JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – The questions surrounding how Gov. Eric Greitens paid for his inauguration celebration remain unanswered, with many wondering if and how much money the Republican governor took from corporations and lobbyists.
Greitens campaigned on a promise to clean up corruption in Jefferson City, and despite his calls for transparency among “crooked politicians,” the governor has not released information concerning the funding for the inauguration.
Greitens reportedly formed a nonprofit to seek out donors, since nonprofits aren’t required to disclose their donors. They also aren’t subject to recently the enacted campaign donation limits put in place with the passage of Amendment 2 in November.
But he has not answered the question of how much money was raised, how much was spent, nor has he answered whether he’ll ever release any of that information to the public.
Greitens did provide a list of some “benefactors,” including Anheuser-Busch, Uber, Boeing, Kansas City Power & Light, and Wal-Mart, but did not include information on how much each business provided.
“We have been unable to get the governor to provide any information about where the funding came from for inauguration,” House Minority Floor Leader Gail McCann Beatty, D-Kansas City, said to members of the press during a Thursday afternoon conference. She says that leadership begins at the top, and the governor should come clean about his inaugural donors.
“As a legislature, I believe we have an obligation to move forward so that this does not happen again,” she said.
And Democrats may have found an answer, using legislation that had been filed 15 years ago in the General Assembly by a member of Greitens’ own staff.
Rep. Mark Ellebracht, D-Liberty, filed a bill on Wednesday, HB 949, which would require future governors to publicly disclose the donations given for inauguration activities and who provided the donations.
His inspiration for the bill comes from a former state senator, and Greitens’ current commissioner in the Office of Administration: Sarah Steelman.
“I think the public has the right to know who is contributing to their public officials,” Steelman told the Associated Press in a 2002 interview. “It could be considered as trying to influence or gain access by contributing.”
Steelman filed Senate Bill 766 in 2002, and while it didn’t advance, it nearly passed the General Assembly the following year. Now, it has laid a groundwork for Ellebracht’s bill this year.
“Corporations didn’t give the governor money just to be nice; they expect something in return,” Ellebracht said. “Missourians are entitled to know exactly who paid for the governor’s party and how much money they kicked in. Until then, it’s hard to take this governor’s anti-corruption talk very seriously.”
When asked if he thought the governor should disclose the information concerning inaugural donors, House Speaker Todd Richardson had this to say:
“I believe in open and transparent government, but beyond that, I’m not going to comment.”
Benjamin Peters is a reporter for the Missouri Times and Missouri Times Magazine, and also produces the #MoLeg Podcast. He joined the Missouri Times in 2016 after working as a sports editor and TV news producer in mid-Missouri. Benjamin is a graduate of Missouri State University in Springfield. To contact Benjamin, email firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @BenjaminDPeters.