If you’re reading this, you are probably aware I have never been an admirer of Eric Greitens.
My skepticism is not new, it began when he piously alleged that the leaders in the General Assembly were corrupt career politicians and candidly continued to the release of this latest report. This report, combined with the previous one, is basically what I have attempted to tell people for the past three years.
In short, I’ve known for some time these things about the Greitens organization that many of you are learning for the first time in the reports released by the House.
The big difference between this column and others of this sort is that I will admit that I’m not an admirer of his and will not pretend to be an unbiased arbiter about that fact, nor am I a perfect messenger. I have succeeded by being direct about my perspective so you can take it into account, instead of pretending not to have one at all.
However, this has led to me becoming part of the story which is all on me.
So I decided to take a day and come to you in the medium in which I met almost all you, in print.
I’m not one to be dramatic about politicians, most that reach the highest levels of state government are good people who truly care about Missouri. However, in February of 2015 when I met Eric Greitens there was something very, very different about him.
I had the feeling that everything was a staged photo-op or that everything, even down to our conversation, he was just checking some box. I could really never get my head around how someone could go from a tailored suit wearing Obama supporter to a blue-jeans-and-work-boots-wearing right-winger.
There is a cliché that politicians will say anything to get elected, but I’ve not found that to be true. Typically, they will certainly spin but at the end of the day, there is some underpinning of an ideology or a love for the state, or appreciation for its government or institutions.
None of that existed in Eric Greitens.
After attempting to lay out the case out for three years that Rep. Jay Barnes has now laid out in two reports, I decided there was easily enough material there and I hoped enough interest to write a book on the past three years in Missouri politics.
Obviously, the book would center around the biggest personality in Missouri politics over the last three years, Eric Greitens. With that in mind, I began to go back over my notes on things that I suspected to be true but that had not yet been published by any outlet.
One of the biggest stories that I suspected were true, but no one had previously published, was Eric Greitens’ affair with a woman now known as KS, and that there were audio tapes recorded by her husband at the time, PS.
That is where I met Al Watkins, a very colorful attorney who had the tapes in his possession and had permission to sell them to me. Because I had purchased them I could not use them in any newspaper I own or play them on my television show. I thought I made it clear Monday that I was his client but it’s obvious that I was not clear enough.
My plan was to use them as source documents to attempt to get someone to speak to me to use as one of the central revelations in the book.
However, in the meantime, it came to my attention that these tapes and possibly even an on-the-record interview by PS had been done by the Post-Dispatch a couple of weeks earlier and by KMOV around the same time.
To be clear, I had every intention of utilizing the tapes myself, but I was going to use them in my book if KS would speak with me. I did not provide the tapes to anyone. I have never had a conversation with Lauren Trager with KMOV and I have never in my life met or spoken to PS. Further, I had no idea that any criminal charges would ever be filed related to the tapes.
I was hopeful that my book would have been the history of the last three years of Missouri politics with the substance of these two House reports included. Now it will be the background of how these came to be along with several more wildly scandalous revelations involving Eric Greitens political career, and the furor surrounding the 2016 election.
While I’m writing, let me clear up a couple of misconceptions I’ve read this week.
The money I used to buy the tapes was my money. There is no huge conspiracy, that is another lie and distraction tactic similar to last year when Eric Greitens told the world he was canceling the vacations of corrupt career politicians when in fact the legislature was adjourning as they are constitutionally required to. Or when Team Greitens said they never ever used the Mission Continues donor list for politics.
The tapes cost a lot of money in my world, that is a reality, but it’s also a reality that the investment pales in the comparison to the money spent starting our television show, or our new newspaper in Clayton. In the end, I felt it was worth the cost because I’ve known about the Greitens organization from the start what many of you are only now coming to grips with. I knew of the millions they had in lawyers and I knew facts wouldn’t matter. The same group that literally in real life filed a restraining order against the Attorney General of the State of Missouri would be suing me over the book once it was released.
The bottom line is that the mainstream media mocked the start of The Missouri Times, they laughed at the folly that would be This Week in Missouri Politics and the entire time we keep growing and they keep laying people off.
I hear their mocking of me and of this book project. I’ve heard it all before. This simple hillbilly is used to their taunts and derision while we come up with innovative and profitable new media ventures all while getting sanctimonious condescension from those laying people off and declaring bankruptcy.
By the way, you can pre-order the book at www.scottfaughn.com. We have already had nearly 400 pre-orders. If you pre-order by the end of the session, you will get yours before the election.
The other thing I’ve read is that my criticism of Eric Greitens is centered around supporting LIHTC interests. I suppose it gets scrutinized because it’s one of the only policy differences I know of between Greitens and Lt. Governor Parson.
I’ll be clear, I am from rural Missouri. I have personally seen the positive impacts these projects have on small towns. However, I can see the other side of the argument as well.
For what its worth, I think any program can be improved. It shouldn’t be lost in the politics that the policy has improved life for many senior citizens in Missouri.
I do think it’s wrong of Eric Greitens or any governor to use boards which were set up to place a layer between politics and these decisions to manipulate them in a way to subvert the legislature and bend to the Governor’s political agenda as was also used with the DESE board. I also think it’s bizarre that this Governor ends a tax credit program that is used in rural Missouri while continuing the historic tax credit program used in urban Missouri.
However, ending LIHTC is only a fleck of sand on the beach to my criticisms of Eric Greitens.
Here is a brief list of a few of my criticisms of Eric Greitens prior to his MHDC appointments; the “corrupt career politicians” line, LG PAC, the first use of dark money controlled by a candidate, the largest donation in Missouri history being anonymous, right-to-work, using the Confide app to hide official staff communications, posting Senator Schaaf’s personal cell phone number in ads, attacking Senator Libla as anti-law enforcement, calling the legislature “3rd graders,” boasting that calling a special session was “cancelling politicians vacations”, and holding a protest of Senators Libla and Romine, destroying the DESE board – that is all before the dozen or so scandals that have come after.
I’ve criticized Eric Greitens while he was raising money $50,000 at a time from tax credit developers during the campaign, and while he was soliciting dark money from them while in office. My criticisms have never wavered, not for a day, not on any of a dozen or so issues.
If you’re reading this column for the first time, my opinion might surprise you but candidly if you have ever read this column, or followed me on social media, or had a beer with me then this couldn’t possibly surprise you at all.
Now you don’t get sanctimoniousness from me. I am not a perfect person to offer these criticisms. I am flawed in every way. However, I am one of the very, very few who were raising these issues when that was a lonely space to be in. Don’t get me wrong; I’m glad that you all have arrived, but don’t get confused I opened this place even if we all stay til closing time.
Also even if what the staunchest Greitens defenders or my harshest critics claim were true I had nothing to do with Eric Greitens, what happened in his basement, or taking the property of a veterans charity to use on his campaign.
With all that said there is no getting around the fact that I have become part of the story. It is something I regret, and candidly if I had it to do again, I would have done several things about this scenario differently.
With that in mind, I’m going to take the week off from the show and ask to guest host what will be a terrific week to discuss on This Week in Missouri politics, even if that discussion involves me. I’ll see you next week for a mid-week update. Until then, I’ll see you next week on This Week in Missouri Politics.
Scott Faughn is the publisher of The Missouri Times and the Clayton Times and the host of This Week in Missouri politics.
Scott Faughn is the publisher of The Missouri Times, owner of the Clayton Times in Clayton; SEMO Times in Poplar Bluff; and host of the only statewide political television show, This Week in Missouri Politics.