Ethics panel subpoenas Missouri governor candidate's ex-aide

AP News
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Posted: Nov 03, 2016 5:48 PM

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — A former consultant for Missouri's Republican gubernatorial nominee Eric Greitens said Thursday that he is complying with a subpoena as part of an ethics investigation involving Greitens' campaign and a charity he founded for military veterans.

Michael Hafner appeared at the Missouri Ethics Commission office in Jefferson City in response to a subpoena for his testimony and records. The commission is looking into a complaint that Greitens' campaign failed to report its use of a donor list from The Missions Continues, a St. Louis-based nonprofit that Greitens created.

The ethics investigation comes just days ahead of next Tuesday's closely contested gubernatorial election between Greitens, a former Navy SEAL, and Democratic Attorney General Chris Koster. They are among five candidates seeking to succeed Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon, who is term-limited.

The Associated Press reported last month that Hafner had access to a spreadsheet listing the names, email addresses and phone numbers of people who had given at least $1,000 to The Mission Continues while Hafner was working for Greitens' gubernatorial exploratory committee. The spreadsheet's properties show it was created by a Missions Continue employee in May 2014, shortly before Greitens formally stepped down as CEO of the charity, and had been last saved by Hafner on March 24, 2015.

Hafner was let go from Greitens' committee about that same time and later went to work for one of Greitens' Republican gubernatorial rivals, John Brunner.

Federal law prohibits 501(c)(3) charities such as The Mission Continues from intervening in political campaigns on behalf of candidates. The Internal Revenue Service has ruled charities cannot give donor lists to politicians but can rent them at fair market value if made available to all candidates.

It's unclear exactly how Greitens' exploratory committee came into possession of the list. A Mission Continues spokeswoman said previously that it didn't share the donor list with Greitens or his campaign and, as a general practice, doesn't sell or rent it to others.

Missouri Democratic Party Chairman Roy Temple filed an ethics complaint contending the charity donor list should have been reported as an in-kind contribution by Greitens' political campaign, under Missouri law.

Hafner confirmed Thursday that he had received a subpoena from the Ethics Commission, adding: "I am complying fully with their investigation."

Greitens campaign manager Austin Chambers said he was aware of the subpoena issued to Hafner but that neither Greitens nor other members of his campaign had been subpoenaed. He said the Ethics Commission sent several pages of questions to Greitens campaign as part of its review.

Chambers said the complaint is to be discussed at a Monday meeting of the Ethics Commission, at which point the panel could decide to dismiss it or continue an investigation.

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