In 2018, we’ll be giving a weekly Golden Duke. This award, named for former Rep. Randy “Duke” Cunningham, is given to a political figure by TPM following an attention-grabbing display of corruption, abuse of power, or risible behavior. For the past several years, we’ve handed out a few Dukes around New Years. (Here are 2017’s winners.) In 2018, we’ve decided to up the frequency. There are more than enough deserving candidates.
This week’s winner is Eric Greitens, Missouri’s Republican Governor, a former Navy Seal and Rhodes Scholar who was elected in 2016 but who now, following a series of scandals, is facing escalating calls from his own party to step down. Missouri GOP strategists told Allegra Kirkland this week that they worry the governor’s meteoric downfall could still be on voters’ minds in November — especially if Greitens refuses to leave office.
The latest blow to the Greitens’ administration came on Wednesday when Missouri’s Republican Attorney General, Josh Hawley, accused Greitens of “unauthorized taking and use of property”; Hawley said his office has evidence that Greitens forwarded the donor list from The Mission Continues — a charity he co-founded with the mission of empowering veterans — to his gubernatorial campaign. Donors to the nonprofit ultimately contributed $2 million to Greitens’ successful 2016 effort.
The felony charge, however, is not the most serious problem facing Greitens.
We’ve known for months about an extramarital affair Greitens had in 2015 and allegations that he blackmailed his former mistress; he was indicted on invasion of privacy charges related to the allegations in February. A report from a committee of Missouri legislators tasked with investigating the allegations came out last week, and was far worse than expected, including allegations that Greitens pressured his mistress to perform oral sex while she wept on his basement floor.
Greitens also allegedly took a picture of the woman while she was partially nude and blindfolded, leading to the invasion of privacy charge. “You have to understand, I’m running for office, and people will get me, and I have to have some sort of thing to protect myself,” the woman recalled the future governor saying when she confronted him about it.
At this point, Greitens is left with few allies. Three Republican lawmakers in the Missouri legislature even appealed to President Trump to get Greitens to step down. Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said that the allegations were “something that we’re taking very seriously.” But the governor refuses to leave.
It’s unclear if Greitens will change his mind and voluntarily step down, be impeached, or attempt to ride out the allegations. But it appears he’ll have to adjust his political ambitions; he will likely have little use for the ericgreitensforpresident.com domain name he registered.
For his refusal to read the writing on the wall, Greitens is our Duke of the Week.