Do NOT print this spreadsheet or distribute it."
In a non-disclosure agreement Greitens and Proctor signed, dated November 2012, they agreed not to use or share the donor list for outside purposes.
As Greitens ratcheted up his campaign, however, use of the list came up again and again behind closed doors, according to the report.
Tracy Hardgrove, vice president of operations and administration for the Better Business Bureau serving the St. Louis region, told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch on Wednesday that The Mission Continues remains accredited with the organization, but that its status is under review.
"Because of the situation, we feel that we need to take caution," she said.
She said that according to BBB standards, a charity must "be transparent about how they're going to use and/or protect a donor's information if they provide it."
The report shows that officials at The Mission Continues were concerned about Greitens using the charity to help him win the Republican primary.
The report notes that Mission Continues President Spencer Kympton became aware of Greitens' political use of charity resources in August 2016, but did not know Greitens was using the donor list.
Hoping to head off future problems, Kympton contacted Greitens campaign manager Austin Chambers to express concern that a campaign fundraising website aligned Greitens with The Mission Continues and could jeopardize the charity's tax-exempt status.
Greitens attorney Michael Adams, who is now a Republican candidate for secretary of state in Kentucky, agreed to cease using a photo the campaign took at the charity's offices. But, Kympton was not told the campaign was using the donor list for fundraising.
"News reports from the fall of 2016 indicate that cross-referencing the names on the TMC list with Greitens campaign donors reveals that the campaign raised nearly $2 million from persons or organizations on the TMC list," the report says.
After the Associated Press report in October 2016, Democrats filed a complaint with the Missouri Ethics Commission alleging that the Greitens campaign obtained a charity donor list but did not report it as an in-kind contribution _ a campaign violation.
The Greitens campaign, in an April 2017 settlement with the ethics commission, said that it did receive the donor list on March 1, 2015 from Laub. The campaign valued the list at $600.
"In fact, however, the list was not an in-kind contribution from Danny Laub," the report states. "Laub was never an employee of TMC, and thus, was not able to authorize disclosure or use of the list; and the list was sent to Laub and Hafner by Proctor at Greitens' direction."
Chambers called Laub on April 24, 2017, days before Greitens and Adams signed the settlement with the ethics commission.
According to Laub's testimony: "Austin says to me, 'I don't know if you know this, but there's a bull---- ethics complaint filed against us by the Democrat party about this Mission Continues donor list.' And he said, 'I need someone who was on the campaign at the time, because I wasn't, to put their name down so we can get this bull---- complaint dismissed."
Laub thought he would agree to his name being used because he was the campaign manager at the time the list was obtained. But, he said, he was "affirmatively misled" by Chambers and said any assertion he donated the list himself is "untrue."
The Post-Dispatch reported in February that Taylor (now Proctor) emailed the donor list to Hafner and Laub on Jan. 6, 2015 _ two months before the March 1 date on which the campaign said it obtained the list. A copy of that email is listed as evidence in the House report.
It was initially unclear Wednesday whether Cole County prosecutor Mark Richardson, who has jurisdiction, would announce charges against Greitens or any associates for allegedly orchestrating the false campaign report.
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As the Capitol braced for the new report, lawmakers received an anonymous handout this week raising questions about the credibility of Rep. Jay Barnes, a Jefferson City Republican who is leading the House investigation into Greitens.
Rep. Nick Marshall, R-Parkville, said he didn't think the document would have the desired effect for whoever was behind it. It will solidify the body in wanting to get to the bottom of the governor's situation, he said.
It's "stupid," Marshall said of the list. "It won't work."
Rep. Steve Cookson, R-Poplar Bluff, who has called on Greitens to resign, said it was bad form to anonymously criticize Barnes, whom he said has lots of integrity and character.
"I think anyone who would put something like that out without signing it and make accusations like that is chicken crap," Cookson said.
On the Democratic side, Minority Floor Leader Gail McCann Beatty, who has also called on Greitens to resign, said she found the list waiting for her in her office.
"I threw it in the trash," she said. "I don't see the point. It's disruptive in what we're trying to do. To me it has no merit."
Barnes did not return a request for comment left at his office.
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