Eric Greitens was biggest donor to own Senate campaign; state filing raises red flags

Bryan Lowry
·4 min read

One donor accounts for more than half of the money raised so far by former Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens’ U.S. Senate campaign.

Eric Greitens.

His campaign collected $27,313, according to its filing Thursday with the Federal Election Commission.

More than half was in the form of an $18,000 in-kind donation to himself for his website, EricGreitens.com, which was transformed to a site for the Senate campaign last month.

While Greitens’ report covers only the final week of March — and doesn’t necessarily represent the extent of the resources he’ll have at his disposal — it is an inauspicious fundraising start for a candidacy launched nationally on Fox News and rolled out with a series of high-profile endorsements.

The Republican’s total represents about a tenth of what was raised by Democrats Lucas Kunce and Scott Sifton during the first quarter of the 2022 cycle.

The campaign also reported a little more than $18,000 in expenses — nearly all of that being the same in-kind donation for the website. The campaign has a little more than $9,000 cash on hand.

During his 2016 run for governor and his short tenure in office, Greitens was buoyed by independent dark money groups.

He resigned in 2018 in the face of multiple scandals, including allegations of sexual blackmail and assault that were deemed deemed credible by a Republican-led legislative committee.

He still maintains a state campaign account with nearly $200,000, but he’s barred from using it for his Senate candidacy under state and federal campaign rules.

However, Greitens’ state report filed Thursday with the Missouri Ethics Commission raises some red flags.

The state campaign spent $48,000 during the quarter, including $1,200 paid for strategic planning in February to The Octavian Group, a Washington consulting firm owned by Greitens’ Senate campaign manager Dylan Johnson.

Johnson received no payment from the federal campaign, according to the FEC report. He did not respond to an email Thursday.

Greitens’ state committee also spent $7,500 for media services in March shortly before the official launch of his Senate campaign.

Brendan Fischer, director of federal reform for the Campaign Legal Center, said in an email that “any expenses incurred while exploring a potential federal candidacy must be paid for with funds subject to federal limits, and if the person does become a federal candidate, those expenses must be reported on the candidate’s first FEC report. The contributions that paid for those expenses must also be reported to the FEC.”

The Campaign Legal Center, a nonpartisan watchdog, filed an FEC complaint against New York City Mayor Bill DeBlasio in 2019 for allegedly using his mayoral campaign account to explore a presidential run.

“Sounds like the DeBlasio situation could be analogous to Greitens,” Fischer said.

Greitens’ state campaign faced a $178,000 fine from the Missouri Ethics Commission last year for campaign finance violations.

Greitens’ rival for the Republican nomination, Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt, announced his candidacy the same week as Greitens, but he won’t report his campaign expenditures until July because he did not officially form his campaign committee until April.

Both Republicans will speak at the Jackson County Republican Committee’s Reagan-Lincoln Day dinner in Blue Springs on Saturday.

Greitens trailed Democrats in fundraising despite the state’s GOP lean.

Kunce, a first-time candidate from Independence who also launched his candidacy in March, significantly outraised Greitens after sending out numerous fundraising pleas via text message. Kunce, a Marine veteran, raised more than $280,000 for the quarter and has more than $194,000 cash on hand after spending $87,000.

But the bulk of Kunce’s money is from outside of Missouri with 89 % of his itemized contributions coming from out of state.

Sifton, a former state senator from the St. Louis area who launched his campaign in February, pulled in more than $300,000 and ended the quarter with more than $145,000 cash on hand. Most of Sifton’s money has come from Missouri donors with 86 % of his itemized donations coming from inside the state.

Earlier versions of this story incorrectly reported Greitens’ state committee’s finances. Greitens for Missouri spent most of its $6 million and is now down to roughly $200,000. These state campaign funds may not be used for the Senate campaign.

McClatchy’s Ben Wieder contributed to this report.