JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – The largest single political donation in Missouri history has come under more scrutiny in the final week leading up to the Aug. 2 primary.
Former Rep. Carl Bearden, filed a complaint with the Missouri Ethics Commission (MEC) over the $1.975 million donation Republican gubernatorial candidate and former Navy SEAL Eric Greitens received July 18 from the mysterious SEALs for Truth federal political action committee.
“I see Eric’s commercials talking about stamping out corruption in Jefferson City, and here he’s guilty of an act that appears is either ignorance of the law or corruption,” Bearden said.
Bearden says that because SEALs for Truth, which is based in Washington D.C., did not filed certain disclosures with the MEC 14 days before making that donation and because the donation was made less than 30 days before the primary election, it has violated Missouri campaign finance laws.
However, due to the timing of the donation and his complaint, Bearden says that he will likely have to refile the complaint after the election since state law prohibits the MEC from taking any action on complaints filed within 15 days of the election. The design of the law is to cut down on excessive legal harassment during a critical time in campaign battles, but he believes his complaint is a valid one.
“Mr. Greitens appears to have been very clever with this contribution,” Bearden said in a statement. “By the time the Ethics Commission processes this and fines him, the election may be over. But illegal money has no place in Missouri politics, and Greitens should return it promptly. The law is 100 percent clear.”
In the complaint, Bearden cites RSMo. 130.049 as the basis for his MEC filing. That section of law specifically pertains to out-of-state committees and reporting laws. While the law explicitly says that an out-of-state committee does not have to file a statement of organization, nor is it required to fill out full disclosure reports, “An initial report shall be filed no later than fourteen days prior to the date such out-of-state committee first makes a contribution or expenditure in this state… The contributions or expenditures shall be made no later than thirty days prior to the election.”
The Greitens campaign did not immediately respond to requests for comment, but SEALs for Truth did later in the day.
“The complaint about SEALs for Truth’s support for the Greitens campaign is a desperate attempt by [former House Speaker Catherine] Hanaway allies to distract from her failed efforts to deny Missourians their Second Amendment rights and her attempts to force Missouri taxpayers to pay for expensive stadium projects,” the group said in a statement. “It is clear this meritless complaint was filed for cynical political reasons because the Missouri Ethics Commission is prohibited from even accepting a complaint within fifteen days prior to the August 2nd primary election.”
Bearden has officially endorsed Hanaway for governor; he served as budget chair during part of her time as speaker.
The SEALs for Truth donation was spotlighted by multiple publications – including The Missouri Times – and politicos around the state last week for its lack of transparency regarding the donors of the campaign, timing and the high dollar amount, but this is the first time anyone has formally argued it violated state statute.
However, this donation is not the first time that Greitens has come under fire for a large donation. Michael Goguen, who donated $1 million to the former Navy SEAL’s coffers, used to be the largest contributor to the Greitens campaign before SEALs for Truth. In March, Goguen was named the defendant in a breach of contract suit for sexually and physically abusing and injuring a woman he was paying for sexual favors. She alleged he had also stiffed her of $30 million dollars promised to her by Goguen, which has led to accusations that he essentially acted as a sex slaver.
Greitens was asked multiple times in March to return the money he received from Goguen as former Republican gubernatorial candidate John Kasich did when the news surfaced. However, Greitens refused, calling it an attack by the media to undermine his campaign.
UPDATED – 4:27 p.m., July 25: Added comments from SEALs for Truth.