By DAVID A. LIEB , Associated Press
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — A legislative investigation into Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens pressed ahead Wednesday at both a courthouse and the Capitol, as attorneys argued over subpoenas involving a pro-Greitens group and lawmakers questioned the source of a six-figure cash payment related to allegations of sexual misconduct by Greitens.
Missouri lawmakers are meeting in special session to determine whether to pursue impeachment proceedings against Greitens in an attempt to oust him from office.
In Cole County Circuit Court, Judge Jon Beetem issued no immediate ruling Wednesday after listening to arguments on whether Greitens’ gubernatorial campaign and A New Missouri nonprofit should be compelled to comply with legislative subpoenas seeking information about the secretive group that supports Greitens’ agenda.
A New Missouri is a 501c4 social welfare nonprofit that doesn’t have to disclose the identities of its donors. The organization has spent money on behalf of Greitens and his policy goals, including making contributions to other groups supporting a right-to-work law Greitens signed limiting union powers.
House attorney Mark Kempton said the subpoenas are trying to “get to the bottom of whether or not there have been any campaign contribution violations.”
Although the subpoenas were broader, he said lawmakers currently are focused on just a couple of main areas — communications and documents showing potential coordination between Greitens, his campaign committee and A New Missouri; and communications and expenditures by A New Missouri related to media advertising.
Attorney Catherine Hanaway, a former GOP gubernatorial rival who now represents Greitens’ campaign and A New Missouri, argued that the request to enforce the subpoenas should be dismissed. She noted that the House resolution creating the investigatory panel limits it to allegations against Greitens and added that A New Missouri is a separate entity.
“The subpoenas are sweeping in their demands and not within the scope of the House investigation,” Hanaway told the judge.
Beetem gave attorneys until the end of business Friday to submit additional written arguments and proposed rulings.
At the Capitol, House committee members focused on another aspect of their investigation: whether Greitens engaged in misconduct during what he has described as a consensual affair in 2015, before he won election.
Greitens acknowledged the affair in January after TV station KMOV aired excerpts of an audio recording in which a woman describes to her husband how Greitens had bound her hands, blindfolded her, taken a photo of her partially nude and threatened to distribute it if she talked about their encounter.
Lawmakers on Wednesday continued to read aloud transcripts of a deposition taken in April by Greitens’ attorneys of the woman as part of a felony invasion-of-privacy charge against Greitens that later was dismissed.
Greitens’ lawyers asked the woman about a wide range of questions, from belly button piercing to times she lied to friends and family about Greitens and intimate details of sexual encounters with the governor. She also was questioned about returning to see Greitens after she says he slapped her.
The House committee later heard testimony from The Missouri Times publisher Scott Faughn, who said he paid $120,000 cash in several installments in early 2017 to Al Watkins, an attorney for the woman’s ex-husband.
Faughn said $100,000 was for the purchase of the audio recordings, which he hopes to use in a book about Greitens, and the additional $20,000 was for Watkins’ legal services for Faughn.
Faughn testified that the money was his own but repeatedly refused to answer legislative questions about how he got the money. Faughn said he wouldn’t discuss the inner operations of his business. The Jefferson City-based newspaper focuses on coverage of the state capital.
Lawmakers were incredulous.
“No one believes that it’s your own money. That’s a lot of cash,” Committee Chairman Rep. Jay Barnes told Faughn.
Greitens’ attorneys and supporters have pointed to the cash payments while suggesting there was some sort of strategy from political opponents to publicize the audio recordings in an attempt to damage the governor.
Faughn, who is a frequent critic of Greitens, said he hadn’t shared the audio recordings with anyone besides Barnes.
Associated Press reporter Summer Ballentine contributed to this report.