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Does Missouri Right to Life cave to endorse Greitens?

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – After seven months of refusing to talk with Missouri Right to Life (MRL) Political Action Committee, Eric Greitens finally submitted his survey to the Missouri Right to Life. Up to now, many social conservatives around the state view MRL as the leading pro-life group mostly because of its committed stance on abortion issues and discernment filtering out truly pro-life candidates to endorse. As of now, they have made history by refusing to endorse Greitens candidacy for governor. 

Pro-Life groups and Greitens have had a rocky relationship, especially in the Republican primary when MRL refused to endorse Greitens, even when they endorsed the three other candidates in the party. They sent emails to supporters in late July urging pro-life votes to say, “No to Eric Greitens for governor.”

After he won the nomination, MRL held firm on not endorsing the traditionally pro-life Republican nominee because, for one, he had not filled out their survey. Gregg Keller of Atlas Strategy Group spoke on This Week in Missouri Politics about the snub in a taping of the show Friday.

“This is the organization that represents more pro-lifers in the state of Missouri than any other organization in the state, and for months, Greitens refused to return their phone calls, and fill out their questionnaire,” Keller said.

With that, Greitens has reportedly submitted the survey and it now rests on the MRL board to determine whether or not they will give Greitens the nod.

Susan Klein, MRL’s legislative liaison, said that the group’s political arm is currently discussion with the board whether or not they would, but she said that earning the endorsement from the MRL was not as easy as just filling out a survey.

“Ratings by the MRL PAC are based on surveys, public statements, public record, voting records for those who presently hold or previously held office, interviews, and information from those in the districts and around the state, as well as information about the donors of the candidates,” she said in an email to The Missouri Times.

Klein added that the decision would be made soon, but did not expand on that.

The last point she mentioned may put Greitens in hot water. One of his donors, philanthropist Julian Robertson, has given him $125,000 while serving as a leader for the New York Stem Cell Foundation, an organization that supports embryonic stem cell research. Missouri Right to Life adamantly opposes embryonic stem cell research and labels it as a form of human cloning.

For his part, Greitens has publicly stated his opposition to embryonic stem cell research and he always hits on his pro-life beliefs during his stump speech.

Still, some conservatives question whether or not an endorsement from MRL will actually help because of Greitens’ treatment of MRL. 

“If they endorse him, there will be snickers at MRL in the capitol in January,” one state senator told the Missouri Times, on the condition of anonymity, said. “If you can treat them like garbage and have them ultimately endorse you just because you win the Republican primary, then I think you will see more people do the same.”

Keller, for one, believes that Koster already has won the support of some conservative parts of the state with endorsements from organizations like the National Rifle Association, Missouri Farm Bureau, and others.

“There’s such a large number of center-right leaning organizations that have already endorsed Chris Koster, it’s going to be difficult for Eric Greitens to say [he’s] the conservative standard-bearer,” Keller said.

Keller also agreed that should the MRL endorse Greitens now, it may cause them to lose political capital. 

“Unlike these other organizations, Missouri Right to Life has not and will not endorse Chris Koster,” said Klein on TWMP. “He does have a history with us whenever he served in the Senate and has a lot of votes against pro-life issues. Greitens, we have had issue with because he has refused to fill out the survey. We’ve been trying to contact him for seven months to have a meeting and get him to fill out the survey – and he has actually filled out the survey. We are in a conversation with the Greitens campaign. However, it has taken us seven months to get here and we have four weeks before the election. Obviously, we have a lot of questions, but that doesn’t mean there’s an endorsement.”