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Prosecutor won’t charge Greitens despite ethics panel review

August 17, 2018

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — A local prosecutor won’t press charges against former Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens despite findings from a state ethics panel that there’s reason to believe he broke the law over how his campaign reported a donor list it obtained from a charity he founded.

Missouri Ethics Commission Executive Director Elizabeth Ziegler in a Friday letter wrote that after an investigation, the commission found “reasonable grounds to believe that a violation of criminal law occurred” as alleged in an earlier complaint. But Cole County Prosecutor Mark Richardson said he won’t take action.

Catherine Hanaway, an attorney for Greitens’ gubernatorial campaign, noted in a statement noted Greitens resigned in June. Questions about the donor list were among the scandals that plagued him in his final months in office.

“I am glad that we aren’t going to rehash this old fight another time,” Hanaway said. “It is time for the state to move on to more pressing issues that affect all Missourians.”

At issue is a March ethics complaint filed by former state Democratic Party chairman Roy Temple. He alleged that Greitens falsely reported how his campaign obtained the donor list from The Mission Continues, a veterans charity the former Republican governor founded. Temple also alleged the campaign failed to disclose that it also got the charity’s email list.

The complaint came after The Associated Press first reported in October 2016 — a month before Greitens’ election — that his campaign had accessed a charity list containing the names, emails and phone numbers of individuals, corporations and other nonprofit organizations who gave at least $1,000 to The Mission Continues. The AP reported that Greitens’ campaign had raised nearly $2 million from those who had previously given significant amounts to the veterans’ charity.

Such nonprofits are barred from participating in political campaigns on behalf of candidates, and The Mission Continues has denied providing its donors’ information for political use.

Greitens initially denied that he worked off the donor list, but he acknowledged in an April 2017 settlement with the Missouri Ethics Commission that his campaign had used it.

Greitens amended his campaign finance reports to show the list as an in-kind donation valued at $600 received in March 2015 from then-campaign manager Danny Laub. But Laub testified this year to Attorney General Josh Hawley’s office that he wasn’t the source of the donor list and was duped into taking the fall.

Along with the Ethics Commission’s findings, Hawley earlier this year said his office believed there was probable cause for a local prosecutor to charge Greitens.

Still, Richardson in a letter to the panel wrote that he found no evidence “that the reporting of the date the contribution was received was a knowing or willful misrepresentation.”

Temple said Richardson is “using that date issue as a pretext to ignore the substantive nature of the scheme to misrepresent what actually happened.”

“The fundamental problem with that amended report was that they made the claim that someone had made an in-kind contribution that ...never owned it to contribute it and has said they were not the source of it,” Temple said.

Jefferson City Republican Rep. Jay Barnes, who led an investigation against Greitens as lawmakers considered impeaching him, told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that it’s “disappointing, but not surprising, that Mark Richardson chose to shirk his duty” despite the attorney general and ethics commission findings.

An AP request for comment from Richardson was not immediately returned Friday.

Greitens is not in the clear yet. Ziegler noted that there’s a three-year statute of limitations, and Richardson recently lost the Republican primary in his bid for re-election. That could open the door for the next prosecutor to pursue charges.

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