On the surface, it may seem odd that Catherine Hanaway decided to join Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens’ flourishing legal team.
The former House speaker and U.S. attorney ran against Greitens during a contentious GOP Republican primary, often trading sharp barbs against the eventual victor’s credentials and fundraising. Ultimately, Hanaway was an enthusiastic surrogate for Greitens after he won the primary — and several people from her campaign joined his administration.
But Hanaway, who is representing Greitens’ campaign committee and a politically-active nonprofit that’s helped him out, said her rationale for getting involved is beyond short-term politics.
“I care very deeply about the Missouri House of Representatives as an institution. It’s important to me. And our state government is important to me,” Hanaway said in a wide-ranging interview with St. Louis Public Radio. (A spokesman for Greitens’ legal team offered the chance to interview Hanaway on Thursday. There were no restrictions on the questions that St. Louis Public Radio could ask.)
“The men and women in Jeff City right now are kind of the founding fathers of impeachment and they’re setting a precedent for how it’s going to happen every time going forward,” Hanaway said. “And I am very concerned that they have not really thought about the implications of doing so without a process that gives the accused a chance to put on their own case.”
What Hanaway is referring to is Greitens’ potential impeachment, a process that’s set to begin tonight after the legislature’s regular session ends. A House committee looking into Greitens’ conduct already released startling reports about his treatment of a woman he had an affair with and how he obtained a fundraising list for The Mission Continues, a veterans charity he helped found.
Greitens was charged in St. Louis with felony computer data tampering that’s linked to how he obtained and used a fundraising list from The Mission Continues. St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner dropped a felony invasion of privacy charge this week against Greitens, but has said she might refile it.
It’s the second charge that’s arguably more serious in terms of impeachment. After initially denying he used the list for campaign purposes in 2016, Greitens acknowledged in 2017 that he used the veterans’ charity list for political purposes. Several of Greitens’ former campaign aides already testified under oath about it. And Greitens signed a Missouri Ethics Commission report that acknowledged he used The Mission Continues list for political purposes.
Hanaway said lawmakers are likely zeroing in on The Mission Continues episode because it may be a firmer pretext on which to pursue impeachment. And she is worried that lawmakers may be heading down that path without following the right kind of process.
“I got involved because I really believe that this process, well, it lacks process,” she said. “I have real concern.”
Responding to Hafner and Laub
Hanaway said she is being paid by both Greitens for Missouri and A New Missouri for legal representation. The Greitens for Missouri legal fees will be disclosed on quarterly campaign reports, but work for A New Missouri doesn’t have to be revealed. Hanaway is also representing some current and former employees of those organizations, including longtime Greitens political aide Austin Chambers. And she’s also representing Will Scharf, Greitens’ policy director and a former Hanaway campaign aide.
The aforementioned House committee found that Greitens received The Mission Continues' fundraising list in 2014 from an employee of that organization when he was moving out of his leadership role. The committee then found that an employee for Greitens’ private company, Krystal Taylor, eventually sent that list in early 2015 to two campaign aides, Danny Laub and Michael Hafner.
Attorney General Josh Hawley deposed Hafner and Laub under subpoena. Hafner told St. Louis Public Radio that he ultimately used The Mission Continues list to create a document that Greitens used to raise money for his gubernatorial campaign.
Hanaway didn’t dispute the conclusion that the list was used for political purposes.
“I would agree with you that is an acknowledged fact at this point,” Hanaway said. “This isn’t news. Right? That is what the consent agreement said, that the campaign received in the early part of 2015. Well, if the campaign’s got it — it’s going to use it. But it didn’t use it in the nefarious way that the House or others want to suggest, which is people were just like wholesale approached about being on board for the Greitens campaign.”
Hanaway said if Hafner and Laub were “subject to cross-examination by the House and if there was a process that really was seeking the truth, the House would learn that The Mission Continues was built by Eric Greitens calling upon his friends and family to make contributions to help him start a charity that was for the benefit of returning veterans.”
“And that similarly, when he launched his campaign for governor, he called his friends and family — just like every candidate does to raise money for them. The only difference here is that he’d already called upon them once to help him serve his country by founding this charity,” Hanaway said. “And to the extent that he did refer to The Mission Continues list, it would be like you or I looking up something in the phone book. The Mission Continues list was an Excel spreadsheet that collected those names together.”
(Hafner told St. Louis Public Radio that the list had contact information for high-level corporate, philanthropic and political leaders that gave to the charity, a point he reiterated on Friday.)
A spokeswoman for The Mission Continues has repeatedly told media outlets, including St. Louis Public Radio, that it did not give Greitens permission to use the list for political purposes. And legal experts that the Associated Press interviewed believe the governor wasn’t entitled to use the list.
Asked about that, Hanaway replied: “I can certainly understand why The Mission Continues very firmly has to take the position that they did not provide this list to Eric Greitens for the purposes of political fundraising. Because if they don’t, it could call into question their not-for-profit status.”
“The facts that would come out are that The Mission Continues sent the list in the form that’s been talked about a great deal to Eric Greitens,” she said. “And they asked him to make calls to those donors to help transition from his leadership to the new leadership of The Mission Continues. And the reason they sent it to them was because he had the relationships. And so, as I said, it was his friends, his family, built over a lifetime that were recorded in an Excel spreadsheet — and that he used that spreadsheet to refer to, to get numbers and that kind of thing.”
Consent order in focus
The Missouri Ethics Commission consent order is receiving fresh scrutiny, because it claims that Laub provided the list to the Greitens campaign as an in-kind contribution. In his deposition before Hawley, Laub strongly denied that was case — and went so far to say that Chambers mislead him about what would be said about him in the consent report.
The reason the consent order may be important is that Greitens signed it in April 2017 — after he had been inaugurated. There’s some disagreement about whether Greitens’ conduct before he became governor would be eligible for impeachment.
Chambers has denied prompting Laub to go along with false information. Hanaway said Greitens relied on his attorney, Michael Adams, and Chambers “to go back and investigate what happened at the very beginning of the campaign.”
“And going through e-mails, they found that when the campaign was started, this Mission Continues list was already in the possession of the campaign. And Danny Laub at that time was the top campaign person,” Hanaway said. “He had possession of it. The campaign had possession of it.”
"It was going to be resolved by reflecting Danny as the person who, since he was the campaign manager and the list was there when the campaign started, provided the list to the campaign. It isn’t more complicated than that," she said. "The campaign starts. The list is already there. Danny Laub’s the campaign manager. So he’s reflected on this case that was settled with the Missouri Ethics Commission for a very minor fine."
The Kansas City Star reported that Hawley turned over evidence to Cole County Prosecutor Mark Richardson last month. But Richardson announced on Friday that he wouldn’t be charging Greitens for filing false campaign finance reports.
“Maybe the clearest way for me to sort of put this is it really wouldn’t have been truthful if there’d been a suggestion that the governor contributed The Mission Continues list to the campaign, because he can’t contribute what’s in his head, what’s in his phone, the relationships he’s built over a lifetime,” she said. “Instead, there was a spreadsheet that the campaign used to essentially as a phone book.”
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