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Ethics complaints allege Eigel exceeds limit on anonymous donors to campaign for governor

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Ethics complaints allege Eigel exceeds limit on anonymous donors to campaign for governor

Jun 07, 2024 | 11:24 am ET
By Rudi Keller
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Ethics complaints alleges Eigel exceeds limit on anonymous donors to campaign for governor
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State Sen. Bill EIgel of Weldon Spring speaks during a campaign stop in Columbia as he seeks the Republican nomination for governor (Rudi Keller/Missouri Independent).

State Sen. Bill Eigel’s campaign for governor accepted too much in anonymous donations and too much from some individual donors, complaints filed Thursday with the Missouri Ethics Commission allege.

St. Louis attorney John Maupin, a Republican who in the 1990s was chairman of the Missouri Ethics Commission, filed the two complaints, which also accuse Eigel of accepting a pair of contributions from corporations that are barred by the Missouri Constitution from making direct donations to campaigns.

The duplicate donations – 115 of 268 entries on Eigel for Missouri’s report filed in April 2023 – account for $14,906 of the $54,031 in new contributions listed in that report.

“Taken together, these errors show more than sloppy and inaccurate record keeping and reporting,” Maupin wrote in one of his complaints. “They suggest a fraudulent attempt (to) inflate the amount of Eigel’s contributions by tens of thousands of dollars, thereby artificially boosting its publicly-reported cash-on-hand figures and providing Missourians with an inaccurate picture of Eigel’s fundraising.”

Eigel is one of nine candidates on the Republican ballot for governor and one of three — along with Lt. Gov. Mike Kehoe and Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft — running full-scale campaigns. 

He trails Kehoe in fundraising for both his campaign committee and joint fundraising PAC, but his totals have exceeded Ashcroft’s. The most recent reports, filed in April, show Eigel’s campaign committee has raised $1.3 million since the start of 2023 and BILL PAC has collected $2.4 million.

Kehoe has raised $3.1 million for his campaign committee and $5.3 million for American Dream PAC, his joint fundraising committee. Ashcroft has collected $954,000 for his campaign and $2.1 million for the Committee for Liberty, his joint fundraising PAC.

Maupin contributed $2,825 to Kehoe’s campaign last year but said in an interview with The Independent that the complaint is not related to his support for the lieutenant governor. He says he filed the complaints because Missourians deserve accurate information from candidates. If Eigel files amended reports correcting the issues, he would be satisfied, he said.

“This is just wrong, and somebody needs to step up and say, hey, get your reports right,” Maupin said.

Eigel’s campaign manager, Sophia Shore, blamed the complaint on Eigel’s political foes. She said any mistakes in the campaign disclosure reports would be fixed.

“The establishment is scared and they should be; we’re going to win,” Shore said. “We are in the process of reviewing the complaints. Any clerical accounting and reporting errors would have been made by a vendor, not by Bill, and if legitimate, will be corrected immediately.”

Maupin filed two complaints instead of one with all the identified issues because the issues are different enough to be dealt with separately, he said.

Maupin said he started digging into Eigel’s reports last year after the St. Louis Post-Dispatch contacted out-of-state donors who responded to fundraising appeals that used support for Donald Trump to attract contributions. Some of those interviewed were on fixed incomes and had no idea their money was going to Eigel or his PAC.

“I’m a nerd and I’ve looked at hundreds, maybe dozens of hundreds of campaign finance reports over the years,” Maupin said. “I just pulled up his out of curiosity and some of these mistakes were just so apparent, I can’t imagine that you could put together that report and not know it right away.”

One of the complaints focuses on anonymous contributions and donations in excess of the limits. In the complaint, Maupin notes that Eigel was sent a cease and desist letter in September by Donald Trump’s presidential campaign demanding he stop using Trump’s name and image in his fundraising appeals. 

Those appeals, sent nationwide by Eigel’s fundraising consultant Targeted Victory, helped Eigel’s campaign and his PAC to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars from donors giving as little as $1. More than 90% of the names on Eigel’s donor list – and almost all of the donors listed by BILL PAC – were from outside Missouri.

The donors not listed pushed Eigel’s anonymous contributions to $21,370, 2.4% of the total he raised in 2023. Anonymous donations cannot exceed 1% of the total raised.

“Too ashamed to list the poor, disabled, and retired individuals on fixed income whom he fleeced, Senator Eigel’s campaign committee violated the law in exceeding aggregate anonymous contribution limits,” the complaint states.

Complaint alleges Jay Ashcroft campaign letter runs afoul of ethics law

The complaint lists 22 donors on Eigel’s April 2023 report who gave more than the $2,825 allowed by the constitution for donations to statewide candidates. The excess amounts range from $5 to $8,775 and total $44,198.

“There is no indication on Eigel’s reports that the impermissible portion of these contributions have been returned or reattributed to a spouse,” the complaint states.

A donor can contribute $2,825 for the primary and again for the general election, but there is no allowance in Missouri law for taking general election donations before the primary, Maupin said in  the interview.

The other complaint details the allegations about illegal corporate contributions, solicitations in excess of the allowed amounts and the duplicate entries. The corporate contributions are two donations, one from  2021 and the other from last year, totaling $3,250.

“I just think that people, that the voters, need to have the right numbers,” Maupin said.

The solicitation in excess of the limit, reported by Maupin with a screenshot of Eigel’s donation page, has since been fixed. 

The ethics commission keeps complaints confidential but people who file complaints can make them public. The complaint against Eigel is the second known complaint against one of the leading GOP candidates. 

Late last month, St. Louis attorney and lobbyist Jane Dueker filed a complaint against Ashcroft, accusing his campaign of illegal collaboration with Committee for Liberty on a letter sent to potential donors.

Whether any action will occur on either complaint depends on achieving a quorum at meetings of the six-member commission. Three terms expired in March and while Gov. Mike Parson appointed a new member this week, one of the existing members has not been able to attend meetings since at least October.

The commission could also be without an executive director soon. The term of the current head of the staff, Elizabeth Ziegler, ends in July and no new executive director can be chosen until a quorum is established.