JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – His voicemail flooded, calls around the clock, and his personal cell phone number made public… it was not a good weekend for Sen. Rob Schaaf.
But just days after being attacked on social media and on the Senate floor for his ethics, Schaaf has turned the tables, now calling out the man who campaigned on ethics reform at the State Capitol: Missouri’s governor, Eric Greitens.
Schaaf delivered an impassioned speech on the Senate floor Monday, invoking Shakespeare’s Hamlet, “to thine own self, be true” while asking the governor to look at his own ethics before looking toward the members of the legislature.
“If we want Missourians to respect the laws we enact, if we want them to trust that we work for them, then we need to eliminate the appearance of corruption in Missouri government,” he said. “So far, we haven’t done so, and the FBI is now circling the Capitol.”
Last week, Schaaf’s own ethics were questioned on the Senate floor by Sen. Caleb Rowden, who noted the fact that Schaaf rented a room from a lobbyist. Schaaf said on the Senate floor Monday that he would no longer be doing so.
Schaaf spoke of the appearance of corruption in Jefferson City, of lobbyist gifts and dark money, while also citing legislation that he had filed this session to address those very issues. He said that when elected officials take dark money donations, it’s discouraging to voters, as they question how they can trust the same people they voted into office.
“So voters give up. They conclude that the system is corrupt, and they stop voting, they stop paying attention to politics, they stop respecting the laws, convinced that the process by which those laws are made is not legitimate. We must keep people from falling into such despair.”
Schaaf railed against Greitens’ own image, calling on the governor to disband his new organization, A New Misssouri, and give back the “dark money” donations he received during his gubernatorial campaign.
Schaaf’s speech comes just days after that same organization, A New Missouri, released ads urging Missourians to call a phone number and tell “career politician” Schaaf to stop blocking term limits and a lobbyist gift ban.
That phone number was Schaaf’s own personal cell phone number.
“Governor, really? I’ve been pushing for a lobbyist gift ban harder than anyone. If a lobbyist gift ban comes to the floor – a real lobbyist gift ban – I’ll be the first in line to vote for it, and I’ve said as much a hundred times,” Schaaf lamented on the Senate floor, urging the Republican governor to make good on his campaign promises.
“Now, our governor ran on the platform that he would clean up Missouri government. He promised to stop lobbyist gifts, promised to close the revolving door, promised to promote greater transparency,” he said.
Schaaf said after filing three bills to do just that, he asked for the governor’s support and leadership to pass that legislation.
“Instead, what has he done? After taking a million dollars from David Humphreys, he’s now promoting a bill that would deny justice to Missourians who say Humphreys cheated them,” Schaaf said. “After taking an undisclosed amount of money from Centene Corporation to fund his inauguration, and perhaps even secret dark money contributions that we can’t see, he’s now pushing to give Centene a chunk of a $2 billion line item in the budget, and he’s hurrying to get their rigged contract started before we’ve even appropriated the money to pay for it.”
“Governor, don’t ignore the log in your eye when you see the speck in mine,” he said, referencing Matthew 7:5 from the Bible. “I’m removing the speck. I’m moving out of the room I’ve rented from Richard McIntosh. Now you remove the log.”
Schaaf then called on the governor to do four things:
“Disband the non-profit that you’ve had set up to launder your secret contributions,” he began. “Give back the million dollars you took from David Humphreys, and stop trying to deny justice to the Missourians who say Humphreys cheated them. Give back the money you took from Centene, and stop this illegal rollout of the managed care expansion, before it’s too late, just seven days from now.
“And Governor, you need to stop calling us in this chamber “corrupt, career politicians,” he concluded.
“Missouri has a real problem with corruption – but it is a problem of corrupt incentives and corrupt norms, NOT corrupt hearts,” he continued. “We need strong leadership to fix that corruption, and, Governor, you can provide that leadership. You can clean this mess up. You can lead Missouri to become the example for the rest of the nation to follow, the first state in the nation to stamp out the appearance of corruption and by doing so, stamp out corruption itself.
“And if you ever want to go to the White House, you need to start now.”
Interestingly enough, while Schaaf spoke on the Senate floor, Greitens was seen in the Missouri House side gallery, speaking with Republicans.
Benjamin Peters was a reporter for The Missouri Times and Missouri Times Magazine and also produced 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.