May 3, 2018 / 4:39 AM / 25 days ago

Lawmakers find Missouri governor lied in ethics inquiry about donor list

(Reuters) - Missouri Governor Eric Greitens lied to state ethics officials about how a list of major donors to his former charity was obtained for use by his gubernatorial campaign, a state House of Representatives panel concluded in a report on Wednesday.

FILE PHOTO: Missouri Governor Eric Greitens appears in a police booking photo in St. Louis, Missouri, U.S., February 22, 2018. St. Louis Metropolitan Police Dept./Handout via REUTERS

The special committee, already investigating unrelated sexual misconduct and invasion-of-privacy allegations against Greitens, based its latest findings on sworn statements given to the panel and the state attorney general by several former campaign and charity associates.

Lawyers for the governor dismissed the matter in a statement as “a minor campaign finance issue” resolved a year ago. They also criticized the House panel for failing to seek testimony from current campaign representatives.

How Greitens, a former U.S. Navy Seal commando, acquired and used the donor list from the military veterans charity he founded in 2007 was investigated by the Missouri Ethics Commission last year.

State Attorney General Josh Hawley has been conducting his own probe of the charity, The Mission Continues, which Greitens left as chief executive four years ago to run for governor.

Hawley’s investigation led St. Louis prosecutors to charge the governor last month with felony computer tampering, alleging he obtained and transmitted the donor list without the charity’s consent for his own political gain.

Greitens, a Republican, has come under mounting pressure from Missouri politicians of both parties to resign since becoming embroiled in a separate scandal stemming from an admitted extramarital affair with a hairdresser.

He was charged in February with felony invasion of privacy for allegedly taking a compromising photo without the consent of a woman with whom he was involved and threatening to blackmail her with it. Hawley, also a Republican, has said the findings of an earlier House committee report on the sex scandal were grounds for impeachment.

RISING STAR

Greitens, once seen as a rising star in the Republican Party, has called the allegations in both cases part of a “smear” campaign orchestrated by St. Louis City Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner, a Democrat. He says he is innocent and has vowed to clear his name in court.

Greitens acknowledged to the ethics commission that he used the charity donor list to raise money for his gubernatorial bid and asserted the list itself was an “in-kind” contribution to his campaign, received from a man named Danny Laub on the charity’s behalf.

As part of a consent decree settling the ethics inquiry, Greitens paid a $100 fine and signed an amended campaign finance report stating Laub had donated The Mission Continues’ list to the campaign in March 2015.

But the House committee said Laub was actually a campaign employee who never worked for the charity and was thus never in a position to authorize disclosure of its donor information to Greitens or anyone else.

Laub himself testified Greitens’ campaign manager tricked him into taking part in the deception, the House panel reported.

In reality, a charity employee had furnished Greitens with the list by email at his direction under false pretenses when he stepped down as the charity’s CEO in May 2014, according to the committee.

The report said Krystal Proctor, a one-time Greitens assistant at the charity who went on to work for his campaign, then passed the list along in January and April 2015 to other campaign operatives, again at Greitens’ behest.

“Laub did not contribute the list to the campaign. Instead it was contributed by Greitens himself through his directions to Proctor,” the committee concluded.

The committee noted that the charity’s nondisclosure policies expressly barred providing the donor list to outside parties without its permission.

Reporting by Steve Gorman in Los Angeles; Editing by Jonathan Oatis and Paul Tait

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