The Missouri House Minority Leader wants an interim committee to continue an investigation into former Republican Governor Eric Greitens. Democrat Gail McCann Beatty of Kansas City made the comment to Missourinet after the chairman of a special committee said Greitens was likely guilty of multiple crimes.
Republican Representative Jay Barnes of Jefferson City sent an open letter to the special committee he chaired Monday, announcing that it would not be moving forward with its probe after Greitens resigned from office. Barnes said he would be filing a complaint with the state Ethics Commission concerning the activities of Greitens’ nonprofit group that isn’t required to identify its donors.
In his letter, Barnes stated he thinks the nonprofit, A New Missouri, Inc., is a “criminal enterprise that was designed to illegally skirt donation limits and conceal the identities of major donors to Greitens and ballot initiatives relating to right-to-work that were supported by the former governor.”
Barnes made numerous other claims that Greitens had broken laws. He said an impeachment proceeding likely would’ve been brought against Greitens because of evidence supporting sexual violence and domestic abuse claims made by Greitens’ former mistress.
He also said in the letter that Greitens faced near-certain criminal conviction in the now-dismissed felony case on tampering with computer evidence that was connected to his acquisition of a donor list from his former charity.
Given all the claims of wrongdoing by Greitens in Barnes’ correspondence, McCann Beatty thinks an ongoing probe is necessary.
She said establishing an interim committee to continue investigating the former governor wouldn’t be an unusual step for the Missouri House.
“We have interim committees all the time that are charged with investigating, or looking into things, as it relates to various state departments,” said McCann Beatty. “I don’t know why this would have to be any different.”
McCann Beatty said it was her understanding that the evidence and extensive documentation collected by the special committee would be released to fellow state lawmakers.
In his open letter, Barnes invited other committee members to join his ethics complaint against A New Missouri. The nonprofit is classified as a 501 (c) (4) social welfare group.
Such organizations don’t fall under the Federal Election Commission’s standard definition of a political committee, which, under FEC guidelines, must disclose its donors. Because 501(c)(4)s say their primary purpose is social welfare, they can keep their donors secret. However, they do have to identify contributors if they use funds for political ads.
But the landmark 2010 U.S. Supreme Court “Citizens United vs. Federal Election Committee” decision opened the door for outside groups to spend unlimited amounts of money to influence elections so long as they are independent of candidates.
McCann Beatty thinks state lawmakers need more information about the internal operations of A New Missouri to determine if it violated laws or is subject to disclosure requirements.
“As I understand it, Ethics has recently released an opinion that says everybody has to disclose if they are participating in political campaigns,” McCann Beatty said. “We need to be able to give them some teeth to be able to enforce that.”
One of Greitens’ early campaign advisors, Michael Hafner, testified before the special House committee that Greitens had plans to seek investment from people with foreign ties, which could have been a violation of federal ethics laws.
Attorney Mark Pedroli, who’s challenging Greitens’ and his staff’s use of an app that destroys text messages in a lawsuit, thinks the House has a responsibility to thoroughly uncover the activities of A New Missouri.
“What a lesson this could be,” said Pedroli. “There aren’t many subpoenas out on 501 (c) (4)’s that are involved in dark money contributions like this story in Missouri. “This is one big opportunity for the entire country to get a clinic in what’s going on in modern elections.”
In his open letter, Barnes identified the Attorney General, the Cole County Prosecuting Attorney, and the Missouri Ethics Commission as offices of state government that would have jurisdiction to investigate A New Missouri.
McCann agrees but thinks any such efforts need to begin with lawmakers.
“It should start with the legislature, and then (we can have) those other entities brought in,” said McCann Beatty.
The Minority Leader said she still needs to meet with Republican House Speaker Todd Richardson of Poplar Bluff to find out if he would be open to an ongoing probe by an interim committee.
Currently, there are two such panels involving the lower chamber – the House Interim Committee on Stabilizing Missouri’s Health Insurance Markets and the Joint Interim Committee on State Employee Wages.
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