New non-profit connected to Greitens raises questions

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JEFFERSON CITY — A push for transparency in government is at the forefront of American politics. Gov. Eric Greitens ran on a platform of ethics reform and transparency, but some are worried he is not keeping his promise.

On Wednesday, KOMU 8 reported a new non-profit organization had been funded to push Greitens' Republican agenda. KOMU 8 took an in-depth look at how this organization works and how it could possibly stray from Greitens' campaign promises.

The non-profit organization, A New Missouri Inc., was founded by Greitens' former campaign treasurer and current senior advisor Austin Chambers. It has raised some concerns because the organization will not have to release who its donors are. According to regulations upheld by the Missouri Ethics Commission, non-profits are not required to share who is donating to them.

This is concerning to some Missouri Democrats.

Michela Skelton is running for the state's 50th house district in a special election in August.

"I was really disappointed to hear about the New Missouri organization because back in November, Missourians voted overwhelmingly for campaign finance reform. If this arrangement doesn't violate the letter of that law, it definitely violates the spirit," Skelton said.

Greitens agreed politicians should change the way campaign finances are handled. He said in his State of the State Address on January 17 he wanted to limit government/lobbyist interaction.

"In our first executive order, we also slammed shut the revolving door between employees of the Governor's office and lobbyists," he said.

In the same address, he also said, "But too many good, strong public servants have come here only to see the will of the people obstructed and corrupted by insiders and lobbyists."

Skelton does not think Greitens upheld this promise.

"Gov. Greitens, you owe it to me as a citizen of Missouri and you owe it to everyone who voted for you to do what you promised to do and make Jefferson City a clean and transparent environment," she said. "Make sure the voters can count on the representatives to actually represent the interests of the people. This set up is not something that gives us that image."

This is not the first time Greitens has had a controversy of this nature. In October, KOMU 8 News reported both major-party gubernatorial candidates were accused of handling "dark money" — a term used to describe a practice in which a campaign accepts donations whose donors do not have to be disclosed.

James Klahr of the Missouri Ethics Commission said, "The legislature, when they started the campaign finance rules back in the '90s, wanted to make sure there was some transparency about the public being able to know who was supporting campaigns."

Klahr also said when a complaint is filed against a candidate, commissioners are required to respond to the complaint within 90 days of receiving it.

Since being in office, Greitens has decided to not use state vehicles and planes for travel so that he could save taxpayers money. Chambers told the Kansas City Star A New Missouri Inc. would be paying for some of those travel expenses. Because the donors' identities will not be released, Missourians may never know who is paying for the governor's travel.

KOMU 8 reached out to Parker Briden, the governor's press secretary, for comment, but he did not respond. KOMU 8 also reached out to A New Missouri Inc., but no one from the group responded.