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Vice President and Missouri governor visit vandalized cemetery

Vice President Mike Pence and Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens walks through the Chesed Shel Emeth Cemetery in University City on Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2017, after viewing some of the damage done the previous weekend when more than 150 headstones were overturned. Photo by J.B. Forbes,

JEFFERSON CITY • On at least four occasions last year, Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens visited the offices of the nonprofit formed to promote his agenda, according to a Post-Dispatch review of his daily calendar.

He must have liked what he saw.

In campaign finance reports filed this week, the now-embattled governor reported that his campaign operation is leasing space in the same warren of offices housing A New Missouri, the dark money group that he says he has no day-to-day responsibility in managing.

The close proximity of the offices, both situated just a block from the Capitol and the Governor’s Mansion, is another example of the big-money coordination and secrecy that has marked the Republican’s fundraising operation.

Last year, for example, Greitens agreed to pay a penalty to state election regulators after failing to report that his campaign used a donor list from the charity he founded to help military veterans.

He also refused to disclose how much donors gave to his inaugural festivities.

Sen. Rob Schaaf, a vocal critic of the Republican chief executive, said the newest fundraising arrangement showed that the governor had more of a role in A New Missouri than he has previously acknowledged.

“I think people need to remember that the governor is A New Missouri and the governor is his campaign fund,” said Schaaf, R-St. Joseph.

Last week, after news broke that Greitens had an extramarital affair before he was elected and allegedly threatened to blackmail the woman if she revealed their relationship, the former Navy SEAL retreated to the building housing A New Missouri and his campaign operation.

It was not clear what he was doing in the building, which office he was in or how long he was there. But numerous lawmakers said they received phone calls from the governor on Thursday and Friday of last week apologizing for the affair but denying the blackmail allegation.

Greitens did not respond to questions from the Post-Dispatch when he emerged from a rear alley door, entered his waiting police escort vehicle and headed back to the Capitol on Jan. 12.

A New Missouri was formed after the governor was elected in 2016 to promote Greitens’ agenda of more jobs, higher pay and safer streets. As a nonprofit, however, contributions to the organization — unlike a standard federal or state campaign fund — are not limited, and donors are not required to be disclosed.

That means A New Missouri won’t have to rely on contributions coming in under new caps on campaign contributions approved by nearly 70 percent of Missouri voters in the 2016 election.

Once formed, the nonprofit found a home in a downtown Jefferson City building owned by a company with the same address as Herzog Services — a construction firm headed by Republican mega-donor Stanley Herzog of St. Joseph.

In January 2017, soon after taking office, the governor’s official calendar shows he spent 45 minutes in the offices with his campaign adviser Austin Chambers, who also runs the nonprofit. The subject of one phone call during his time in the office was members of his cabinet, the calendar notes.

The calendar also shows he went to events at the office on Feb. 7 and Feb. 21.

Records filed with the Missouri Ethics Commission this week show the governor’s campaign operation began paying rent on space in the building in September. The campaign office had been in St. Louis.

Through Jan. 1, the campaign has spent $7,642 on the Jefferson City lease.

Michael Adams, a Washington -based attorney who works for both the campaign fund and the nonprofit, said there was a firewall in place between the two entities.

“I can confirm that the campaign and A New Missouri have separate leases with landlords at fair market value,” Adams said in an email.

Adams also represents the Republican Governors Association, which funneled $13 million to Greitens’ campaign fund during his 2016 run.

An attorney for the Brennan Center for Justice in New York said the arrangement should raise red flags for voters.

“What you’re talking about is troubling,” said Chisun Lee, senior counsel in the Democracy Program at the Brennan Center. “At the moment, there are gaping loopholes in conflict of interest and campaign finance laws.”

Without transparency, Lee said, there is no way of knowing whether individuals and companies are giving money to A New Missouri in hopes of winning favorable contracts from the administration or altering state law to benefit their bottom lines.

“The public deserves to know who is contributing money to the nonprofit,” Lee said.

The Brennan Center is poised to release a report on the trend that includes suggestions for state-level disclosure laws for nonprofits such as A New Missouri.

“It’s the public that is losing out on critical information,” Lee said.

While money flowing in and out of A New Missouri isn’t public, Greitens’ campaign fund shows he raised $629,695 during the final three months of 2017 to finish with a total of $2.7 million.

After running as an outsider on the premise that he would root out special interests and corruption, Greitens reported that top donors during the quarter included top officials at Centene, Ameren, Enterprise Holdings and Schnucks.

The Boeing Company political action committee gave him $27,600.

Herzog, who contributed $650,000 to Greitens during the campaign, contributed the maximum $2,600 in the most recent period.

Among the campaign’s expenses was $22,003 paid to Chambers for consulting work. The campaign also paid $3,278 to Georgia-based C5 Creative Consulting, which is headed by Nick Ayers, chief of staff to Vice President Mike Pence.

The governor’s campaign operation paid Adams’ law firm, Chalmers Burch & Adams, $39,762 in 2017. In addition to his role with Greitens and the RGA, Adams also represents one of Pence’s political action committees.

Post-Dispatch coverage of Greitens' affair scandal

From Greitens' initial statement to calls for his resignation, read the Post-Dispatch coverage of the governor's affair scandal.

For coverage of the Confide app, campaign issues and The Mission Continues fundraising, go here.

A lawyer for Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens said Monday morning that prosecutors had ended their efforts to find a photo of the woman at the cent…

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Kurt Erickson is a reporter for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch