ST. LOUIS – Former Navy SEAL Eric Greitens has borne the brunt of attacks from his primary opponents for the Republican nomination, but the Federal Election Commission (FEC) is investigating whether one of those opponents is playing fair.
Politico reports both the FEC and the Missouri Election Commission (MEC) will investigate the Patriots for America super PAC, founded by former John Brunner staffer Adam McLain for campaign finance complaints. Patriots for America has existed solely as an attack platform against the Greitens campaign with a website URL that slightly misspells Greitens’ name.
That PAC is solely funded, to the tune of over $80,000, by a nonprofit called Franklin and Lee, which as a 501(c)(4) nonprofit is not required to state its financiers. However, the listed address for Franklin and Lee is 24 Church Rd., Poquoson, Virginia 23662 – a four-bedroom, two-bathroom house owned by McLain.
The complaints were filed by Aaron Hedlund, an economics professor at the University of Missouri and Greitens supporter. Politico reports Hedlund asked the FEC to investigate whether or not the super PAC made false campaign reports due to discrepancies in its disclosures. The full report can be read here, but it finds that the PAC worked around FEC filing rules by using Franklin and Lee to keep its donors anonymous. The MEC filing is a bit different, alleging that Patriots for America failed to follow basic MEC rules like filing as a committee or appointing a treasurer despite donating more than $1,500.
Neither organization comments about ongoing investigations.
Super PACs have become the source of political strife since the Citizens United Supreme Court ruling in 2010 allowed unlimited campaign spending by organizations that did not directly finance or work with candidates. However, super PACs, unlike political nonprofits, are required to disclose their creators, contributors and financiers.
The insinuation from Hedlund and the Greitens campaign is that McLain, a former staffer of Brunner’s with clear ties to the St. Louis businessman, has been financing a super PAC that is distinctly involved in the Missouri gubernatorial election.
On the other hand, the Brunner campaign has said they have no connection with McLain or his work after he left their operation last August or September. Brunner campaign spokesman Michael Hafner said McLain served as a scheduling and logistics coordinator for the campaign, but he was unwilling to move to Missouri from Virginia to work on the campaign full time. After an organizational restructuring, he left the campaign on good terms.
Last November, Hafner added he was surprised when Kansas City Star political columnist Steve Kraske contacted the Brunner campaign to ask about the connection between the Patriots for America, McLain and the Brunner campaign.
“That was the first notification we had about Adam,” Hafner said. “We haven’t had any contact with the guy since August.”
Greitens and Brunner have had their share of animosity since the start of the election season, with some of it relating to this super PAC. In November, Brunner leaked a phone call to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch between himself and Greitens where the former Navy SEAL, clearly in an agitated state, called Brunner a “weasel” for being behind the attacks from the Patriots for America PAC. Brunner denied the claim.
The two also both seem to be contending from the same niche as an “outsider” candidate as neither has previously held political office. Both have also made their service in the military focal points of their campaigns, something neither of their primary opponents, Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder or former Speaker Catherine Hanaway, can claim.
The two have also raised the most money of the four candidates, though Brunner has mostly self-funded his campaign and Greitens has a large portion of donations coming in from outside of the state.
The Greitens campaign did not wish to comment at this time.