Hartmann: Eric Greitens Must Love His Latest Scandal

Eric Greitens' political fortunes rely on his ability to recast himself as a victim. - DANNY WICENTOWSKI
Eric Greitens' political fortunes rely on his ability to recast himself as a victim.

Disgraced ex-Missouri Governor Eric Greitens got a nice boost last week in his campaign for the Republican U.S. Senate nomination in 2022.

Greitens was accused of illegally funneling more than $100,000 to his Senate campaign from one he had established as governor. It was also charged that he violated federal transparency requirements in the process.

If you're thinking that's not a great thing, you're not thinking like a Republican primary voter. Greitens could barely contain his glee at the opportunity to portray himself as a victim of the swamp.

A watchdog group called the Campaign Legal Center filed the charges with the Federal Election Commission. Both entities reside in Washington. Both concern themselves with campaign-finance laws and ethics.

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If you're Greitens, that's good enough: One couldn't ask for better accusers.

It doesn't matter that transferring state campaign funds to a federal account for a Senate race is no small offense. A news release from the Campaign Legal Center explained why:

"While Greitens' 2022 Senate campaign may only accept contributions of up to $2,900 per individual and, importantly, cannot receive corporate funds, his gubernatorial campaign raised dozens of contributions far exceeding that amount — some as much as $100,000 and above. Senate candidates cannot quietly finance their campaign with six-figure and corporate contributions."

Enough swamp talk. Greitens knows a great news-clip opportunity when he sees one. His campaign pounced:

"Eric Greitens has been under attack by radical liberals for years. Funds from the state campaign were used for compliance and to defend against attacks. No gubernatorial campaign funds were used for the Senate campaign and these ludicrous allegations from a radical, Soros-funded, left-wing D.C. activist group have no basis in reality."

What delicious irony for Greitens. He can now take the FEC complaint and convert it to an opportunity to raise more campaign funds from the same shady national donors who have always bankrolled him. These nice people who have underwritten Greitens' slimy career concern themselves with FEC rules like the mob frets over traffic tickets.

Those who have followed Greitens' career know this hardly represents his first rodeo regarding campaign-finance regulations. In fact, Greitens went so far as to exploit his previous campaign-finance transgressions — which were proven — to launch the reboot of his political career.

Last February, the Missouri Ethics Commission announced it had fined Greitens an astonishing $178,000 for two campaign violations — one of the largest fines it had ever doled out for a non-criminal offense. But to Greitens' delight, the MEC also concluded there was "no evidence of wrongdoing" of a criminal nature.

Before you could say "Russian hoax!" Greitens was screaming "total exoneration" to anyone who would listen, which at the time was almost no one. But alas, the "snake" — to borrow one of Greitens' own descriptors of politicians — had slithered back.

And in the warped world of a Republican Party whose sole organizing principle is fealty to a psychopath, Greitens has a plausible path to a seat in the U.S. Senate.

"I might be a criminal," one can hear Greitens saying, "but the other Missouri senator is an insurrectionist." I jest, of course. No way Greitens would ever stand for the execrable Senator Josh Hawley to outdo him in defense of the Capitol rioters' patriotism. (Although to be fair, Hawley can hang with anyone when it comes to campaign shadiness.)

But I digress. Greitens can be expected to exploit the current allegations of campaign misconduct much like he did with the previous one. The MEC complaint had been filed against Greitens July 10, 2018, by former Representative Jay Barnes, a leading Republican. It drew little note as a footnote to the disgraceful implosion that had seen Greitens slink out of the governor's mansion some six weeks earlier. But Greitens nonetheless seized upon it to help obscure the big stuff.

You might remember that Greitens had run into some difficulty in 2018 at the start of his second year as governor of Missouri. There was this item that made the local TV news — courtesy of an angry ex-husband — about the then-governor having had a mistress and having tied her up in his basement and maybe having photographed her without her permission and maybe having slapped her and maybe having blackmailed her.

Just stuff.

But it perversely presented an opportunity for Greitens to go on the offensive against his tormentors. Never mind that these were prominently fellow Republicans in Jefferson City who'd grown weary of getting bullied by him. That didn't prevent Greitens from assuming the position of victimhood from a "vicious attack" and the "ripping apart of the lives [of his family]." Admittedly that line of defense didn't turn out so well for him.

But if you felt bad for Greitens then, you had to feel worse when he endured even more "fake news" about having misused his charity — The Mission Continues — for political purposes. He resigned rather than face possible prosecution for that.

It was just stuff.

Greitens' special talent is twisting what appears to be his misconduct into others' misjudgment. In that spirit, he created a shameless narrative of victimization out of his botched prosecution by St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner. But his resignation as governor had nothing to do with that and everything to do with an overwhelming bipartisan consensus in Jefferson City that Eric Greitens was unfit to hold public office.

He still is unfit, but that's hardly disqualifying in today's Republican Party. For evidence, look no further than the social media and press shops of Greitens' four main opponents in the GOP primary quicksand. Not a word of criticism from state Attorney General Eric Schmitt, gunslinging personal-injury attorney Mark McCloskey and Representatives Vicky Hartzler and Billy Long. Nothing to see here.

Remember, this was a formal FEC complaint filed against their top opponent — by a credible national watchdog group — in a race in which they are running. Something tells me they would not have demurred so politely had Greitens said something like, "I'm only 95 percent certain that the 2020 election was stolen."

But these are, after all, politicians. And you know what they say about politicians. Well, here's what one fellow wrote about politicians in advance of the 2016 race for governor of Missouri:

"Liars, cowards, sociopaths. They are often deeply broken and disturbed people, who — like criminals who prey on the innocent — take their pleasure and make their living by victimizing honest people. They are drawn to politics as vultures flock to rotting meat, and they feed off the carcasses of vice."

Do you suppose Eric Greitens was projecting?

Ray Hartmann founded the Riverfront Times in 1977. Contact him at [email protected] or catch him on Donnybrook at 7 p.m. on Thursdays on the Nine Network and St. Louis In the Know With Ray Hartmann from 9 to 11 p.m. Monday thru Friday on KTRS (550 AM).

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