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A little-known Missouri nonprofit has filed an elections complaint against Chesterfield officials, alleging they spent city money campaigning against advocacy group Better Together’s petition to merge St. Louis and St. Louis County.

In sending his complaint, Gregg Keller, president of the Joseph Wingate Folk Society, also outed himself as the mystery client of Jefferson City lawyer Chuck Hatfield, who has already sent two similar complaints to the Missouri Secretary of State’s office, against Des Peres and Shrewsbury municipal officials.

The Joseph Wingate Folk Society is dedicated to holding government accountable, Keller said in the complaint. Keller, a top aide to former U.S. Sen. Jim Talent, now runs the Atlas Strategy Group, has consulted on the campaigns of at least five Republican presidential candidates, and ran a conservative political organization fined for illegally passing campaign contributions to a political action committee. Keller also sits on the board of the Show-Me Institute, a libertarian think tank funded by financier and philanthropist Rex Sinquefield. Sinquefield has also been a major funder of Better Together.

Keller signed Wednesday’s complaint, which accuses Chesterfield Mayor Bob Nation of advocating in a city newsletter against Better Together’s ballot proposal.

“The style, tenor and timing of Mayor Nation’s letter demonstrates that the Mayor stepped well over the line of providing purely factual information and strayed deep into impermissible opposition,” Keller wrote.

Keller said the Chesterfield City Council also broke state law when it passed a March resolution openly opposing Better Together. The city spent public money passing the resolution, maintaining a webpage with information against Better Together and creating and sending Nation’s letter, Keller said.

“First I’ve heard of it,” Nation said of the complaint. “We studied the petition. The intent was to inform the public.”

Nation called Keller’s complaint an “abuse of the intent” of the law.

Hatfield, a lawyer at Stinson Leonard Street, sent letters in March to all 88 county municipalities demanding they account for any use of public dollars against Better Together’s petition.

Hatfield initially wouldn’t say who was paying him. Better Together denied involvement.

In 2017, Keller ran the American Conservative Union when it agreed to pay part of a $350,000 fine to the Federal Election Commission in connection with allegations that it pocketed $90,000 by illegally passing a $1.71 million donation to a federal political action committee.

David Hunn • 314-340-8121 @davidhunn on Twitter dhunn@post-dispatch.com

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