As the criminal investigation into the Governor’s sex scandal has expanded into an investigation into dark money, coordination with a 501(c)(4), and the use of his charity’s fundraising list for political purposes, we decided to take a look at the players involved on both sides leading up to the grand jury beginning to take testimony later this month.
For the Governor
Mark Bobak – When you wonder how a guy goes from Obama rallies to being elected Governor or Missouri as a Republican, it’s with a friend like this. The consummate St. Louis insider Mark Bobak was the Chief Legal Counsel for Anheuser Busch until 2007, and also served as chief legal counsel to the board of directors. One company observer pointed out that while AB was officially sold in 2008, the real date of the sale was the day Mark Bobak left the company.
Bobak was influential in helping to establish The Mission Continues, and the man perhaps with the best Rolodex in St. Louis, Bobak connected Greitens to several donors who spurred on his gubernatorial bid. He is said to have always been uneasy with the aggressive use of dark money, but there is no one that has ever alleged any wrongdoing or his knowledge of any throughout the mounting scandals.
The last time he was in the news was in 2014 when he was a key witness on behalf of Anheuser Busch when they were sued by Francine Katz for gender discrimination. The firm defending AB was Dowd Bennett, and one of the attorneys who entered an appearance for AB on the case was Jim Bennett.
Bobak has also become known as the man people need to get to know for judicial appointments on the eastern side of the state, but has thus far sought to keep a low public profile. However, there is no question he is calling the shots on the Governor’s defense on allegations of corruption and sex crimes.
Jim Bennett – If you are suing a large company, Jim Bennett is the lawyer you do not want to see on the other side in the courtroom. One of the most accomplished attorneys in the Midwest, his client list includes Laclede Gas, Emerson, Missouri Baptist Hospitals, Anheuser Busch, Monsanto, and Walmart just to name a few. However, it surprised some that he took the lead in this as he is not known as a leading sex crimes attorney.
Some have previously referenced that there is a direct tie between Bennett and Greitens outside of Bobak and that is California billionaire Michael Goguen. After Goguen donated a million dollars to the Greitens campaign, his opponent John Brunner referenced a Bloomberg report that said Amber Baptiste accused Goguen of sexual misconduct: “She also alleges that over the past 13 years, he sexually abused her and made her his sex slave after promising to rescue her from the human traffickers that brought her to the U.S.” Goguen then sued Brunner. The attorney that the Greitens mega-donor hired to sue Brunner, Jim Bennett.
Wealthy, powerful, and influential, if you had millions to spend and were looking to frighten a new prosecutor into backing down from filing charges, Jim Bennett would be the man to hire.
Ed Dowd – Dowd is a legend in the Missouri legal community, he was the federal prosecutor in the eastern district in Missouri for most of the 1990s. He is the leading named partner of the firm and comes from a long line of prominent attorneys in the Dowd family in St. Louis. While he has seen some question why someone with such a noted and distinguished record of standing up for women and the disenfranchised would be offering pro bono work to assist a Republican politician being investigated in a sex crime case and working to facilitate the administration destroying government records – their defense is everyone deserves a defense.
Look for Dowd to keep anything he does in this scandal, paid or pro bono, to be kept very low profile as to not blemish what, up to this point, is a mostly spotless record.
Gabriel Gore – Gore is another high-profile, high-prestige, top dollar attorney lined up against Gardner to defend the Governor. He is someone who seemed destined to take his amazing list of accomplishments and compelling personal story and have the opportunity to serve as a federal judge in the near future. Until two weeks ago, he would be someone who had little to no opposition in such an endeavor. To that point, he was appointed and confirmed by Republicans in the state Senate to a seat on the Missouri State University Board of Governors in 2015.
While a man of his accomplishment likely still remains a top candidate, today, make no mistake, the first line of any story of his appointment will be that he went to court and argued that a scandal-marred politician has the right to conceal and destroy government records.
Of all the amazing things about this scandal, the fact that Gabriel Gore, previously known as a champion of virtue, is now involved in defending the Confide scandal and reportedly doing the work pro bono is maybe the most surprising.
Jim Martin – Martin is a partner at Dowd Bennett, and before joining the firm was a federal prosecutor for 21 years, prosecuting a range of crimes including public corruption. The biography on his website touts that, “more than half of Jim’s clients investigated by the government for criminal conduct have never been indicted.” The Governor is certainly counting on being in the more fortunate half of his clientage.
Michelle Nassar – Nassar is also a partner at Dowd Bennett who, before joining the firm, spent over a dozen years as a federal prosecutor. Her biography discusses prosecuting cases involving violent crime, civil rights violations, extortion, and public corruption. All of which are being discussed around the current scandal.
John Rehmann – Rehmann is a partner at Dowd Bennett who touts, as areas of expertise, handling issues with self-dealing, misuse of government resources, and fraud. He was also involved in representing the City of St. Louis in their fight to defeat a challenge from the Missouri General Assembly and keep their minimum wage at $15.00 an hour. Last year Empower Missouri awarded Rehmann the Rory Ellinger Award, most assume it wasn’t for offering pro-bono services to white men who live in mansions.
Joseph Burch – Burch is an associate at Dowd Bennett and heads up their electronic discovery practice. He would likely lead the team to determine if the St. Louis Circuit Attorney’s Office can find any photographs the Governor may have taken of any women restrained in his basement.
Jay Nixon – Miss him yet? The 55th Governor of the State of Missouri, Jay Nixon, served the State of Missouri in parts of four decades establishing a well-earned reputation of scandal-free government. Once he even signed an affidavit stating that he had been faithful to his wife. Though he has had his detractors, of course. In dealing with the unrest in Ferguson, it was said he had “no command presence, offered no leadership at all.” It was also stated that the government he served in for those four decades was “a swamp ran by corrupt career politicians”. Of course, the man who hailed those criticisms is now his firm’s most high profile client, Eric Greitens.
Nixon has rigidly taken the statesman’s posture over the first year of the Greitens administration and the frequent attacks Greitens has lobbed at him and has maintained that posture in the first five weeks of the most recent scandal. You can assume he maintains that same silence throughout, but who knows. Sadly, just being at the firm providing pro bono defense in this case perhaps unfairly makes things like that 2010 Missouri Victim’s Assistance Network Award look awkward.
However, if Nixon is attached to doing pro bono work for a rich politician accused of sex crimes, or is involved in defending a scandal-plagued politician’s desire to keep his communications secret from Missouri taxpayers, the first black mark on an impeccably clean reputation will just be more collateral damage from the Greitens administration.
John Danforth – Everyone has been waiting for the former U.S. Senator and ambassador to speak out on the latest scandal involving a Republican politician, as he has most all of the others. Well, thus far the crickets you’re hearing may have to do with the latest Republican mired in the scandal being a client of his law firm. It must be awkward on the Team Greitens conference calls discussing the details of what bondage sex acts are legal and which ones are illegal with an ordained Episcopalian minister on the line. Then combine with that with the public relations professionals working for the Governor who are the same people Mr. Danforth has called bullies, accused of saying words that were beyond what the think skull rule could excuse, and even inferring that the words they used killed. What interesting calls indeed.
Jack Garvey – A former St. Louis City Circuit Judge of the utmost reputation. He left the bench and is now a trial attorney in Clayton. His hiring is the first in what most predict will be many former city judges and city prosecutors that Bobak is having hired to lobby Kim Gardner and the top attorney in her office former St. Louis City Circuit Judge Robert Dierker who Garvey served alongside for several years.
Michael Goguen – If I were to ask you who gave the largest political contribution in Missouri history, a California billionaire wouldn’t be your first guess, but Michael Goguen would be the correct answer, and that is only the transparent money that the public can know about. His relationship with the Governor, combined with his pre-existing relationship with Dowd Bennett, means he will be someone whose influence is suspected in any major decision the Governor makes, especially any decision that requires the hundreds of thousands of dollars it takes to hire big name big money lawyers. Its of note that when accused in a similar affair as Greitens is currently accused of he replied that it was only an affair and there was no violence as well.
Drew Erdmann – The state’s COO by all accounts is a good man. He came from the business world and may just not know some of the things in the political world that are unethical. Coming from people who know him, it’s hard to envision him signing off on the use of the dark money or the Confide app if he had been in politics and government longer. He is certain to be subpoenaed in any public corruption inquiry, and while he will most likely be a loyal soldier, it would shock most that know him that he was a part of any corruption.
Michael Roche – Roche is a government professional who became the Governor’s Chief of Staff and has – let’s just say – has had an experience unlike John Watson’s. From most accounts, he is a professional who has been internally advocating against some of the most scandalous behavior the administration has undertaken. Roche is the one many would love to have a wide open interview with.
For the People
We have outlined on one side over a dozen of the most prominent men in the state: Governor’s federal prosecutors, U.S. Senators, business executives, ambassadors, high-ranking government officials. Who’s on the other side?
Kim Gardner – On the other side sits St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner, and her top assistant Robert Dierker. Gardner is a former state representative who won the office on a campaign of changing the culture. In her first year in office, she has gone to work doing that, winning her a series of supporters and detractors.
Gardner is already coming under fierce attack from the Governor’s few loyal surrogates left, who are calling her incompetent and accusing her of leading a partisan investigation. One of the Governor’s most loyal allies even wrote that she should be investigated for the way she has conducted the inquiry.
To call this a David vs. Goliath scenario wouldn’t accurately describe the odds she is up against. However, as Representative Brandon Ellington who served with her commented, “Kim will never back down if she believes she is right.”
Robert Dierker – Dierker is a former Circuit Judge in the City of St. Louis who was appointed to the bench by John Ashcroft in 1986 has been hailed as fair and impartial even by Greitens most loyal supporters. He does come with some controversy as he wrote a book, The Tyranny of Tolerance, which drew fire upon his appointment from some of the more liberal members of the Board of Aldermen.
Dierker left his post early to take this position with the Circuit Attorney’s Office and with him in office and a key part of the investigation it will go a long way toward blunting the Governor’s attacks on the office and the process.
Jane Doe #1 – The lady at the center of the controversy who was recorded on tape alleging the Governor taped her to some exercise equipment in his basement, and while blindfolded, he photographed her and then threatened her is probably the most important witness.
The Governor has repeatedly said she was lying, the case probably rests on whether she backs him and says she was lying or says she was telling the truth to her then-husband.
John Doe #1 – Her husband who released the recordings has many more stories about the Governor who had the affair that broke up his home. It will be interesting to see how many if any of those stories are corroborated and lead to a growing probe.
Jane Doe #2 – There is at least one other woman the Circuit Attorney’s Office is speaking to. She has told one media outlet a story that would conflict with the Governor’s “only one woman” statement in his media interviews. A key factor in the case could be her decision whether or not to tell her story to investigators.
Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley – He has chosen to step up and investigate the Governor’s use of the Confide app to conceal and destroy communications, and it should be noted did so before the sex scandal. He has offered to help the St. Louis Circuit Attorney’s Office if asked, and, if asked, could make a national name for himself putting the state above party in prosecuting a Governor of his own party.
It’s interesting that, from day one, Hawley’s staff and key supporters have made direct efforts to distance themselves from Greitens, now we may know why.
Missouri House Speaker Todd Richardson – There is one reason the Missouri House isn’t looking into this scandal for themselves and it’s because Todd Richardson has chosen not to. In a feat of great restraint, he has chosen to rise above the personal attacks the Governor has leveled at him and the chamber he leads and refuses even an inquiry into the matter. This stands in contrast to his proactive moves in other situations far less severe involving House members.
The day that the most honorable man to ever hold the Speaker’s office decides the state has suffered enough embarrassment and begins in an inquiry is likely the day moving trucks appear at the corner of Capitol and Madison.
Representative Jay Barnes – The man who is most likely to lead that investigation is Rep. Jay Barnes of Jefferson City. He is an accomplished attorney, and one of – if not the best – legal minds in the legislature. He was one of Greitens’ earliest supporters and has the respect of the entire body of the House, and the Senate. If the state decides it should know what happened for itself, Rep. Barnes is the most capable mind of fairly and forcefully finding the truth.
Jeff Stuerman – Stuerman is the President of Stuerman and Company, a wealth management firm in St. Charles. He is the treasurer for both the Greitens campaign and the registered agent for the Committee for a New Missouri which was formed to pay for the inauguration. However, unlike other inaugurals, the donations were not tax-deductible and were not disclosed to the public. Stuerman is someone who likely didn’t come up with the dark money scheme, but will certainly be a party of any investigation into it.
Austin Chambers – Chambers is the whiz kid who ran the successful gubernatorial campaign. He then led the transition and serves as the Governor’s senior advisor, all without being on the government payroll, which affords him some degree of protection from disclosure laws. He is also the head of the Governor’s dark money committee.
The likely prediction is that there may be several people who were used as dupes that wind up in a legal trouble for the dark money scheme, the safe bet is that Chambers too smart to share their fate.
Mike Hafner – He was the key witness who was instructed to use a Mission Continues donor list to set up fundraising meetings for Greitens. Of course, this isn’t legal. After the Missouri Ethics Commission investigated the matter and subpoenaed Hafner, they released a ridiculous ruling at 5:30 p.m. on a Friday that pinned it on a seemingly willing patsy and fined the Governor $100. Literally, no one believes that is the full story. Hafner’s cooperation would be the key to actually investigating the fundraising list controversy, and there is no reason to believe he would not cooperate again. Also of note is that the Mission Continues office was in the City of St. Louis.
Danny Laub – Laub was the fall guy in the fundraising list scandal. He was running the Greitens campaign at the time, he would be fired by Chambers later, and somehow, the ethics commission decided that the campaign manager got the Mission Continues fundraising list then gave it to the campaign and the only ethics violation was that they didn’t report it as an in-kind contribution.
It’s not a joke – that is what they settled on. Laub was willing to be used as a dupe last year when it was the ethics commission investigating a popular governor. It will be interesting if he is still willing to play the patsy role if the FBI is investigating a now highly unpopular governor.
Jeff Jensen – He is new U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Missouri. He comes from the Hanaway group of Missouri politics and left Husch Blackwell to take a new position. Hanaway was the ceremonial chair of the Governor’s transition but there is not one person who knows Catherine Hanaway who believes for a second that she likes or respects Greitens. Jensen was with Husch when they defended John Brunner in the lawsuit brought by Goguen lawsuit, who Dowd Bennett was defending.
He is known by reputation as the most straight of straight arrows, and will likely treat any investigation down the middle, meaning that there will also most assuredly be no leaks.
Scott Simpson – The attorney for the victim. His statement on her behalf was very expertly worded to confirm it was her on the tape, but to also separate her from the leaking of it. He is known as a talented attorney in St. Charles, who will look out for his client’s interests. He is also of the reputation that he wouldn’t be a party to any insider deal to encourage her to lie.
Al Watkins – He is the eccentric attorney who represented the man who released the audio tapes. He has agreed not to discuss the case going forward, which is a shame because he is eminently quotable.
David Humphreys – The TAMKO executive is a leading figure in Missouri Republican politics. Unlike most Republicans, when he talks about family values by all indications he isn’t smirking. It has been remembered by all that when a single Peter Kinder went into a bar where the waitress wore bikini bottoms instead of pants, he demanded the contributions he had given Kinder back and that he resign his post as Lt. Governor because he has misled him about his moral convictions.
Well, thus far, in a far, far more egregious situation, he has been silent while those who claim to represent him forcefully demand other Republicans dutifully support the Governor. Mr. Humphreys is one who might just decide the state has had enough embarrassment, and whose opinion would carry enough weight to force other frightened legislators to act.
If he remains silent here, looks for deafening calls of hypocrisy the next time he passes scorn on a public official.
Scott Faughn is the publisher of The Missouri Times, owner of the Clayton Times in Clayton, Mo; SEMO Times in Poplar Bluff, Mo.; and host of the only statewide political television show, This Week in Missouri Politics.