By TIM ROWDEN
Joplin, MO – David Humphreys can buy any politician he wants, and does so often.
One of his most prominent (and detrimental to workers) acquisitions has been Missouri Governor Eric Greitens, who campaigned on turning Missouri into a so-called “right-to-work” (RTW) state and gleefully signed the anti-union, anti-worker legislation championed by Humphreys after the GOP majority rushed it through the state legislature last year.
The measure will be challenged on the ballot this fall as Proposition A, and a majority “No” vote will prevent it from becoming law.
Humphreys is continuing to back Greitens, according to a story in The Missouri Times, despite his past history of holding politicians to his own particular moral standards, even in light of recent revelations that Greitens had an extramarital affair before becoming governor, and allegedly took intimate photos of the woman and threatened to reveal them if she ever spoke about their relationship.
It’s telling, given that in addition to buying politicians who support his goals of keeping wages low, avoiding the distasteful business of having to negotiate a contract with unionized workers, Humphreys, the owner of Joplin-based TAMKO Building Products, also views himself as something of a moral authority.
ALL THE ‘MORAL AUTHORITY’ AND ‘RTW’ INFLUENCE HE CAN BUY
In addition to making large campaign contributions to conservative Republican candidates – and pitting Republicans against each other if they don’t support his political goals – Humphreys has a habit of shaming officeholders, even demanding his money back, if they fail to live up to his moral standards.
For example, in 2011 Humphreys demanded Lt. Governor Peter Kinder, one of the state’s leading conservatives, return more than $100,000 in contributions he had given to him after it was revealed that the unmarried Kinder had a relationship with a former stripper who had once appeared as a Penthouse Pet.
However, Humphreys moral indignation with Kinder faded during the 2016 Republican primary when he saw a chance to put a RTW pawn in the governor’s mansion. The well-known Kinder supported RTW, and Humphreys and his sister, Sara Atkins, each donated $250,000 to his campaign. Humphreys eventually gave him a total of $750,000.
Then, Kinder lost the primary.
Not to be deterred, Humphreys rolled out the gravy train for winner, Eric Greitens, who also supported RTW.
Humphreys gave Greitens $500,000 in September 2016, then another $1 million from he and his sister in October.
His investment paid off. Greitens won the election and Humphreys got the RTW governor he wanted.
The Republican majority Missouri Legislature passed, and Gov. Greitens signed, RTW legislation as the first order of business last year.
Humphreys’ highbrow moralism appears to be taking a backseat to his desire to achieve RTW and get other pro-business, anti-worker legislation passed and signed into law.
Maybe that’s because, even with his moral failings, Greitens has been a faithful servant, fighting hard to make RTW a reality. A New Missouri, the secretive group formed by Greitens’ campaign aides to promote his pro-business, anti-worker agenda, has contributed a combined $1.1 million to RTW political action committees established to thwart the repeal effort.
“The Humphreys family is still supporting the governor, for now,” a source close to Humphreys told The Missouri Times. “Like the rest of the state, they are monitoring the situation and as more reports of his behavior come in, that could change.”
So, if no other unseemly news comes out about Greitens and he continues to deny the blackmail allegations, he can probably keep riding the Humphreys money train.
WILL IT BE ENOUGH?
Whether that will be enough to save Greitens and his anti-worker agenda remains to be seen. Even members of his own party are saying he will not be able to govern effectively under the cloud of scandal.
Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have denounced the incident, with some calling for his resignation or impeachment.
A bipartisan group of state senators signed a letter asking State Attorney General Josh Hawley to investigate the blackmail allegations.
And St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner has launched a criminal investigation.
Greitens abruptly cancelled a statewide tour last week to promote his tax cut proposal, instead outlining the plan in a vague and poorly formatted email.