Missouri governor could face charge for charity donor list

Eric Greitens
The Associated Press

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens, already facing a felony charge related to an extramarital affair, could soon face another felony count after the state’s top prosecutor cited evidence Tuesday suggesting that Greitens’ use of a charity donor list for political purposes may have broken state law.

Attorney General Josh Hawley said an investigation by his office shows that Greitens took computer data listing the top donors to The Mission Continues without the consent of the veterans’ charity he had founded and used it to raise money for his gubernatorial campaign.

Hawley said he referred the matter to St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner, who has jurisdiction to decide whether to charge Greitens with a crime. He also referred his findings to a special House investigatory committee that is considering whether to recommend impeachment proceedings to try to remove Greitens from office.

“We believe that the evidence we have will support a finding of probable cause that the governor obtained the list, used the list (and) transmitted the list without the permission of The Mission Continues and he did so for political fundraising purposes,” Hawley said at a news conference.

The Republican governor quickly issued a rebuttal statement questioning the legal skills of the Republican attorney general and lambasting him for working with Gardner, a Democrat. Greitens and Hawley both won election in 2016 as maverick political outsiders. Hawley now is challenging Democratic U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill and has faced an onslaught of Democratic ads trying to link him to Greitens.

“Anyone who has set foot in a Missouri courtroom knows these allegations are ridiculous,” Greitens said. He added: “We will dispense with these false allegations.”

Greitens has been fighting for his political survival amid mounting calls to resign, including from Hawley.

He is to go to trial May 14 on a felony invasion-of-privacy charge in St. Louis for allegedly taking and transmitting a nonconsensual photo of a partially nude woman with whom he had an affair in 2015. The separate House investigatory panel released a report last week containing testimony from the woman alleging that Greitens restrained, slapped, grabbed, shoved and threatened her during a series of sexual encounters that at times left her crying and afraid.

A spokeswoman for Gardner said St. Louis prosecutors met with officials from the attorney general’s office Monday and are “reviewing the evidence” related to The Mission Continues donor list.

Hawley indicated that the legal deadline is fast approaching to charge Greitens with a crime of tampering with computer data. He said Greitens could be charged with a felony because the donor list produced a gain to Greitens’ campaign of more than $500.

Federal law bars 501(c)(3) charities such as The Mission Continues from intervening in political campaigns on behalf of candidates. The Internal Revenue Service has ruled charities cannot give donor lists to politicians but can rent them at fair market value if made available to all candidates.

The Associated Press first reported in October 2016 that Greitens’ campaign had obtained a Mission Continues spreadsheet showing the names, email addresses and phone numbers of donors who had given least $1,000. The spreadsheet properties show it was created by a Mission Continues employee in 2014, shortly before Greitesn stepped down as CEO, and had last been saved in March 2015 by Michael Hafner, who had been working for Greitens’ gubernatorial exploratory committee. The AP reported that Greitens had raised nearly $2 million from donors who previously gave significant amounts to The Mission Continues.

The Mission Continues has said it did not provide its donor list to Greitens’ campaign.

In October 2016, Greitens initially denied using the list for his campaign. He told the AP: “No, we were not working off of a Mission Continues donor list.” But he added: “We were calling people who had become friends and gotten to know me over the course of seven years, who invested in The Mission Continues, and got to know me as a leader.”

In April 2017, Greitens agreed to pay a small fine to the Missouri Ethics Commission for failing to report that his gubernatorial campaign had, in fact, received the charity’s donor list. Greitens campaign filed amended finance reports valuing the list as a $600 in-kind contribution received March 1, 2015, from Danny Laub, who was listed as Greitens’ campaign manager at the time.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported in February 2018 that it had obtained a copy of an email indicating that a Greitens employee had shared The Mission Continues donor list with Hafner and Laub in January 2015.

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Associated Press reporter Jim Salter contributed from St. Louis.

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