JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — A veterans’ charity founded by Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens says it will support an attorney general’s inquiry into “the misuse of our resources by the Greitens campaign,” following reports that the Republican governor used the charity’s donor list and email account as he launched his political career.
The president of The Mission Continues posted a statement online Tuesday assuring supporters that the charity did not authorize Greitens’ campaign to use its donor list. A similar statement was emailed Monday evening to supporters.
The Missouri attorney general’s office confirmed last week that it has an open inquiry into The Mission Continues under the state’s consumer protection and charitable reporting laws.
Federal tax law prohibits charities such as The Mission Continues from being involved in political campaigns on behalf of candidates, with penalties ranging up to the loss of their tax-exempt status. The legal consequences for individual charity directors are less clear.
The Associated Press first reported in October 2016 that Greitens’ campaign had obtained the charity’s donor list in early 2015 and raised about $2 million from those on it. The AP reported last week that Greitens also had used a Mission Continues email address to arrange political meetings in January 2015.
Greitens faces troubles on several fronts. A St. Louis grand jury indicted him last month on a felony invasion-of-privacy charge for allegedly taking a nonconsensual photo of a partially nude woman with whom he was having an extramarital affair in 2015 and transmitting it in a way that could be accessed by a computer. A trial is set to begin May 14.
On Tuesday, members of a special Missouri House committee investigating the allegations against Greitens met for the first time. They voted unanimously to have a meeting Wednesday at the Jefferson City Police Department be a closed one.
The committee’s chairman, Republican Rep. Jay Barnes, told a room packed with journalists that the panel’s sole purpose is as a “fact-finding entity.”
“Having that completely open would destroy the very purpose of the committee,” Barnes said. “We also have, I believe, a responsibility to protect the identity and the privacy of witnesses, and we will do our best to make sure that that happens.”
The committee will release a public report and records after it concludes, Barnes said.
Depending on the results, the House investigation could be used to initiate impeachment proceedings to try to remove Greitens from office.
Supporters of Greitens have started a nonprofit legal defense fund. On Tuesday, a Kansas City law firm also created a nonprofit legal expense fund for Greitens’ staff, several of whom have received subpoenas from the St. Louis grand jury as part of an ongoing investigation.
Mission Continues President Spencer Kympton said in a statement to supporters that Greitens’ campaign actions had disrupted the work of the charity Greitens founded in 2007. Greitens stepped down as CEO in July 2014 but remained as a director through August 2015. He launched an exploratory committee for governor in February 2015.
“Any use of The Mission Continues resources for any political or other unauthorized purpose would violate our policies and the trust we expect from each member of our staff,” Kympton said in the letter to the charity’s supporters. “If contacted, we will work to support the attorney general’s inquiry regarding the misuse of our resources by the Greitens campaign.”
Kympton is based out of the charity’s New York office.
A spokeswoman for the New York attorney general’s office declined to comment Tuesday about whether it also has an open investigation into The Mission Continues.
Greitens founded the charity with a goal of getting veterans involved in their communities after their active-duty military careers. The organization says it now has 79 active operations in more than 40 cities across the U.S.
At a hearing on Tuesday in St. Louis Circuit Court, attorneys for Greitens told a judge they had no plans to request that the criminal case be moved out of St. Louis “unless new information comes up” that merits a venue change request. Also Tuesday, prosecutors filed a response to Greitens’ motion to dismiss the indictment, saying there were no legal grounds for dismissal.