We have been closely following the ongoing dialogue in Missouri, a state where Take Back Our Republic has capitalized on the interest in reform to take multiple trips to organize for reform.
In the Show Me State, there has been an ongoing battle between a coalition of Republican and Democrat lawmakers and the governor, who is hoping to use his 501c4, A New Missouri, Inc., to push for his agenda.
Governor Greitens, elected in November and showing the potential of a rising star, is certainly touching on a significant number of conservative arguments. The new governor has talked about the need to protect First Amendment rights as well as preventing political retribution for campaign contributions. He believes that the unlimited and undisclosed nature of 501c4 contributions is the best avenue, and he has continued to articulate that position recently as the controversy continues to play a major role in state politics.
“The people who believe in voter intimidation believe that the minute you make a political donation, that you immediately need to turn all your information over to the government,” Greitens said. “You need to turn over your home address and your contact information, so that the government can turn around and publish that. We believe in the First Amendment. We’ve always supported people’s right to do this. When people go in and they vote, nobody calls that dark voting.”
Greitens has blamed the “liberal media and career politicians” for opposing his dark money efforts.
However, while Greitens’ argument may sound good, the logic is not exactly sound. As noted in the Kansas City Star, Democrat operative Chuck Hatfield articulates that politicians don’t know who votes for who, and there is clear equality in one person, one vote. At the foundation of Take Back Our Republic’s mission is the fact that we believe that politicians can be influenced and that influence can easily be concentrated in the hands of the wealthy, especially when donations are unlimited. At the very least, the public should be made aware of the potential influence being “purchased.”
Moreover, these statements contradict Greitens’ campaign promises. “What I’ve found is that the most important thing is transparency around the money,” Greitens told St. Louis Public Radio last year. He later added: “I’ve been very proud to tell people, ‘I’m stepping forward and you can see every single one of our donors, because we are proud of our donors and we are proud of the campaign we are running.’”
Now, it is important to note that the 501c4 is not legally tied to Greitens. In fact, tomorrow, it could begin running ads blasting the governor. However, the Kansas City Star notes the number of ties to his office:
“A New Missouri Inc. was founded in February by Greitens’ campaign treasurer and his attorney. It’s run by Austin Chambers, the governor’s senior adviser, and housed in a building owned by one of the governor’s biggest donors. Over the weekend, A New Missouri launched robocalls featuring the governor’s voice attacking GOP Sen. Doug Libla of Poplar Bluff over his opposition to utility legislation pushed by Greitens aimed at luring a steel mill to southeast Missouri. A New Missouri also paid for buses to transport people to the Capitol on Tuesday for a rally in support of the governor’s proposal. Greitens called the General Assembly back into special session this week to debate the utility bill.”
Let’s be clear, Take Back Our Republic appreciates Governor Greitens both for his campaign promises and for his understanding of the political retribution problem. Additionally, we also have Take Back Action Fund, a 501c4 that can accept unlimited, undisclosed contributions that would allow us to perform certain activities.
However, Take Back Our Republic is not a politician that can be influenced with money. There also have been concerns with the tactics used by A New Missouri, Inc. and the level of connections with the governor’s office. Additionally, the timing has to be concerning. Missourians approved new campaign contribution limits in November, and one has to be concerned about efforts to circumvent the will of the voters.
We are not saying that Governor Greitens should unilaterally “disarm,” and we are not saying he is doing something illegal. However, we do hope that the heart for reform he displayed on the campaign trail, combined with some of the statements he has made, leads him to see there is a better way.
Dark money should never be the primary way campaigns or legislative agendas are funded. Missouri does need reform, and we genuinely hope the opposing lawmakers and governor will come together to make certain to solve problems surrounding political retribution and dark money.