Missouri governor to pay fee for using nonprofit donor list

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JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — Missouri Republican Gov. Eric Greitens has agreed to pay a penalty to the state Ethics Commission for failing to report that his gubernatorial campaign got a donor list from a charity he had founded to help military veterans.

The settlement ends an investigation that began shortly before the 2016 election, after The Associated Press reported that Gretiens' campaign had access to The Mission Continues donor list and had raised about $2 million from people and entities that had previously given significant amounts to his charity.

After that AP report, Missouri Democratic Party Chairman Roy Temple filed an Ethics Commission complaint contending the charity donor list should have been reported as an in-kind contribution by Greitens' campaign under Missouri law. A consent order dated Friday between the Ethics Commission and Greitens said the commission found probable cause to believe a violation of law occurred.

"This isn't a major ethics violation," Greitens campaign adviser Austin Chambers said Saturday. "This is a clerical error where a minor contribution wasn't reported on a campaign finance report."

The Ethics Commission imposed a $1,000 fee on Greitens' campaign, most of which would be waived if Greitens pays $100 and commits no other campaign finance violations during the next two years.

Chambers said the campaign was in the process of paying the $100 fee.

Missouri Democratic Party Chairman Stephen Webber, who succeeded Temple in December, said in a written statement that Greitens broke his campaign promise to take aim at politics as usual.

"After running as an 'outsider' that would clean up the Capitol, Eric Greitens has already proven that he embodies everything that disgusts us about the culture of corruption in Jefferson City," Webber said.

Federal law prohibits 501(c)(3) charities such as The Mission Continues from intervening in political campaigns on behalf of candidates. The Internal Revenue Service has ruled charities cannot give donor lists to politicians but can rent them at fair market value if made available to all candidates.

The AP reported in October that it had obtained an Excel spreadsheet showing the names, email addresses and phone numbers of people who gave at least $1,000 to The Mission Continues. The spreadsheet's properties showed it was created by a Mission Continues employee May 6, 2014, shortly before Greitens stepped down as CEO, and was last saved March 24, 2015, by Michael Hafner, who had been working for Greitens' gubernatorial exploratory committee.

Greitens denied in an interview at that time that he had worked off The Mission Continues donor list but acknowledged soliciting campaign contributions from some people who supported the charity, which he founded in 2007.

Greitens campaign filed amended campaign finance reports Friday valuing the charity's donor list as a $600 in-kind contribution received March 1, 2015, from Danny Laub, who was listed as Greitens' campaign manager at the time.

Chambers said an outside organization was used to determine a value for the donor list.

The donor list appears to have produced a campaign windfall many times that amount. But Chambers said it wouldn't have been as valuable in the hands of anyone besides Greitens.

"The list is simply the information. The relationship that Eric has built over years with these people, who then decided they wanted to be a part of his mission in Missouri, is why the money was then given to the campaign," Chambers said.

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