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Missouri lawmakers threatened with donor exodus unless they back governor accused of sexual assault

Gov. Greitens was indicted on felony invasion of privacy charges after he allegedly photographed a woman while she was naked and threatened to blackmail her.

Missouri legislators say they've been threatened with a massive donor exodus unless they support embattled Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens (R), who's been indicted on felony invasion of privacy charges. (CREDIT: Michael Thomas/ Getty Images)
Missouri legislators say they've been threatened with a massive donor exodus unless they support embattled Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens (R), who's been indicted on felony invasion of privacy charges. (CREDIT: Michael Thomas/ Getty Images)

State lawmakers in Missouri claim they’ve been threatened with a sharp decrease in donations unless they actively support embattled Gov. Eric Greitens (R), who has been charged with photographing a woman while she was naked and using the image to threaten her with blackmail.

Greitens has also been accused of assaulting the woman and coercing her into a sexual relationship. He was indicted on felony invasion of privacy charges related to the nude photo back in February.

“Lots of people, including me, have been threatened that, if we go against the governor, we will never get financial support from any of the major donors in [Missouri],” one unnamed legislator reportedly told local Missouri Scout, a private news service covering state politics. When Missouri Scout asked other lawmakers to weigh in on the claim, many told the news outlet the threats were allegedly “widespread.”

The legislator’s comment was tweeted out by public relations expert and former American Conservative Union (ACU) executive Gregg Keller on Monday morning.

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Calls by ThinkProgress to several Missouri state lawmakers went unanswered on Monday. It’s unclear whether the lawmakers being targeted were predominantly Republican or who had allegedly threatened to pull their financial backing.

Legislators at both the state and federal level have spoken out against Greitens in recent days, calling on him to resign in the wake of allegations he had an extramarital affair with a former hairdresser, photographed her nude without her consent, and allegedly threatened to use the photos as blackmail if she ever went public about their relationship. The claims were first published by KMOV in January.

The woman later told a state House committee investigating the claims that Greitens assaulted her and regularly and violently coerced her into sex for months following their initial encounter. That committee published its findings in a report on Wednesday last week, describing the encounters in graphic detail.

In the wake of that report, state legislators, as well Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley, a Republican, spoke out against Greitens, with some calling on him to resign.

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“The House Investigative Committee’s Report contains shocking, substantial, and corroborated evidence of wrongdoing by Governor Greitens. The conduct the Report details is certainly impeachable, in my judgment, and the House is well within its rights to proceed on that front,” Hawley said in a statement on Wednesday. “But the people of Missouri should not be put through that ordeal. Governor Greitens should resign immediately.”

State Rep. Shamed Dogan, a Republican representing the state’s 98th District in St. Louis County, took an even harsher stance.

“It’s extremely disturbing and disgusting behavior,” he told The New York Times. “I hope the governor does the right thing for the state of Missouri and resigns because he’s shown he can’t be an effective leader, and he’s not doing that.”

Such comments have likely rankled the Missouri Republican Party, which has sided with Greitens over the matter. In February, after Greitens was indicted, party officials issued a strongly worded statement, claiming the St. Louis circuit attorney who launched the initial investigation in January was funded by progressive billionaire George Soros.

“Kim Gardner has received more than $200,000 from George Soros groups,” Missouri Republican Party Executive Director Sam Cooper stated. “Missourians should see this for what it is, a political hit job.”

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Since that time, the Missouri Republican Party has largely remained silent on the matter, retweeting posts defensive of the governor and praising his economic efforts.

“Governor Eric Greitens promised to bring more jobs and better pay to our State — and that’s exactly what he’s doing,” officials wrote in a Facebook post on April 10, one day prior to the House report’s publication. “We are proud of the Governor and our conservative leaders who are working hard to grow Missouri’s economy!”

In a post on April 3, officials also praised Greitens’ “strong conservative leadership.”

Greitins, meanwhile, maintains that his relationship with his former hairdresser was consensual and that he and his wife dealt with the affair privately, prior to his election. Following the state House report’s publication last week, the governor lashed out at legislators, calling their investigation “a political witch hunt” and labeling the document “tabloid trash, gossip.”

“The House report contained explosive, hurtful allegations of coercion, violence, and assault. They are false,” he said in a statement.

Speaking to reporters at the Missouri Capitol on Wednesday, he added, “In 33 days, this will all come to an end because in the United States of America, you get your day in court.”