GOP attorney who represented Greitens in ethics case skirted rules

Michael G. Adams
By Rudi Keller, Columbia Daily Tribune
Posted: Jun. 1, 2018 11:57 am

The Kentucky lawyer who represented Gov. Eric Greitens and his campaign in the Missouri Ethics Commission complaint over a charity donor list never paid the fees necessary to legally practice law in Missouri.

Attorneys from outside the state who represent clients in Missouri cases must follow Missouri Supreme Court rules for a "pro hac vice" appearance which include naming an associate counsel, licensed in the state, to assist in the case and paying a $410 fee to the Office of Attorney Enrollment at the Supreme Court.

There are no records showing Michael G. Adams, counsel to the Republican Governors Association since 2007 and a candidate for Kentucky Secretary of State, met those requirements during the ethics commission case filed in October 2016 and resolved in April 2017. Adams has also worked for U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and Vice President Mike Pence.

"Our attorney enrollment office searched its accounting records for pro hac vice fees received ... for the time frame you provided and found no such receipt issued to a Michael G. Adams between October 2016 and April 2017," Beth Riggert, communications counsel for the Supreme Court, wrote in an email.

Adams did not have an associate counsel for the complaint case, James Klahr, executive director of the ethics commission, wrote in an email Thursday.

"If another attorney had entered an appearance, that would have been reflected in the final settlement because the names and signatures of any additional attorneys would have been part of that settlement," Klahr wrote.

In a response to inquiries from the Columbia Daily Tribune, Douglas Chalmers of Chalmers Burch and Adams, wrote that Adams asked the ethics commission for guidance and received "written confirmation" that the commission general counsel "and the general counsel for the Missouri Supreme Court viewed his representation of Gov. Greitens and" Greitens for Missouri "as permissible under their circumstances."

The emails Chalmers provided, however, are dated in August 2016 and show Adams sought assurance he was allowed "to counsel and represent respondents to campaign-finance complaints filed with the Commission at the preliminary stage of inquiry."

Adams did not make himself available for questioning. Chalmers did not respond to an email seeking clarification.

Felony charges against Greitens for taking the donor list from The Mission Continues were dropped this week by the St. Louis Circuit Attorney in exchange for his resignation, which is effective at 5 p.m. Friday. The deal does not cover any other potential charges against Greitens, who is also under federal investigation.

Greitens founded The Mission Continues and stepped down as head of the charity in July 2014. In October 2016, the Associated Press reported that Greitens for Missouri, the governor’s campaign committee, raised nearly $2 million from donors who also gave to the charity and that Greitens began using the donor list from the charity in 2014 as he prepared to launch his campaign.

Missouri Democratic Party Chairman Roy Temple filed a complaint with the ethics commission that resulted in a $100 fine. In the settlement document, a "joint stipulation of facts" and consent order, signed in April 2017 by Greitens, Greitens for Missouri treasurer Jeff Stuerman and Adams, the campaign asserted that political consultant Danny Laub gave the list to the campaign as an in-kind donation and valued the list at $600.

Stuerman could not be reached for comment.

The complaint was settled with a consent order that has since been called a lie by Laub and consultant Michael Hafner, who worked with Greitens in late 2014 and early 2015. Their testimony and other evidence show employees of the charity created the list and transmitted it to Greitens and that it became the focus of early fundraising efforts.

"So it’s your view that this report of you making an in-kind contribution to the campaign on March 1st, 2015, is false in every particular; correct?" John Sauer of the attorney general’s office asked Laub on April 18.

"Yes," Laub said.

Hafner testified about the donor list Tuesday in a hearing of the House Special Investigative Committee on Oversight, just hours before Greitens announced he would resign.

"I am here because the governor and his team were untruthful to the Missouri Ethics Commission about that donor list," Hafner said.

The St. Louis charges were filed based on the investigation by Attorney General Josh Hawley’s office. Hawley also referred the case to Cole County Prosecuting Attorney Mark Richardson for possible misdemeanor charges relating to filing a false campaign report and lying to a state commission. Richardson declined to file the case.

Hawley’s office has not released the referral document or said who was named in it.

"We provided evidence to the Cole County Prosecutor’s Office and discussed with Mr. Richardson and his staff our view that this evidence supported probable cause to believe a crime had been committed," spokeswoman Mary Compton wrote in an email.

Adams didn’t just represent Greitens in the ethics complaint. He was also the organizer for the political not-for-profit A New Missouri that spent heavily on ads to defend Greitens over the past four months, including $42,150 with Columbia-area television stations, as well as the organizer of The Committee for a New Missouri, which raised funds to finance Greitens’ inauguration.

Neither organization has disclosed its donors. Along with defending Greitens, A New Missouri has donated $2 million to campaign committees dedicated to defending the right to work law signed by Greitens in 2017 and set for a statewide vote in August.

On Tuesday, Cole County Circuit Judge Jon Beetem ordered A New Missouri to comply with a legislative subpoena to turn over records of its activities.

In campaign appearances in Kentucky, Adams presents himself as an expert on election law and touts his national political connections. After working for McConnell and former Kentucky Gov. Ernie Fletcher, Adams said at the April 21 LaRue County Lincoln Day dinner, he became general counsel for the Republican Governors Association.

"I also built a successful election law practice for Republicans," Adams said. "I have represented Vice President Pence, the National Federation of Republican Women, the Republican Attorneys General Association, various individual governors and congressional clients."

Adams also told the audience he attended Harvard University Law School.

"With all humility, I believe I am the best qualified person for the job," Adams said.

One of his rivals for the GOP nomination in Kentucky, Steve Knipper, said Adams’ work for Greitens will make it difficult for voters to believe he is as accomplished as he claims.

"He prides himself on his Harvard education and it is in his stump speech, who he knows, who he has done business for," Knipper said. "He gives the impression that he is the go-to guy for all election and finance matters."

On April 18, the same day Laub was giving testimony, Adams and Scott Jennings, a CNN commentator and former senior adviser to McConnell, made a presentation at the Harvard Kennedy School Institute of Politics titled "All the questions you have about campaign finance laws, but were too afraid to ask."

"His actions in Missouri shows he is not an expert in that, either," Knipper said.


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Brenda Lee Hendon of rural New London Missouri; died July 30, 2020, at Hannibal Regional Hospital