JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Less than a month after Gov. Eric Greitens’ campaign admitted to the Missouri Ethics Commission that he failed to report a fundraising list, the governor seemed to question Missouri’s practice of disclosing donors to the commission.
On Mark Reardon’s May 22 show, the KMOX host spoke with the governor on his show about a wide range of topics, including his call for the special session, Tuesday’s jobs rally and even Missouri First Lady Sheena Greitens’ first pitch at a St. Louis Cardinals’ game over the weekend.
However, the conversation quickly went to ethics reform and Greitens-supporting dark money nonprofit, A New Missouri Inc. The dark money moniker comes from the fact that due to financial disclosure laws and the way New Missouri was established, any group from Missouri Right-to-Life to Planned Parenthood or any people from George Soros to Koch Brothers could funnel money into the group’s coffers and the general public, not to mention the Missouri Ethics Commission, would have to know.
Greitens said members of the “liberal media” and “career politicians” who wanted to know the names of those who donated to New Missouri believed in “voter intimidation.” He added that people should have the freedom to donate to any political cause they please and that private voting was not called “dark voting.”
Then, he said something that concerned several senators.
“The people who believe in voter intimidation believe that the minute you make a political donation, you immediately need to turn all your information over to the government, that you need to turn over your home address and your contact information, so that the government can turn around and publish that,” he said.
While he was speaking within the context of dark money donations, the names and addresses of donors to most political campaigns already appear on that campaign’s quarterly and pre-election committee reports. Yet, New Missouri does not have to release such information.
For a governor who campaigned on ethics reform and transparency in government, the statement struck Senate Democrats as disingenuous.
Sen. Jason Holsman, D-Kansas City, said Greitens’ statement “seemingly called for an abolition” of Missouri voter laws.
“Even for a governor who prefers to operate from the shadows, this new call for complete and total darkness for his big dollar donors is a troubling,” Holsman said in a statement. “The governor needs to clarify or recant his statements so that the people of Missouri know where Eric Greitens stands on laws that protect against corruption and pay-to-play.”
“Missouri’s ethics disclosure laws have provided a bedrock of transparency for decades,” Sen. Scott Sifton, D-Affton, added in a statement of his own. “The governor is wrong to malign transparency and disclosure. The people have a right to know who is paying for campaigns.”
Greitens position could stem from the backlash he experienced when he took money from a donor who later became embroiled in a controversy. Greitens attracted attention early in his gubernatorial run for a $1 million donation from Silicon Valley magnate Michael Goguen, who had to resign from his own hedge fund after a lawsuit against Goguen alleged that he sexually abused a longtime romantic partner. The lawsuit was for a breach of contract between the two.
The Missouri Times reached out to Austin Chambers, a political advisor to Greitens and staffer of New Missouri, but he did not immediately return the request for comment.