Senate President Pro Tem Ron Richard responded to accusations from the Eric Greitens campaign that a fund used to feed Senate staffers who worked late nights was corruption.
A state auditor report found that the Senate administrator kept an account outside of the state treasury to solicit lobbyist donations to feed staffers working late nights. In total, it received $6,500 in contributions from lobbyists over the two fiscal years ending in June, 2015.
Austin Chambers, Greitens’ campaign manager had called the auditor’s report about the account “cronyism and corruption.” Throughout the Republican primary, Greitens’ has called the General Assembly corrupt. In one television ad, he threatened to blow up the political establishment.
“This is exactly the type of cronyism and corruption that Eric will eliminate as governor,” Chambers, told the Kansas City Star.
Richard said he wished Chambers had called him or someone in the Senate to find out what the account was before he spoke.
“I don’t know who his chief of staff is, I’ve never met him, but I think he is not well informed,” Richard said. “He’s never talked to me about what the intent of that was, which was to provide meals for staff when we worked a long number of hours.”
Richard reiterated that the account was meant to feed staffers when the Senate worked late, which it has a number of times over the past couple of years. That includes last sessions filibuster over SJR 39, which lasted 40 hours.
“I mean, I can’t expect the employees to buy their own when they’re working 24 hours. That just isn’t right,” Richard said. “There wasn’t anything nefarious about it, just trying to do the right thing by our employees.”
In an environment where Missouri government employees earn less than their peers, Richard said more must be done to attract talented people.
He also wanted to clarify that the account wasn’t meant to be hidden or used in any illicit manner, pointing out that contributions to the fund were disclosed.
“And frankly, if it wasn’t kosher, if it didn’t meet the smell test, none of the lobbyists would pay for it anyway,” Richard said. “You know what I mean, they wouldn’t contribute.”
Richard also said he would be meeting with the Senate administrator to discuss options for the future of the account.
“We’ll see if there’s any other ways to get what we want to do and still be transparent and above board,” he said.
And while Greitens’ campaign didn’t reach out to Richard before talking about the account, Richard said he would be discussing the matter with the candidate the next time he saw him.
“The least they could have done was call me or call someone and find out the intent. But I haven’t spoken to Mr. Greitens about this at all. I intend to when I see him,” Richard said. “But his chief of staff never called me to ask any questions of anyone in the Senate or the Senate administrator or anybody that I know of.”