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Case dismissed against Gov. Greitens

Gov. Eric Greitens addresses the media on the steps of the Civil Court building on Monday, May 14, 2018, after the case against him was dismissed. Photo by J.B. Forbes, jforbes@post-dispatch.com

JEFFERSON CITY — Fair Missouri, a political action committee backing an effort to scrap the state’s new redistricting system, spent $43,098 last fundraising quarter, with much of the money going to political firms tied to former Gov. Eric Greitens.

The Post-Dispatch reported in June that the Missouri Republican Party was the only major donor to Fair Missouri, writing two checks totaling $200,000 to the group in November and January, respectively. Many Republicans believe the new redistricting plan, approved by voters in 2018, will benefit Democrats.

But, the payments angered some party leaders, who accused then-party Chairman Todd Graves of draining the party’s resources for a project over which the Missouri GOP had no control.

After the $200,000 in donations, and accounting for other expenses, the party’s federal account had just $23,512 on hand as of Jan. 31, federal records show.

As of Thursday, Fair Missouri had filed no paperwork with the state that would allow it to collect signatures for a ballot initiative, though lawmakers could also place a question on the ballot.

Graves and William Greim Jr., the treasurer of Fair Missouri and the brother of Graves’ law partner, did not return calls seeking comment.

Pat Thomas, a longtime GOP official and current party treasurer said in June the GOP was not receiving status reports from Fair Missouri and that it was "a totally separate entity to the Missouri Republican Party."

Thomas said Thursday that as top-ranking Missouri GOP officials, Graves and ex-Executive Director Ray Bozarth had discretion to spend all party funds.

“Some members expressed concern about the process — rightly so,” Thomas told the Post-Dispatch, adding the party is considering changes to its bylaws that would tighten financial controls.

Meanwhile, money that had been in the Missouri GOP’s coffers is now in the hands of political consultants.

Fair Missouri reported last month to the Missouri Ethics Commission that it paid MGS Consulting $6,000 between April and June for what is only described as “consulting.” It paid San Diego-based Bask Digital Media $11,500 for what is only described as “digital.”

Fair Missouri also paid Scott Turk $1,181 in expense reimbursements last quarter; Turk was on Greitens’ campaign payroll as recently as March 1.

Kristen Blanchard Ansley, a former GOP official and organizer for a pro-“right-to-work” group that received money from Greitens’ nonprofit, received $1,497 in expense reimbursements from Fair Missouri.

Not all of the money spent by Fair Missouri went to Greitens allies.

Fair Missouri paid Atlas Strategy Group, owned by Gregg Keller, a Republican consultant and outspoken Greitens opponent, $6,000 from April through June for “consulting.”

He said he was hired for “communications purposes.”

Keller, who is known for his flame-throwing Twitter presence, tweeted 18 times from March 27 to May 7 using the words “Clean Missouri,” the name of the group that backed the voter-approved redistricting changes in 2018.

He has not since used the words “Clean Missouri” in any tweets.

Of Fair Missouri, Keller said, “They’re not currently a client.”

Both MGS and Bask were closely tied to the campaign apparatus of Greitens, a Republican who resigned last June after acknowledging an affair and facing allegations of campaign finance violations.

In 2016 and 2017, Greitens for Missouri paid Bask Digital Media approximately $284,000 for its services, according to a review of Missouri Ethics Commission records.

The campaign also paid Meredith Gibbons, the owner of MGS Consulting, approximately $100,000 during that time, ethics commission records show.

Records show the only Missouri groups that made payments to Gibbons and Bask Digital in 2016 and 2017 were Greitens’ campaign or other accounts tied to him. Representatives with Bask Digital and Gibbons could not be reached for comment.

Greitens’ dark-money nonprofit, A New Missouri, funneled more money to Gibbons and Bask Digital.

A New Missouri paid Gibbons $140,000 for her fundraising efforts, an IRS filing showed. It also paid Bask Digital Media $488,025.

A New Missouri also backed an effort to keep Greitens’ signature achievement, a “right-to-work” law, on the books amid an ultimately successful effort by unions to repeal it.

Missouri Ethics Commission records show that Freedom to Work, which received money from A New Missouri, paid Gibbons’ MGS Consulting $69,000 between August 2017 and June 2018. Bask Digital Media received $24,011 between March and May 2018.

Jack Suntrup • 573-556-6184 @JackSuntrup on Twitter jsuntrup@post-dispatch.com

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Jack Suntrup covers state government and politics for the Post-Dispatch.