(Updated with Greitens' rally and new Koster donation) Missouri’s four-way Republican battle for governor is getting roiled with last-minute attacks ads and fliers by outside groups – including one with Democratic ties.
According to the online news site Politico, a group called “Jobs and Opportunity" is launching a barrage of TV ads over the weekend that attack Eric Greitens, an author and former Navy SEAL who is the best-funded of the four GOP candidates.
(You can read a summary of the article here. The full article is behind a pay wall)
The group’s Washington, D.C., address is in the same building as that of the Democratic Governors Association. Politico identifies Jobs and Opportunity as an arm of the DGA.
The group is a “527,’’ which refers to an IRS provision that allows such campaign groups to delay identifying their donors for months. Citing sources, Politico says Jobs and Opportunity plans to spend $500,000 on TV and radio ads in Missouri over the next four days – a huge statewide buy. And the group may be spending even more.
The ads are reported to highlight the $1 million in donations that Greitens has received from a California businessman, Michael Goguen, who is involved in a lawsuit with a woman who claims he used her as a “sex slave’’ for more than a decade.
Greitens’ rivals – St. Louis businessman John Brunner, former House Speaker Catherine Hanaway and Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder – have attacked him for months for refusing to return Goguen’s money.
Greitens has said he’s waiting for the legal process to end before deciding what to do about Goguen’s donations.
Greitens held a news conference Friday in Jefferson City outside the office of the Missouri Democratic Party to blast the Jobs and Opportunity ads and to accuse Democratic leaders of attempting to interfere in the GOP contest for governor. The event got a bit rowdy when more than a dozen Democratic Party aides and activists showed up and held a counter demonstration.
Said Greitens: “The Democrat governors association and the Obama political machine today launched a last-ditch effort, a last ditch effort, to try and save Chris Koster by playing in the Republican primary…they’re putting in over three quarters of a million dollars in attack ads against our campaign.”
Former Missouri Treasurer Sarah Steelman, who introduced Greitens at the rally, accused state Democrats of doing the same thing when she ran for the U.S. Senate in 2012. She was referring to Sen. Claire McCaskill's assertions that her ads in the 2012 primary against her GOP rivals helped then-U.S. Rep. Todd Akin win the primary. He was her preferred candidate and his general-election missteps are widely credited with her easy victory.
Her comments echoed an earlier statement from Missouri Republican Party chairman John Hancock, who said, “The Democrats clearly have no confidence in Chris Koster’s ability to win on his own merits. Instead of campaigning honestly, national Democrats are making a desperate, last-ditch effort to manipulate the Republican primary, just like they did in 2012."
Anti-Greitens group gives 'in-kind donations' to Koster
Aside from the ads, Jobs and Opportunity also has donated close to $1 million this week in “inkind contributions” to Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster, considered the likely Democratic nominee for governor. The largest donation, about $711,000, was reported Friday by Koster to the Missouri Ethics Commission.
Inkind contributions are services or materials, not cash. It’s unclear if the donations are referring to the ad buy. Koster’s campaign has yet to comment.
The inkind donations are legal, as is the outside group's ad campaign. In fact, the donations allow Koster to say that he knew of the ads.
But Koster, who previously has opposed donation limits, raised concerns in an interview this spring about the size of some of them. Koster also has been an outspoken advocate of "transparency,'' and had called for changes in state law to require that all groups -- regardless of their IRS status -- be required to identify their donors if they get involved in state campaigns.
Koster has spent little money so far, and has bankrolled about $11 million for his expected battle this fall with the Republican who wins Tuesday’s primary.
New flier also attacks Greitens
Another outside group, Franklin & Lee, is sending out a flier this week to potential voters all over the state that also highlight the Goguen donations. The flier asks whether Greitens has “the right character’’ to be governor.
The flier also is critical of the other three Republican candidates for their stands on various issues. But Greitens is the chief target.
Franklin & Lee is a “501C4,’’ a type of nonprofit that does not have to identify its donors. Missouri is seeing attack ads from several 501C4 groups that are targeting various candidates on Tuesday’s ballot.
Franklin & Lee was the sole funding source for another group, called “Patriots for America,” that had been running a website attacking Greitens. The Patriots group was founded by Adam McLain, who used to work for Brunner’s campaign.
Goguen sues Brunner
Meanwhile, Goguen has sued Brunner for public statements that the candidate has made about the woman’s allegations. Goguen’s suit, filed in St. Charles County, contends that Brunner “has knowingly and maliciously spread demonstrable lies about Mr. Goguen, falsely accused him of heinous acts and crimes, and defamed him simply because he donated money to one of Mr. Brunner’s political opponents.”
Brunner’s campaign replied Thursday that Goguen’s suit “is attempting to take attention off of what Missourians are coming to know: Greitens is a lifelong liberal Democrat who drove cross-country to cheer Barack Obama at his convention, supported Obama's failed $831 billion 'stimulus' and is now attempting to convince Missouri Republicans he's one of them."
Brunner also has been circulating copies of the White House visitors’ logs that show Greitens has been at the White House several times in recent years.
Greitens’ spokesman declined comment on the suit against Brunner. Greitens previously has denied that he’s anything but a Republican.
Meanwhile, all four Republican candidates are spending their final days of campaigning traveling around the state -- in some cases by bus or by plane -- to appeal to GOP voters.
Rachel Lippmann contributed to this article.