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Missouri state auditor Nicole Galloway

Missouri state auditor Nicole Galloway explains why she has launched a special task force to monitor the financial health of Missouri's rural hospitals during an interview withe business reporter Samantha Liss on Tuesday, Aug. 15, 2017, at the Post-Dispatch. Photo by Laurie Skrivan, lskrivan@post-dispatch.com

JEFFERSON CITY — Auditor Nicole Galloway on Thursday issued an open letter to Gov. Mike Parson pressuring the governor to address the influence of so-called dark money in state government.

Galloway, a Democrat who is preparing to launch a campaign for governor, said Parson, a Republican, could take executive actions that would address the perception of pay-to-play politics by groups that do not have to reveal the sources of their donations.

The letter was the latest effort by Galloway to differentiate herself from Parson, whom she would likely face in next year’s gubernatorial election if both decide to run as expected. Parson’s office did not respond to a request for comment.

“You could issue an executive order immediately to ensure transparency when it comes to the role of dark money in securing government contracts,” Galloway said, adding that she had proposed legislation that would act as a framework for such an executive order.

Her legislation, she said, would require people or businesses entering into a state contract for $5,000 or more to disclose payments over $500 annually to 501(c)(4) nonprofits, which do not have to reveal donors.

Galloway, 37, was appointed state auditor in 2015 and narrowly won a four-year term last November. That means she could run against Parson, 63, next year without sacrificing her statewide office if she lost.

Her letter comes a year after she sent a similar letter to Parson, days after former Gov. Eric Greitens left office and Parson was sworn in. Greitens’ 501(c)(4) nonprofit, A New Missouri, raised $6.1 million in contributions in 2017, and the identities of the vast majority of the nonprofit’s donors remain secret.

In her 2019 letter, Galloway cited Kingdom Principles, a 501(c)(4) nonprofit that tried to alter how colleges and universities handle sexual assault claims, as a reason Parson should address dark money.

“Media reports uncovered a trail of correspondence strategizing about this matter between lawmakers and a lobbyist who formed the dark money group behind the legislation,” Galloway said.

She also suggested a measure pending on Parson’s desk would create “the conditions for public corruption” if signed into law by reducing the number of requests for proposals advertised by the state and ultimately making the bidding process less competitive.

Among the provisions of House Bill 1088, nicknamed by proponents the “Million Dollar Boondoggle Act,” is one that she argued would make the “potential use” of shortlisting “discretionary to all state contracts.”

Shortlisting is a method used by state entities to limit the number of businesses eligible to compete in the bidding process.

In the 2018 letter, Galloway asked Parson to “resolve the specter of dark money and secret donors influencing government.”

She said the Legislature should pass a law requiring 501(c)(4) nonprofits — such as A New Missouri — to disclose donors. Lawmakers did not approve that legislation during the last legislative session.

Parson’s allies have not launched a 501(c)(4) nonprofit of their own. Instead, the governor has raised money for his election through a political action committee that files paperwork with the Missouri Ethics Commission.

Unlike a traditional campaign account, his Uniting Missouri PAC can accept unlimited donations. But unlike a 501(c)(4) nonprofit, Parson must reveal the source of every donation.

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