Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Already under indictment for felony charges related to a sex scandal, Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens now faces questions about campaign-finance irregularities

Eric Greitens
Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens, already under felony indictment for invasion of privacy related to an extramarital affair, now faces allegations of possible campaign-finance violations. Federal law prohibits use of nonprofits in political campaigns, but it appears Greitens might have violated that ban.

On top of that, St. Louis circuit attorney Kim Gardner has procured the services of Harvard law professor Ronald S. Sullivan to assist with the Greitens prosecution, and former FBI agent Anthony Box has been hired as chief investigator.

Reports in recent weeks indicate investigators are looking at more than just the Greitens sex scandal. A recent Associated Press report shows the probe extends to campaign-finance issues. From AP:

Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens used an email address for a veterans charity he founded to arrange political meetings as he prepared to launch his first bid for public office, despite a federal ban on nonprofits participating in political campaigns, according to records obtained by The Associated Press.

Greitens, who was on the board of directors of The Mission Continues at the time, sent meeting invitations from the charity's email address to three political consultants. He asked them to join him for a series of meetings over two days in January 2015 with more than a dozen state lawmakers, a lobbyist and an anti-abortion activist, according to copies of the emails obtained by the AP.

The emails indicate the meetings were hosted at the Jefferson City offices of two Republican consulting firms, less than a month before Greitens officially created a candidate exploratory committee. Participants at the meetings told the AP the topic of discussion was Greitens' impending candidacy.

How could this run afoul of the law? AP provides the details:

Federal tax law prohibits 501(c)(3) charities such as The Mission Continues from participating in any political campaign on behalf of a candidate for public office.

Greitens is facing an ongoing investigation by the St. Louis prosecutor's office after a grand jury indicted him . . .  on a felony invasion-of-privacy charge. The indictment alleges Greitens took a nonconsensual photo of a partially nude woman with whom he was having an affair in March 2015.

Some people interviewed by investigators say their questions have extended to Greitens' political activities.

Missouri Boys State, a leadership program sponsored by the American Legion since 1938, also was brought into political activities on Greitens' behalf, according to stltoday.com columnist Tony Messenger. Tom Dwyer, now a law student at Notre Dame, has seen signs of that:

In 1991, after his junior year at Parkway North High School, Greitens was a Boys Stater. Twenty years later, after graduating from Duke University with a degree in ethics, becoming a Rhodes Scholar and Navy SEAL and founding the nonprofit The Mission Continues, Greitens was a keynote speaker at Boys State.

That’s when Dwyer met the man who would become the first sitting governor in the state of Missouri to be indicted on a felony charge.

“While he was speaking, we were given a postcard to fill out and asked to list our email,” Dwyer told me. Now a law student at Notre Dame University, Dwyer contacted me after reading my . . .  column about a St. Louis area high school student who had ended up on Greitens' campaign email list after studying The Mission Continues and signing up to receive emails from the nonprofit organization.

The same thing happened to Dwyer.

After Boys State, Dwyer started getting emails from The Mission Continues. He was fine with that. He voluntarily gave his email to the organization after hearing Greitens speak. Then 2015 came, and Greitens kicked off what in retrospect might be a short political career.

“When he started running for governor, I kept getting campaign emails,” Dwyer said. He knew he hadn’t signed up to receive them. “I found it annoying. I thought it probably was a campaign violation. It was odd that I never gave him my email.”

Greitens political career, which once appeared to be headed for the White House, now seems to be sinking in quick sand. Writes Messenger:

How the Greitens campaign obtained an email contact list from the nonprofit he founded now appears to be part of two separate investigations. Last month, a grand jury empaneled by St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner indicted Greitens on a felony invasion of privacy charge alleging that he took a photo of his half-naked lover in March 2015 without her consent.

That grand jury investigation is continuing and according to published reports has interviewed at least one Greitens campaign worker who was involved in obtaining a donor list from The Mission Continues. Greitens already paid a $100 fine to the Missouri Ethics Commission over his campaign’s use of the donor list. Last week Attorney General Josh Hawley said he, too, is opening an investigation into the nonprofit.

As for newcomers to the prosecution team, stltoday.com reports:

Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner has brought in Harvard Law School professor Ronald S. Sullivan to join the prosecution team in the invasion of privacy case against Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens.

Gardner filed a motion Monday to have Sullivan, who is licensed to practice law in Washington, D.C., and Georgia to join the prosecution. Circuit Judge Rex Burlison approved Gardner's request.

According to Sullivan's Harvard Law biography, he is the university's first appointed African-American faculty dean and a "theorist in the areas of criminal law, criminal procedure, trial practice and techniques, legal ethics and race theory." His bio says he also helped develop a conviction review team for Brooklyn's prosecutor in 2014 and found more than 10 wrongful convictions.

Past clients of Sullivan include the family of 18-year-old Michael Brown who was fatally shot by a Ferguson police officer in 2014, former New England Patriot Aaron Hernandez whose murder conviction was vacated after Hernandez killed himself in prison and Usaamah Abdullah Rahim, a terrorism suspect killed by police in Boston in 2015.

Details of what Gardner's office might be paying Sullivan were not immediately available Monday. The state-mandated cost paid by Gardner's office to file a motion for an out-of-state attorney is $410, court records say.

Gardner also hired former FBI agent Anthony Box as the office's chief investigator. He will not lead the investigation into Greitens but will help with it, spokeswoman Susan Ryan said.

What does Box bring to the table? Here is some insight:

Box "will be responsible for increasing the investigative skills of current staff, serve as a primary contact and coordinate activities with various law enforcement agencies including the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department and the FBI."

Box, 49, a native of Chicago, has more than 20 years of investigative experience, including nine years at the FBI in St. Louis from 1996 2005, he said. He also was a general counsel for two Department of Defense agencies. He will lead a team of about 30 investigators.

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