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Greitens may have hidden campaign donations through ‘shell companies,’ says House committee

Tim Bommel | Missouri House Communications
State Rep. Jay Barnes, R-Jefferson City, chair of the House Special Investigative Committee on Oversight.

The committee investigating Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens released two emails this morning, one that suggests he might have tried to hide some campaign donations.

However, Greitens’ use of outside groups to not identify some donors has been known publicly for at least two years. He previously had defended the practice as necessary to protect donors.

The email cited by the House committee came from 2016, and was sent to Michael Hafner, who was working at the time for GOP candidate John Brunner. The email was sent by Will Scharf, then a volunteer for another gubernatorial candidate, Catherine Hanaway. Scharf now works as Greitens’ policy director.

Hafner had worked for Greitens in early 2015, but by 2016 was working for Brunner. Hafner now works as a lobbyist and political consultant, and has been cooperating with investigations into the governor’s use of a donor list from The Mission Continues to raise funds for his campaign for governor.

Committee chairman Jay Barnes of Jefferson City said the email included an attached document titled “Greitens hides donors.”

“We’ve included that attachment which contains details of information that Mr. Scharf, and presumably the Hanaway campaign, believed was some evidence that the Greitens campaign was using shell companies to hide donors,” Barnes said.

He said the email attachment identified two limited liability corporations: White Impala LLC and ELX83 LLC.

“My intent is to send a batch of subpoenas relating to the creation of these two entities.”

Hanaway, now representing the group Greitens for Missouri as an attorney, defends the use of LLC’s to raise money for political campaigns. In a written statement, she said it was “perfectly legal” and that “almost certainly every campaign for governor” used them, including hers.

“At the time that Will Scharf sent this email, he was working for my campaign and searching for any issue we could use to win,” Hanaway said. “He did not find nor has anyone else found that the owners of these LLC’s were prohibited from contributing to Missouri campaigns.”

Barnes and other committee members agreed to call Scharf as a witness, and if necessary use a subpoena to force him to appear.

The second email was sent by Hafner to Greitens on Dec. 12, 2014, before he announced his campaign for governor. In it, Hafner advised him to form an exploratory committee instead of a candidate committee.

“Forming a continuing committee (PAC) would make it difficult for you to personally raise funds for it while you are meeting with donors/activists/promoting yourself and candidacy/etc., plus would raise Ethics questions among your potential opponents (knowing Schweich and Hanaway),” the email stated.

“I would think forming an exploratory committee would be best given your situation. We might be able to get away with saying Statewide Office 2016 when forming the committee, but I would suggest putting Governor.”

Greitens has blasted the findings of the House Special Investigative Committee on Oversight, calling it part of a witch hunt. Hanaway has also strongly criticized the committee.

A special legislative session will convene at 6:30 p.m. Friday after the 2018 regular session ends, for the purpose of considering whether Greitens should be impeached.

Jo Mannies contributed to this report.

Follow Marshall on Twitter: @MarshallGReport

Marshal was a political reporter for St. Louis Public Radio until 2018.