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Hawley looking into The Mission Continues, clears Greitens for use of Confide app

Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley shares evidence included in a motion to dismiss Backpage's lawsuit against him.
File photo I Durrie Bouscaren | St. Louis Public Radio

Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley is launching one probe into Gov. Eric Greitens’ activities while clearing him in another.

Hawley’s deputy chief of staff said Thursday that it is looking into the charitable activities of a nonprofit called The Mission Continues, which was set up several years ago by Greitens – before he was a candidate – to help fellow military veterans.

“The Attorney General’s Office has an open inquiry into the charitable activities of The Mission Continues, pursuant to the AGO’s enforcement responsibilities under the consumer protection and charitable registration and reporting laws,” said Hawley’s deputy, Loree Ann Paradise.

Greitens was accused in 2016 of improperly using the nonprofit’s mailing list to solicit donations for his gubernatorial political campaign. His Democratic rival, then-Attorney General Chris Koster, was among those making the assertions.

Greitens denied any wrongdoing at the time, but later admitted in 2017 that he had been using the list. The Missouri Ethics Commission fined him $1,000, but Greitens campaign only had to pay $100 because they paid early.

The accusations have resurfaced recently, as the governor has come under scrutiny for various personal and political matters.

Greitens cleared over use of Confide app

Meanwhile, Greitens’ staff was lauding Hawley’s other action. The attorney general released a report Thursday saying the governor and his staff have violated no state law in their use of a special texting application that erases messages shortly after they are read.

“The Attorney General’s report confirms what the Office has said from the beginning: the Governor’s Office has never used Confide or any similar application to evade state records laws,’’ said Greitens press secretary Parker Briden in a statement.

“The report confirms that the Office has had in place exemplary training, policies, and practices on Sunshine Law and records compliance from day one,” Briden said. Hawley’s staff provided a copy of the report which generally is in line with Parker’s statement.

However, the attorney general’s findings also offer a bit of caution:

“While the use of Confide by (Greitens’) staff does not appear to have violated Chapter 109 or the Sunshine Law, the AGO considers it a best practice not to use Confide to communicate regarding public business.

“Most importantly, because Confide automatically deletes messages after they are read, the app prevents public employees from exercising reasoned judgment as to whether a communication must be retained under Chapter 109. While the available evidence in this case indicates that messages transmitted over Confide constituted ‘transitory’ communications that need not be retained, it is conceivable that some text messages do fall within record series that require retention.”

Critics have contended that it’s impossible to verify that the governor’s office is using the text application correctly, since the messages disappear shortly after reading.

It’s unclear if anyone in the governor’s office still uses the app.

Follow Jo on Twitter: @jmannies

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