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Senators tee off on Greitens-affiliated nonprofit as dark money disclosure effort fizzles

Senators tee off on Greitens-affiliated nonprofit as dark money disclosure effort fizzles

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JEFFERSON CITY • A nonprofit run by allies of Gov. Eric Greitens probably won’t have to reveal its donors after running attack ads against a fellow Republican senator two weeks ago, but members of the upper chamber nevertheless took an opportunity to slam the political newcomer and his allies’ aggressive tactics.

Sen. Rob Schaaf, R-St. Joseph, tried to tack requirements that those nonprofits reveal where they get their money onto legislation aiming to limit lobbyist gifts to legislators, but was met with stiff opposition from Sen. Bob Onder, R-Lake Saint Louis.

Onder and Sen. Bill Eigel, R-St. Charles, worried that revealing the names of donors to politically active nonprofits such as the National Rifle Association and Planned Parenthood would violate their right to free speech and expose them to harassment.

But the threat of filibuster didn’t stop a series of rebukes of the organization A New Missouri, run by Greitens campaign adviser Austin Chambers, for targeting Schaaf in digital ads last month and preparing several more against other senators.

The ads aimed at Schaaf, which displayed his personal cellphone number, said he was blocking proposals aimed at allowing law enforcement to more quickly apprehend suspects who have harmed police officers and enacting the governor’s ethics reform platform.

But Schaaf said Friday he was actually pushing ethics reform by making groups like A New Missouri more transparent. Such organizations can collect unlimited, confidential donations in apparent avoidance of the new caps on campaign contributions approved by 70 percent of voters in November.

“There should be no such influence as is occurring now by the executive branch trying to affect the deliberations of the legislative branch,” he said.

Sen. Bob Dixon, R-Springfield, joined at length, seizing on a Springfield News-Leader report that the nonprofit had prepared similar ads targeting other Republicans, including himself and Sen. Doug Libla, R-Poplar Bluff.

First, he asked Libla about his long-standing support for an organization that helps families of Missouri state troopers who die in the line of duty.

Then, after choking up at Libla’s comments about their work backing law enforcement and bursting with laughter at A New Missouri’s audacity, he moved on to Chambers and Greitens.

“The people expect and deserve openness,” he said. “Who hides? Who slinks around under the cloak of darkness and professes to serve the people who expect openness?”

He bemoaned that the governor seemed to have forgotten former president Ronald Reagan’s 11th commandment — “Thou shalt not speak ill of any fellow Republican” — and castigated his leadership ability.

Senate Majority Leader Mike Kehoe, R-Jefferson City, rounded out the criticism before postponing debate on his lobbyist gift limits bill.

“Even though we do not agree on what some these amendments do and don’t do, I think we all agree that attacking fellow senators is something we draw the line at,” he said. “Those attacks, especially the ones we’ve seen recently, are way, way, way out of whack.”

A spokesman for the governor did not respond to a request for comment Friday.

Greitens has denied working with A New Missouri’s advertisements and said he had no “day-to-day responsibilities” with the organization.

Chambers declined to comment.

The Senate returns for its final week of session Monday, but lawmakers have said hopes for any success with ethics legislation would probably have to wait until next year.

The legislative session ends at 6 p.m. Friday.

Austin Huguelet 573-556-6184

@ahuguelet on Twitter

ahuguelet@post-dispatch.com

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