JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – A Missouri judge has ruled that the “dark money” group A New Missouri should comply with a House-issued subpoena.
Less than one week after hearing arguments from House counsel and the attorney for A New Missouri and the campaign committee Greitens for Missouri, Judge Jon Beetem issued a six-page ruling Tuesday morning ordering the two entities to produce the documents that had been requested by Rep. Jay Barnes and the House Special Investigative Committee on Oversight.
Beetem’s order concerns the House’s request for documents related to the ongoing work of the investigative committee that is tasked with determining whether to bring articles of impeachment forward against Gov. Eric Greitens.
Speaking before the judge last week, the defense’s attorney, Catherine Hanaway, argued that the subpoena was beyond the scope of the investigation, also saying that to enforce the subpoenas would be an invasion of privacy to donors and a violation of their First Amendment rights.
The attorney for the House, however, told the judge that they had narrowed the request, instead only seeking for the enforcement of the subpoenas regarding any communications between A New Missouri and Greitens for Missouri, as well as information concerning the expenditures of A New Missouri.
As a social welfare nonprofit, A New Missouri is not required by law to disclose its donors.
In his ruling, Beetem states that under the defense’s motion to quash, they would have to show cause as to why the subpoenas should not be enforced. As the committee has the authority to issue subpoenas, Beetem wrote, “all their petition really had to prove is that it issued the subpoena and compliance was refused.”
That then places the burden of proof on the defendants.
Beetem applied the standard set forward by Angoff v. M&M Mgmt. Corp., 897 S.W.2d 649, 652(Mo App. 1995), which applies three tests to determine whether a court should enforce a non-judicial subpoena:
1) the inquiry is within the authority of the requestor
2) the demand is not too indefinite
3) the information sought is reasonably relevant
“While this is a broad mandate, so are the grounds for impeachment,” he wrote. “The Court finds the requests are within the authority of the requestor. The demand is found to be sufficiently definite for enforcement.”
Beetem noted that the defense had relied on the decision resulting from Jackson v. Mills, 142 S.W.3d 237, 240 (Mo.App. 2004) in order to argue against the relevance of the subpoenas and their requests, but Beetem said that reliance was misplaced.
The court in Jackson found the requested information was not legally relevant because production would require exposure of confidential investigation files and the probative value was outweighed by this prejudice,” Beetem wrote. “In the instant cause, these facts are not present. Respondents show nowhere else that the requested information could be obtained. Unlike Jackson, it is clear that this matter is contested. Given the deference due the Committee under the separation of powers doctrine, the Court cannot say the information requested by the Committee is not reasonably relevant to their charge of investigating allegations against Governor Greitens.”
Summing up, Beetem said that relevancy has been shown, while claims of undue burden had not been.
“The Court further finds and believes that time is of the essence and production should begin immediately and, absent good cause shown, said production should be completed by June 1, 2018.”
Beetem’s ruling allows the Greitens team to redact identification information for donors to A New Missouri, but they will be required to turn over communications between the two entities, as well as receipts, content, and communication regarding paid media.
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.