Greitens facing criminal investigation, open records lawsuit, AG investigation, calls for impeachment
By TIM ROWDEN
Jefferson City – Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens, whose first year in office was defined by attacks on working people, the passage of anti-union, anti-worker “right-to-work” (for less) legislation, dark money influence and a lack of transparency, is facing a criminal investigation over an extramarital affair – which he’s admitted – and allegations of blackmail – which he’s denied, and a lawsuit and Attorney General’s investigation over he and his staff’s use of a message-deleting app in possible violation of the state’s open records law.
St. Louis television station KMOV reported on Jan. 10 that Greitens had a sexual relationship with his former hairdresser in 2015 and that the woman’s ex-husband alleged Greitens photographed her in the nude and threatened to publicize the image if she spoke about the affair.
The alleged incident occurred at Greitens’ Central West End home. St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner has launched a criminal investigation.
The story broke shortly after Greitens delivered his State of the State Address.
Greitens issued a statement admitting to the affair but, through his attorney, denied taking a nude photo of the woman or threatening to blackmail her.
In a tape secretly recorded by her ex-husband, the woman said Greitens told her he would disclose the photo, taken while she was bound and blindfolded, if she spoke about their relationship.
According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the alleged March 2015 encounter involving the photo happened shortly after Greitens opened a committee to explore a bid for Missouri governor but before he officially announced his candidacy.
Fellow lawmakers and Labor leaders, who have found themselves on the defensive since Greitens took office, were quick to denounce the incident, with some calling for his resignation or impeachment.
“Allegations of extortion, blackmail or threats against women must absolutely be treated seriously,” said David Cook, president of United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 655.
“This governor campaigned on cleaning up Jefferson City’s toxic culture and it is disappointing that yet another elected official campaigned on one set of values but practices another. I hope the governor reflects seriously on his choices and makes the right decision for himself, his family, and most importantly the citizens of Missouri.”
A bipartisan group of state senators signed a letter last week asking State Attorney General Josh Hawley to investigate the blackmail allegations.
“Violence and threats against women are never acceptable,” Senate Democratic leaders Gina Walsh (D-Bellefontaine Neighbors) and Kiki Curls (D-Kansas City) said in joint a statement calling for the allegations to be investigated.
“People accused of these egregious acts do not get to waive off the scrutiny of law enforcement simply because they are in a position of power; and victims of these crimes deserve our full support.”
Senator Gary Romine, a Republican from Farmington, south of St. Louis, said, “The only way we can remove this cloud is to get all the facts. We need this to move as quickly as possible. If it exonerates him, we can move on. If it doesn’t, he needs to resign or face impeachment.”
State Senator Jamilah Nasheed (D-St. Louis) called on the governor to resign.
Greitens is also being sued by an open government organization for allegedly breaking state public records laws after it was learned he and his staff were using a special app that deletes text messages after they’ve been read.
The Kansas City Star first reported the presence of the Confide app on cellphones associated with Greitens and his staff in early December.
Attorney Ben Sansone filed a lawsuit last month on behalf of the Sunshine Project, an organization that champions open government, asking a judge to bar the Greitens and his staff from using the Confide app and reveal the names of all staffers who have used the software.
“The use of automatic communication destroying software by elected officials and government employees is illegal and constitutes an ongoing conspiracy to violate the Missouri Sunshine law and Missouri State and Local Records law, not to mention a significant affront to the open government and democratic traditions of Missouri and the United States,” the lawsuit claims.
At the request of Senator Scott Sifton (D-Affton), Attorney General Hawley announced that his office would investigate the governor’s use of the app.
House Democrats have introduced a package of ethics-related legislation to be considered this session, including a bill sponsored by Rep. Gina Mitten (D-Richmond Heights) calling for a ban on the use of apps like Confide.
House Bill 1817 would prohibit members and employees of public governmental bodies from using software designed to send encrypted messages that automatically self-destruct to conduct public business.
“I would encourage lawmakers to think about the spirit as well as the letter of the Sunshine Law and act accordingly,” Mitten said.
Greitens promised to clean up corruption in Jefferson City, Missouri Democratic Party Chair Stephen Webber said, but scandals have lingered over the Governor’s mansion since he took office.
“Corrupt insiders and corrupt politicians,” Webber said. “Instead of weeding them out like he promised, Eric Greitens has become the most corrupt of them all. There’s no doubt questions about his never-ending scandals will linger throughout this year’s legislative session.”
In addition to the aforementioned controversies:
• Greitens was fined for violating Missouri campaign ethics law.
• He created his own dark money group, “A New Missouri” to hide who is funding and thus influencing his agenda.
• Ethical questions about dark money led a bipartisan group of state Senators to call for a legislative investigation into the governor’s use of a donor list from his former charity to raise funds during his 2016 bid for office and his use of the secretive nonprofit A New Missouri to promote his anti-worker agenda.
Among its other efforts, A New Missouri contributed $750,000 earlier this month to “Freedom to Work,” a political action committee bent on making Missouri a “right-to-work” (for less) state, and $350,000 last fall to another pro-RTW group, “Missourians for Worker Freedom,” a Kansas City-based political action committee that shares the same address and phone number as yet another pro-RTW group, “Liberty Alliance.”