By DAVID A. LIEB, SUMMER BALLENTINE and BLAKE NELSON , Associated Press
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — A former campaign aide to Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens testified that he was duped into taking the fall when the governor’s campaign was trying to explain how it had gotten a list of top donors to a veterans’ charity that Greitens had founded, according to a legislative report released Wednesday.
The report from a special House investigatory committee indicates that Greitens himself received the donor list of The Mission Continues so he could call key supporters and explain that he was stepping down as CEO in 2014. It says Greitens later directed political aides to work off the charity’s list to raise money for his gubernatorial campaign — even though he had signed an agreement never to disclose the charity’s confidential donor information.
“The report shows the governor took advantage of a charity that works hard to take care of our veterans,” said Republican Rep. Jay Barnes, chairman of the bipartisan committee charged with investigating whether to try to impeach and remove the first-term Republican governor from office. The charity donor list “was taken without permission and used inappropriately for political gain.”
Transcripts of an aide’s testimony indicate that Greitens’ campaign lied when it settled a Missouri Ethics Commission complaint last year by categorizing the charity list as an in-kind donation valued at $600 provided on March 1, 2015, by Daniel Laub, who had functioned as Greitens’ campaign manager.
“The whole document made me sick,” Laub said in an April 18 deposition. “One, because it was misrepresented; and two, because now I was in a round of news stories falsely portraying what happened.”
The House report also indicates that Greitens began consulting with and paying political advisers before he officially created a campaign committee in February 2015, raising more questions about whether he skirted state campaign finance laws.
Catherine Hanaway, an attorney who lost to Greitens in the 2016 Republican primary, issued a statement on behalf of Greitens’ campaign committee saying that Barnes never asked or allowed it to provide testimony. She defended the decision to report Laub as the source of the charity list by noting that the list already was in his possession when Greitens officially created his political committee.
“This is, at its core, a minor campaign finance issue,” Hanaway said.
Greitens already faces a felony charge of tampering with computer data for allegedly disclosing the charity donor list to his political fundraiser in 2015 without the St. Louis-based charity’s permission. Greitens has not been charged with filing a false campaign report, which is misdemeanor crime, but authorities are reviewing the matter.
Greitens also faces a May 14 trial in St. Louis on a felony invasion-of-privacy indictment for allegedly taking and transmitting a nonconsensual photo of an at least partially nude woman in March 2015. Greitens has acknowledged having a consensual affair with his former hairdresser but has denied criminal wrongdoing.
The House investigatory committee released an initial report April 11 with the woman’s testimony that Greitens restrained, slapped and threatened her during sexual encounters that at times left her crying and afraid.
The latest report, like the first one, simply lays forth facts without drawing conclusions about impeachment.
The Associated Press first reported in October 2016 that Greitens’ campaign had obtained a list of individuals, corporations and other nonprofits that had given at least $1,000 to The Mission Continues. The AP reported that Greitens raised about $2 million from those who had previously given significant amounts to the charity.
At the time Greitens told the AP: “No, we were not working off of a Mission Continues donor list.” But he acknowledged soliciting campaign money from some people he had gotten to know while working at the charity.
The House report indicates Greitens actually was working off a Mission Continues list of top donors. Email records show the donor list was emailed May 8, 2014, to Greitens and other Mission Continues employees, including Krystal Taylor, who simultaneously worked for Greitens’ personal promotional company, The Greitens Group. Taylor is now Krystal Proctor.
Although federal law bars 501(c)(3) charities such as The Mission Continues from intervening in political campaigns on behalf of candidates, a Greitens attorney has suggested Greitens was entitled to the list because he built it “donor by donor, friend by friend.”
The Mission Continues president, Spencer Kympton, testified that the list was covered by a nondisclosure agreement signed by Greitens in November 2012 and included donors cultivated through a variety of means, not just by Greitens.
The report details multiple instances in which Greitens allegedly directed the charity list to be shared for political purposes, including during meetings in 2014 to discuss his upcoming gubernatorial campaign. Proctor said she also provided it at Greitens’ direction to Laub and political consultant Michael Hafner in January 2015.
When Meredith Gibbons was hired as Greitens’ campaign finance director, documents show that Proctor sent her an April 22, 2015, email with The Mission Continues donor list attached — a transmission that was the basis for the charge filed last month.
After the AP’s story in October 2016, former Democratic Party Chairman Roy Temple filed an ethics complaint asserting that the charity list should have been reported by Greitens’ campaign. In an April 2017 settlement with the Missouri Ethics Commission, Greitens’ campaign agreed to pay a small fine and amended its finance reports to show the list as a donation from Laub.
But Laub testified that he wasn’t the source of the list and didn’t realize he was agreeing to say he was when Greitens’ campaign aide Austin Chambers called him in April 2017.
Laub said Chambers had explained that “we need to put someone’s name down who was on the campaign at the time” to settle an ethics complaint. Laub said he assumed he was agreeing to being listed as the campaign manager — not as the source of the list.
Chambers, who took over for Laub as campaign manager in fall 2015, on Wednesday called Laub “a disgruntled former employee.”
“To say that I provided false information, or misled Laub to go along with false information, is absolutely untrue,” Chambers said.
The report also notes that Greitens was making political moves long before he officially formed a campaign committee in February 2015. A political consultant sent him a donor list of a potential gubernatorial rival, then-Auditor Tom Schweich, in October 2013, and Laub and Hafner began informally advising Greitens in early 2014.
Laub testified that he was hired in December 2014 by Greitens’ limited-liability corporation “to prepare his political plans” and help with a book tour. Hafner said he began officially working for Greitens as a political adviser in January 2015, paid either directly by Greitens or The Greitens Group.
State law says candidates must form a campaign committee with the Missouri Ethics Commission whenever they raise or spend more than $500.