Former Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens’ reelection campaign was fined $178,000 for failing to report in-kind contributions by two outside groups, according to a consent order released Thursday.
However, if Greitens’ campaign pays $38,000 the rest of the fine would be resolved, the order said.
Greitens is perhaps best known for allegedly blackmailing a woman with nude photos of herself, among other accusations of sexual misconduct, a scandal that resulted in him resigning from the governorship in 2o18.
But the consent order agreed to by Greitens’ campaign and the Missouri Ethics Commission concerned campaign finance violations, not blackmail.
An investigation by the commission found no evidence that Greitens had personal knowledge that his campaign failed to disclose two outside groups’ spending to promote his candidacy.
But, the commission said, “candidates are ultimately responsible for all reporting requirements.”
In a statement, Greitens claimed to have been “exonerated” and “vindicated.”
Still, the commission established a clear connection between the governor’s 2016 campaign and two groups, one of them Greitens’ own political nonprofit that a Republican legislator said in 2018 “was a criminal enterprise from its inception – designed to illegally skirt donation limits and conceal the identities of major donors.”
“The Commission found reasonable grounds to support the allegations that the Greitens for Missouri committee failed to disclose the receipt of some in-kind contributions received from LG PAC and likewise failed to disclose the receipt of some in-kind contributions received from a New Missouri, Inc.,” the Missouri Ethics Commission said.
LG PAC ran millions of dollars worth of ads promoting Greitens and knocking down his opponents in 2016. The PAC received all of its funding from Freedom Frontier, a nonprofit that’s not required to release its donors.
And, the commission said, its investigation “confirmed that [Greitens for Missouri] fundraisers referred some potential donors to Freedom Freedom Frontier,” whose policy positions the campaign told donors were “consistent with those of Eric Greitens.” The commission did not find that these donor referrals violated the law.
And according to the consent order, there was coordination between the campaign and LG PAC that ought to have been disclosed.
The order spelled out a specific example: “In late July 16, the campaign manager and the political consultant spoke by telephone, and the campaign manager expressed a concern about the Springfield market during the conversation.”
Subsequently, LG PAC spent nearly $100,000 on advertisements in the Springfield market.
Upon hearing the news of the ad buy, “The campaign manager replied, ‘Well at least he listened when I told him we were worried about [Greitens opponent John] Brunner in Springfield.”
Regarding A New Missouri, the political nonprofit founded by Greitens’ senior campaign advisers, the consent order stated that for at least part of 2017, the groups were housed in the same office building and used the same staff for their day-to-day operations. The bulk of the nonprofit’s funds, the order stated, came from six people.
The investigation zeroed in on a series of polls the Greitens campaign commissioned from Tarrance Group, a Republican polling firm. Three of the polls were paid for A New Missouri, which shared the data with the campaign.
“GFM did not disclose the value of any of the 2017 Tarrance Group polling data paid for by A New Missouri as in-kind contributions on GFM’s campaign finance disclosure reports,” the consent order stated.
Though the state’s investigation is over, the Kansas City Star noted that the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington has an outstanding complaint against Greitens, which it filed in 2018 with the Federal Elections Commission. That complaint is still pending.