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Senators’ non-official bipartisan committee looks to change the conversation on dark money

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – The Senate may not be moving forward in any official capacity with actions regarding an investigation into Gov. Eric Greitens, but it by no means signals the end of the fight.

Last week, a bipartisan group of senators called for an investigation into Greitens for allegations of pay-to-play, corruption, and unethical conduct during his campaign, as well as the activities of A New Missouri, the non-profit created to push the governor’s agenda.

The group, consisting of Sens. Jason Holsman, D-Kansas City; Ryan Silvey, R-Kansas City; Scott Sifton, D-Affton; Bob Dixon R-Springfield; Rob Schaaf, R-St. Joseph; and Doug Libla, R-Poplar Bluff; co-sponsored a resolution that, if passed, would establish a non-partisan committee to investigate the Governor’s role in any illegal activities in his campaign, as well as possible illegal coordination between his campaign, office, and the non-profit.

While the Senate never pushed any further with the resolution, it seems that the senators behind the legislation have little intention of letting it go away.

The Senate President Pro Tem has the ability to create a committee, but Sen. Ron Richard has given no sign of doing so at this time, with Senate communications echoing the sentiments expressed by Sen. Majority Floor Leader Mike Kehoe last week, who said the only issue that would be discussed in this extraordinary session would be abortion-related in nature.

Regardless of that, the group of senators says they will continue their push forward, saying that Missouri voters have a right to know about possible corruption in the Governor’s organization. While no committee seems forthcoming, the senators may just continue on their own. In theory, the group of senators could form their own ad hoc committee outside of the Senate in order to continue their mission of investigating the concerns of corruption and secrecy within the Governor’s Office and his political organizations.

This past April, Gov. Greitens admitted that his campaign had violated Missouri ethics law when he signed a Missouri Ethics Commission order in which his non-profit organization provided his campaign with a list of big-dollar donors. It’s also been reported that A New Missouri received money from a group seeking the Governor’s approval to bring a new casino to Missouri.

That same non-profit has, over the past few months,  launched attack ads and political rallies against several of the state’s senators over their stances on legislation in the General Assembly. The senators say that the blurring of lines between the Governor’s official office and his “dark money” group has been further obfuscated by several of the Governor’s political staff operating these organizations while accompanying the Governor to meetings in the Capitol pertaining to state business.

“If the Governor won’t come clean, then we must use every resource available to the Senate to uncover the truth,” Sen. Scott Sifton said. “It is a sad day for Missouri that it’s come to this, but the Governor’s continued obsession with secrecy leaves us no other choice.”

“Teddy Roosevelt said it best, ‘No man is above the law, and no man is below it; nor do we ask any man’s permission when we ask him to obey it,’” Sen. Bob Dixon said. “The interests of the Governor and the people are best served by answered questions that clear the darkness from the air.”

And while the senators continue to call for more transparency in the executive branch, the Missouri Democratic Party has turned its eyes toward the Attorney General’s Office.

The MDP says Missouri’s attorney general Josh Hawley has broken his campaign promises to clean up corruption in Jefferson City by “ducking the issue” and declining to comment, though the “state attorney general’s office enforces Missouri laws regarding charities,” as the MDP stated.

“For all his secrecy, if there’s one thing Gov. Eric Greitens has actually opened up, it’s opportunities for Josh Hawley to follow through on his campaign promises to clean up corruption. But instead of living up to what he told Missourians he’d do, Josh Hawley is proving that he’s just another typical, self-serving politician,” Missouri Democratic Party Chair Stephen Webber said.