Ex-Missouri Governor’s Secretive Nonprofit Raised $6 Million, Spent Big on His Allies
December 20, 2018
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — The nonprofit allied with former Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens raised almost $6.1 million from secret donors in 2017, the year the political outsider took office and rattled the capital city’s establishment, new tax filings show.
The IRS Form 990 for filing year 2017 — filed Monday and first reported Wednesday by the group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington — offers the most detailed look to date of A New Missouri, the 501(c)(4) nonprofit that operated opaquely during Greitens’ abbreviated tenure.
Greitens resigned June 1.
The filing confirms that A New Missouri received enough money in 2017 to rival the campaign accounts of serious statewide contenders. It shows that money flowed to firms tied to Greitens and his campaign — reinforcing concerns over close ties between Greitens’ campaign and the nonprofit.
Unlike a traditional state campaign committee, A New Missouri was able to accept unlimited campaign donations and shield its donors from disclosure.
In July, at the culmination of a monthslong Missouri House investigation into Greitens’ campaign apparatus, GOP state Rep. Jay Barnes of Jefferson City wrote in a complaint to the Missouri Ethics Commission that A New Missouri was formed to evade state campaign contribution limits and donor disclosure requirements.
Indeed, the 67 donations recorded in the 990 filing all exceed $2,600 — the cap voters placed on individual donations to candidates in the 2016 election.
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported last week that Michael Hafner, who worked on Greitens’ campaign, said he spoke with the Missouri Ethics Commission in November about Barnes’ complaint, suggesting the commission is still investigating.
Hafner testified to the Missouri House this spring that, when he worked on the campaign, he spoke with California venture capitalist Monu Joseph about ways to conceal political donations. Joseph is listed as the president of A New Missouri in the tax filing.
According to the new tax filing, A New Missouri received two donations of $1 million each, with the rest of the donations ranging from $5,000 to $600,000. A New Missouri does not reveal the date of any of the donations, or the identity of any donors.
The filing also shows that Target Enterprises, a firm tied to White House official Nick Ayers, received more than $1.7 million from A New Missouri last year.
Ayers’ political consulting firm, C5 Creative Consulting, was paid $184,143 last year. The firm, which Ayers protege and Greitens’ campaign manager Austin Chambers worked for, closed in April.
Other payments went to South Carolina-based Something Else Strategies, California-based Bask Digital Media and Virginia-based the Tarrance Group.
All five firms also were paid by Greitens for Missouri, Greitens’ traditional campaign committee.
In the run-up to the 2016 election, Greitens’ campaign fund doled out more than $902,000 to Something Else Strategies for video production services. Among the work done by the company was the television ad showing a T-shirt clad Greitens firing a machine gun.
Greitens also paid the Tarrance Group more than $350,000, according to 2016 campaign records. The Alexandria, Va.-based firm did most of the polling in Greitens’ race against Democrat Chris Koster.
In his 2016 run, Greitens’ campaign paid Bask Digital Media more than $100,000, according to filings with the Missouri Ethics Commission.
A New Missouri also sunk $1.5 million into a campaign to keep right-to-work legislation — Greitens’ crowning achievement — into law. The form notes donations to Freedom to Work and Missourians for Worker Freedom.
Meredith Gibbons, A New Missouri’s paid fundraiser, was paid $140,000 for her efforts, according to the tax filing. Gibbons also worked on Greitens’ campaign. A New Missouri paid $47,126 to a law firm owned by Michael Adams, who is listed as treasurer of the group.
It is not uncommon for governors throughout the nation to use similar dark money groups.
According to a June report by CREW, more than a third of governors holding office as of Jan. 31, 2017, can be linked to 501(c)(4) groups.
Of those, 70 percent did not voluntarily disclose their donors to the public, the report noted.
Greitens’ replacement, Republican Gov. Mike Parson, does not have a dark money group. Rather, a political action committee known as Uniting Missouri has been formed on his behalf. Donors, who have contributed more than $750,000 this year, are publicly disclosed.
It is unclear how active A New Missouri is now that Greitens is out of office.
The Washington-based attorney for A New Missouri, Adams, was traveling for the Christmas break and could not immediately be reached for comment.
Robin Simpson, a member of the organization’s board, also could not be reached for comment. The Monroe City, Mo., woman was a vocal supporter of Greitens during his 2016 campaign and he appointed her to the Missouri Lottery Commission after he took office.
Chambers, a Georgia-based political consultant who worked with A New Missouri and managed the Greitens campaign, did not respond to a request for information.
When Greitens left the Capitol for the final time, the organization shared an office with his campaign fund, which has mostly stopped raising money.
According to the most recent filing, the Greitens for Missouri fund raised $32 in the most recent fundraising quarter. After paying off legal bills, the fund had $891,000 on hand as of Oct. 1 after raising nearly $6 million in 2018.
©2018 St. Louis Post-Dispatch
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