By Jack Suntrup

Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley said Tuesday that his office had uncovered evidence that Gov. Eric Greitens may have committed a felony after using a charity donor list to solicit donations to fuel his 2016 campaign for governor.

Hawley announced an investigation into The Mission Continues charity last month with a focus on Missouri's charitable giving laws.

"In the course of this investigation, we have uncovered evidence of wrongdoing that goes beyond Missouri's charity laws," Hawley, who like Greitens is a Republican, told reporters Tuesday morning. "To be specific, within the past several days, we have obtained evidence of potential criminal violations."

Hawley said on March 23 that he had subpoenaed 15 current or former staffers of The Mission Continues, a veterans charity that Greitens founded in 2007 but left in 2014.

The attorney general's office also subpoenaed Greitens through The Greitens Group, the company Greitens established to coordinate his book sales, Hawley announced recently.

Hawley, a Republican running to unseat U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., this year, also called on Greitens to resign last week after a Missouri House committee investigating Greitens released a report containing accusations of violence and sexual misconduct against Greitens.

On Monday, Greitens' attorney, Ed Dowd, asked Hawley to recuse himself from investigating the embattled Republican chief executive, saying in a news release that the attorney general's statement "compromises the AGO's own ongoing investigation of Gov. Greitens."

Greitens, a former Navy Seal, founded The Mission Continues in 2007. His alleged use of a fundraising list from the charity is under investigation.

Hawley refused to recuse himself. His office said Hawley was reacting to allegations of "egregious sexual misconduct," adding that "the Attorney General's investigation into The Mission Continues does not address those allegations."

The St. Louis Circuit Attorney's Office is also investigating The Mission Continues, as well as the special Missouri House committee. Last week, Laura L'Esperance, spokeswoman for the charity, said that it is cooperating with all three probes and that "we're looking forward to the completion of their efforts."

Hawley's announcement follows a year and a half of off-and-on news regarding the Greitens campaign's use of a donor list from The Mission Continues, which the Associated Press first reported on in October 2016.

At the time, Greitens, a Republican, was locked in a heated campaign with then-Attorney General Chris Koster, a Democrat. Greitens had raised $2 million from donors who had also given generously to The Mission Continues, the AP reported, but he denied using a donor list to solicit any money.

Still, Democrats filed a complaint with the Missouri Ethics Commission accusing Greitens of receiving an in-kind campaign contribution without reporting it on campaign disclosure forms.

Greitens and his campaign settled the complaint with the ethics commission in April 2017. The campaign was fined $100 and put on a two-year probationary period.

Former Greitens campaign workers say they and others were asked to sign non-disclosure agreements.

As part of the settlement, the campaign revised its filings to show that Danny Laub, Greitens' first campaign manager, donated the list to the campaign on March 1, 2015. The in-kind contribution was valued at $600.

Greitens never said how Laub obtained the list. The Mission Continues has said that it did not authorize use of the list or supply it to the Greitens campaign. Doing so would jeopardize the charity's tax-exempt status; charities are not allowed to take sides in elections.

The Post-Dispatch revealed in February that it was one of Greitens' employees at The Greitens Group, Krystal Taylor, who forwarded The Mission Continues' donor list to Laub and another staffer, Michael Hafner, on Jan. 6, 2015 _ nearly two months before the campaign had said.

The revelation sparked a new round of reports regarding Greitens' cozy ties to his former charity, including his use of a charity email address to arrange political meetings and his apparent use of a charity email list to promote his political aspirations and hawk at least one of his books.

Roy Temple, the former chairman of the Missouri Democratic Party, subsequently filed a complaint with the Missouri Ethics Commission accusing Greitens of lying on his amended filings by stating Laub was the list donor, when the list in fact came from someone else.

He also accused Greitens of violating the ethics commission's probation by failing to report receipt of the charity email list, which could be considered another in-kind contribution.

(c)2018 St. Louis Post-Dispatch