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Kansas City lawyer tied to tea party groups tapped to be new head of Missouri Republican Party

Todd Graves

Updated Dec. 14 with Graves' comments — Missouri Gov.-elect Eric Greitens is naming former U.S. Attorney Todd Graves, now a Kansas City lawyer, as the new chairman of the Missouri Republican Party.

Graves is the brother of U.S. Rep. Sam Graves, R-Tarkio, and served as U.S. attorney for Missouri’s western district from 2001-2006, a post filled by then-President George W. Bush.

“Todd Graves is the governor-elect’s choice and he will make a fantastic chairman,’’ a Greitens spokesman said. Graves said in an interview that he's honored to take the job, particularly after the Missouri GOP did so well in the November elections.

Later, Greitens said in a statement: "Todd Graves is a conservative fighter, a proven leader in business and his community, and a native Missourian. He will make an outstanding party chair and I’m excited to work with him and his team to take Missouri in a new direction."

In Tuesday's interview, Graves said he plans to focus on expanding the state Republican Party's reach.

“We have come to dominate in the rural parts of the state, where I was raised. But we need to perform better in the suburban parts of the state, where I live now – I live in a suburban area – and we need to outreach to urban parts of the state. We need better outreach to minorities and do better outreach in communities that don't traditionally elect a lot of Republicans. ”

Graves believes that Republicans in Missouri and elsewhere have become strong in rural America because the Democratic Party has moved away from the conservative values that used to attract rural voters. Graves noted that his grandparents were Democrats, with his grandfather serving as a rural Democratic judge.

Most recently, Graves has gained national attention by representing some tea party groups around the country that have sued the IRS for alleged discrimination in dealing with the groups’ claims for tax-exempt status. Graves noted that the legal fight has broadened — it's now a class action lawsuit — and remains in the courts.

Greitens’ choice of Graves could direct more attention to the new governor’s anti-corruption platform. Missouri Democratic legislators on Tuesday issued a list of their own ethics proposals, which were portrayed as a challenge to the new governor.

Graves lauded Greitens as symbolizing "a fresh start" for the state, because of his outsider status. Graves acknowledged that he had not supported Greitens in last summer's GOP primary, instead backing former state House Speaker Catherine Hanaway (who had been U.S. attorney in the eastern part of Missouri.)

Expected to take state GOP reins in January

Graves will be formally chosen by top Missouri Republicans at their next meeting in early January. But his selection was made by Greitens, in line with the tradition for the Missouri governor to control his own party’s state operation.

The other members of the state-party team, backed by Greitens, include:
Kay Hoflander, Vice Chair
Nick Meyers, Secretary
Pat Thomas, Treasurer

Graves will succeed John Hancock, a St. Louis-based political consultant. Hancock had announced soon after the Missouri GOP’s huge election wins on Nov. 8 that he was returning to his consultant business.

Graves was elected Platte County prosecutor in the 1990s, a post he held when he made an unsuccessful bid for Missouri treasurer in 2000, losing to Democrat Nancy Farmer.

During his five-year stint as U.S. attorney, Todd Graves garnered some unwanted fame – and later, praise — when he was ensnared in a controversy with Bush’s Department of Justice’s civil rights division. Graves was reported to have objected to a planned lawsuit against Missouri over its voter rolls, because of the state’s lack of jurisdiction over locally maintained rolls. The suit later was filed by his successor, but dismissed by a federal judge.

The incident added to Graves’ image as a straight-shooter, particularly since he was seen as part of a group of about a dozen U.S. attorneys targeted for dismissal by the Bush administration on political grounds.

Graves currently is partner of the Kansas City-based Graves Garrett law firm. His specialties, according to its website, include “white collar criminal defense, political speech and election law, internal investigations, regulatory compliance, and complex commercial litigation.”

Greitens noted in his statement that Graves also is "president of the Pony Express Council of the Boy Scouts of America and is a founding board member of the Kansas City Missouri Police Foundation."

Graves resides with his wife and four children on a farm just north of Kansas City.

Follow Jo on Twitter: @jmannies

Jo Mannies has been covering Missouri politics and government for almost four decades, much of that time as a reporter and columnist at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. She was the first woman to cover St. Louis City Hall, was the newspaper’s second woman sportswriter in its history, and spent four years in the Post-Dispatch Washington Bureau. She joined the St. Louis Beacon in 2009. She has won several local, regional and national awards, and has covered every president since Jimmy Carter. She scared fellow first-graders in the late 1950s when she showed them how close Alaska was to Russia and met Richard M. Nixon when she was in high school. She graduated from Valparaiso University in northwest Indiana, and was the daughter of a high school basketball coach. She is married and has two grown children, both lawyers. She’s a history and movie buff, cultivates a massive flower garden, and bakes banana bread regularly for her colleagues.