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State Treasurer Eric Schmitt to become Missouri AG after Hawley elected to Senate

State Treasurer Eric Schmitt addresses the press on Tuesday, Nov. 13, 2018, after Gov. Mike Parson announced Schmitt will become Missouri attorney general when current Attorney General Josh Hawley resigns to become a U.S. senator. The press conference was held in the governor's office in Jefferson City. Photo by Laurie Skrivan, lskrivan@post-dispatch.com

JEFFERSON CITY — Just as Missouri Gov. Mike Parson is amassing a campaign war chest in anticipation of a run for a full term, the man he appointed attorney general also is ramping up fundraising heading toward 2020.

Supporters of Republican Eric Schmitt of Glendale have raked in more than a half million dollars on his behalf, collecting cash from big money donors like retired St. Louis financier Rex Sinquefield, who wrote a check for $250,000 in February.

At the helm of the fundraising efforts for the pro-Schmitt political action committee known as MO Opportunity PAC is Meredith Gibbons, who formerly raised millions of dollars for disgraced former Gov. Eric Greitens. Records show she is receiving $8,000 a month to fill the coffers.

The PAC snared a $100,000 check from Herzog Contracting, a St. Joseph-based construction services company run by Stanley Herzog. Herzog is a large donor to Republican causes. In 2016, for example, the company gave $650,000 to Greitens.

Other big donors include August Busch III who gave $50,000 in May.

As of April 1, the PAC had $147,000. However, that doesn’t count an additional $350,000 the PAC has in a certificate of deposit that comes due in September 2019.

And, that doesn’t account for the money Schmitt has raised for his own personal campaign account. The latest reports show he has $415,000 in that account.

For now, the only Democrat who has announced plans to run has just $13,930 in his campaign account.

St. Louis attorney Elad Gross is a political newcomer who is hoping to return the seat to Democratic hands. Before 2017, the post had been held by Democrats dating to 1993.

Schmitt was appointed attorney general after fellow Republican Josh Hawley vacated the office to join the U.S. Senate. He earned his law degree from the St. Louis University School of Law in 2000. He served two terms in the state Senate representing parts of west St. Louis County, and was a partner at the Lathrop Gage law firm until being sworn in as treasurer in 2017.

The two men serving as treasurer and deputy treasurer are Carl Struby and Jean Paul Bradshaw, both of whom are Lathrop Gage attorneys.

Attempts to discuss the fund with them were unsuccessful.

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The campaign fund is similar to one formed on behalf of Parson. Unlike their personal campaign accounts, which cannot receive contributions over $2,600, the separate campaign committees can take in unlimited contributions.

Since Missouri voters enacted limits on campaign contributions in 2016, a growing number of candidates have set up political action committees that do not have to abide by those rules.

But unlike Greitens’ use of a nonprofit to raise money, the names of donors and the amounts they contribute are publicly disclosed.

During his 17 months in office, Greitens used the nonprofit group A New Missouri to promote his agenda.

The use of the nonprofit, which also employed Gibbons, led to accusations that Greitens violated Missouri campaign finance law by intentionally concealing donors, and worries that his backers gained unfair influence within state government.

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