ST. LOUIS (CN) – An investigation into disgraced former Missouri Governor Eric Greitens found “probable cause” his campaign broke the law by not reporting that it cooperated with a political action committee during his 2016 run to the governor’s mansion.
The Missouri Ethics Commission, in a complaint released Thursday, found that “Greitens for Missouri failed to timely report certain LG PAC advertisements as in-kind contributions, because the LG PAC advertisements were express advocacy or its functional equivalent, and the advertising was done in cooperation with the GFM committee after a conversation regarding GFM’s needs in the Springfield market.”
The investigation found no evidence that Greitens personally knew about the campaign finance issues, but “candidates are ultimately responsible for all reporting requirements,” the commission wrote in its report.
The state’s ethics commission also concluded that the Greitens’ campaign likely violated financial reporting rules by not disclosing a poll given to the campaign that was paid for by A New Missouri, a nonprofit that supported Greitens’ agenda.
The report was accompanied by a consent order stating that the Greitens campaign must pay a $178,000 fine, but the campaign would only have to pay $38,000 within 45 days and the rest will be stayed.
Charlie Spies, Greitens’ attorney, told reporters that the campaign will pay the fine, though it denies doing anything wrong.
“The cost of settling with a $38,000 penalty is much more efficient than litigating this and winning in the court system,” Spies told the Associated Press.
Greitens issued a statement saying that the report exonerates him.
“I’m grateful that the truth has won out, but this was never really about me — they launched this attack because we were fighting for the people of Missouri,” Greitens said.
Greitens still has roughly $638,000 in his campaign, which can be used to pay the fine.
In 2015, Greitens’ campaign finance director and a national fundraising consultant for the campaign compiled a list of people willing to donate to a PAC but who did not want to give directly to the campaign, the report states. The list was eventually given to Tom Norris, a worker with the nonprofit Freedom Frontier.
Between June 1, 2016 and July 29, 2016, Freedom Frontier gave $4,370,000 to LG PAC. The commission found that the contributions “appear to correlate” to ad buys by LG PAC that either praised Greitens or attacked his opponents in the Republican primary.
The report also says that LG PAC spent more than $98,000 on ads in the Springfield media market after Greitens’ campaign manager raised concerns there.
The commission’s review stemmed from a complaint filed in July 2018 by Republican Rep. Jay Barnes, who chaired the House committee that investigated the former governor.
Greitens, a Republican and former Navy SEAL officer, ran as a political outsider and was elected governor in November 2016.
He resigned in 2018 amid allegations of sexual misconduct and campaign violations, specifically taking compromising photos of his mistress in order to blackmail her into silence.