TARGET 8 fact checks Koster's attack of Greitens' nonprofit money
COLUMBIA - KOMU 8 News's investigative team is fact checking politicans' political ad campaigns in preparation for the upcoming November 8 election.
Target 8 looked into claims made by Chris Koster's campaign attacking Eric Greitens.
The ads attack Greitens veteran's nonprofit called The Mission Continues. It claims Greitens used money for veterans for his own political gain. The group's website states the nonprofit "empowers veterans who are adjusting to life at home to find purpose through community impact."
Koster is the Democratic nominee for Missouri governor, while Greitens is the Republican nominee.
Koster's campaign provided the sources for each statement referenced in multiple attack ads, and Target 8 independently checked all of the claims in the ads. Greitens' campaign declined to give an interview or comment on claims made in the ads titled "Divert" and "Money".
'Greitens used money from his veteran's charity to pay himself over $700,000': TRUE
Greitens' nonprofit The Mission Continues started in 2007.
CPA Lynn J. Graves has more than 40 years of public, corporate and governmental accounting experience, specializing in audits of public subdivisions and not-for-profit organizations.
Graves said the purpose of a 990 tax form is to give the IRS an information return about annual activities and information of a particular tax-exempt organization.
"A tax-exempt for an organization goes through an application process at the time they are being organized. The IRS will approve or disapprove that application. And so, once that has been accepted by the IRS, the 990 is really continuing to inform the government of the activities for the year to substantiate what they originally approved in the taxes in the organization for," Graves said.
KOMU 8 analyzed The Mission Continues 990 tax forms and found salaries of administrators.
Greitens did not have an income in 2008 and 2015.
His salary from the organization varied between 2009-2013.
According to the nonprofit's 990 tax forms, Greitens made:
- 2009: $101,500 in compensation from the organization
- 2010: $50,000 in compensation from the organization
- 2011: $200,000 in compensation from the organization and an additional $3,801 in benefits, retirement and other compensation.
- 2012: $175,000 in compensation from the organization and an additional $11,142 in benefits, retirement and other compensation.
- 2013: $175,000 in compensation from the organization and an additional $11,507 in benefits, retirement and other compensation.
- 2014: $24 in compensation from the organization and an additional $15,981 in benefits, retirement and other compensation.
Total = $743,955
Nonprofit Missouri board member Stephen Jeanetta said CEO salaries for nonprofits vary depending on the success of an organization.
"They don’t want organizations using their nonprofits to give salaries to big people. And so, the IRS typically encourages nonprofits to keep their salaries within a certain range," Jeanetta said.
Graves said by law every exempt organization is required to disclose why administrators get paid what they do.
According to the 990 tax form from 2013, "The process for determining compensation of the organization's CEO included a review and approval by independent persons, compatibility data from various national veterans organizations, other Midwest social service organizations, and the CEO's salary history, and contemporaneous substantiation of the deliberation and decision."
Greitens not the only administrator paid by the charity
One thing the ad does not mention is in addition to Greitens getting paid, there were other people paid by the nonprofit as well.
President Spencer Kympton made $195,699 in 2013, which is $9,192 more than what Greitens made that year.
In 2014, when Greitens made $16,005, Kympton made $199,330.
Graves also said it is important to consider salaries in relation to the value of the nonprofit. After reviewing the tax forms, he estimated The Mission Continues to be worth around $19 million.
"With 6 million dollars spent in salaries and compensation they generated 19 million dollars in gross revenue for the organization. So those are pretty big numbers. That’s a large organization," Grave said.
Eric Greitens' charity 'spent another $600,000 of the charity's money on image consultants': TRUE
According to IRS records, The Mission Continues hired an independent contractor, Fleishman Hillard, Inc., for PR consulting.
- 2013: $305,382
- 2014: $314,217
Total = $619,599
There is nothing on the publicly available tax forms to show exactly what that money went toward. The website for Fleishman Hillard, Inc. shows it is a public relations and marketing agency that offers services including reputation management, brand marketing, and media relations.
Jeanetta said you don't see much work with image consultants in nonprofits because "Most nonprofits are trying to make sure most of their resources they take in are being used for what people are giving them the resources to do."
KOMU 8 News asked Graves if something like this was odd to see in the tax form.
"It just depends on what they are trying to accomplish, and again they have generated a lot of contributions, so they have got to get their name out there in front of the public. They have got to get their message out, you gotta get it disseminated to the right people who are going to send you money for each charitable cause."
KOMU 8 News reached out to Greitens' campaign asking what that money was used for and never received a comment back.
'Eric used [the money] to start his political career': INCOMPLETE
KOMU 8 News reviewed Greitens' campaign contribution records and found he gave himself $50,000 to his own campaign in 2015, but KOMU 8 News cannot definitively say where that money came from.
According to RealClearPolitics the most recent poll shows that Koster is currently leading by five points in the polls.