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Koster, Greitens continue to rake in the most campaign money

stacks of money

Many candidates curtail their money-raising during the holidays, assuming that donors would prefer to focus on something other than politics.

Not so the two biggest money-raisers in Missouri’s heated 2016 contest for governor: Democrat Chris Koster and Republican Eric Greitens.

Koster, currently Missouri’s attorney general, has raised at least $436,000 in large donations of more than $5,000 apiece just since Nov. 1. Greitens, an author and former Navy Seal, has raised at least $415,000 in large donations during that same period.

Much of Koster’s large donations – including two that are $100,000 apiece – have been from trial lawyers and labor unions.

The Western Missouri and Kansas City District Council of the Laborers union gave him $100,000 on Dec. 12. On Nov. 2, Koster collected $100,000 from the St. Louis-based Simon Law Firm.

Meanwhile, Greitens’ tally came from more donations in smaller amounts. As has been the case throughout his campaign, the bulk of his most generous contributions have come from investments firms or their executives.

Since Nov. 1, he’s collected three contributions of $50,000 apiece. Two of them came from executives of the St. Louis-based investment firm of Cequel III: chairman Jerald Kent and Howard and Marilyn Wood.

Author Eric Greitens talks to 'St. Louis on the Air' host Don Marsh on March 16, 2015, at St. Louis Public Radio in St. Louis.
Credit Alex Heuer / St. Louis Public Radio
St. Louis Public Radio
Eric Greitens

When it comes to money, Greitens has continued to outpace his Republican rivals – most of whom have had few – if any -- large donations in recent months.

Republican candidate John Brunner, a St. Louis businessman who has been sparring with Greitens for weeks, has collected less than $35,000 in large donations since Nov. 1. And more than half of that amount was a check for $18,180 that he wrote to himself.

Former state House Speaker Catherine Hanaway reported one $10,000 donation during that same period, while Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder received one donation of $5,001.

Greitens, Koster under fire

The top money-raisers’ financial success may help explain why Koster and Greitens continue to be the contest’s top political targets.

Greitens’ Republican critics continue to assert that he’s a Democrat in disguise. The web publication Politico picked up on the attacks this week, noting for example the fact that A) Democrats tried to recruit Greitens to run for Congress a few years ago and B) his friends including former Missouri Gov. Bob Holden, a Democrat.

Attorney General Chris Koster delivered the strongest attack against Republicans at the Truman Dinner, the Democratic Party's largest fundraiser.
Credit Jo Mannies | St. Louis Public Radio
Chris Koster

A former aide to Brunner set up an anti-Greitens’ attack website, which prompted the now-infamous recorded phone call between Greitens and Brunner, where Greitens blasted Brunner. Although Brunner denied any involvement in the website, he has continued to jab at Greitens’ political credentials.

Meanwhile, national Republican groups continue to zero in on Koster – a former Republican who switched parties in 2007.

Last week, for example, top Republican organizations sought to tie Koster to Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, by accusing both of unethical behavior. (The duo’s campaigns and their allies have denied any improprieties.)

Koster attended Clinton’s St. Louis rally on Friday, which prompted a flood of traffic on Twitter – some of it from GOP critics.

Still, no other major Missouri Democrat appears interested in challenging Koster in next year’s primary. And his hefty bank account – which now likely totals at least $5.5 million – may be a key reason.

Jo Mannies is a freelance journalist and former political reporter at St. Louis Public Radio.