St. Louis Record

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Attorney Elad Gross says lawsuits are the only way to shed light on suspicions of 'dark money' in Missouri politics

Lawsuits

By Carrie Bradon | Nov 11, 2018


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ST. LOUIS — Missouri-based attorney Elad Gross is pursuing lawsuits against A New Missouri, a nonprofit linked to former governor Eric Gritens and which could allegedly be funneling what Gross calls "dark money" into political campaigns.

Gross told the St. Louis Record that he had two lawsuits underway, one against the nonprofit and another against the governor's office, alleging that they have withheld information that should be public record.

Gross started working in the nonprofit sector several years ago, which sparked his interest in the rights and limitations of nonprofit organizations. Eventually attending law school, Gross proceeded to become an assistant attorney-general where he became even more familiar with the consumer protection division, which seeks to protect public from corruption.

"I eventually left the attorney general’s office in 2016 and not too long after that there was an organization called A New Missouri Incorporated and it was linked closely to our former governor, Eric Greitens, who eventually resigned," Gross told St. Louis Record. "It’s a 501(c)4 non-profit organization, a politically involved nonprofit and it was putting out these advertisements against city and state senators and one of them was publishing the personal cell phone information online of an individual they were protesting."

Gross explained that he started investigating if nonprofits could give out personal information of individuals, which led him to learning more about "dark money" in the state of Missouri.

"I called the IRS and they weren’t allowed to give me information about this organization and it was very confusing for me, but eventually those ads went away," Gross said. "This past year, the governor was getting investigated and all of a sudden all of the attention turned to this nonprofit organization and whether he was coordinating the fundraising practices, and then he quit."

Following Greiten's resignation, the House of Representatives began investigating the governor's connection to the nonprofit, but Gross was still not given the information he was seeking.  

"I knew that there were some transparency requirements for nonprofits in Missouri that allow you to see a lot of records—not the names of donors—but you can see just about everything else," Gross said. 

Gross requested records but the requests were either returned as undeliverable or not answered at all. 

"The only thing that the statute let me do was to file a lawsuit, which is why I ended up doing that," Gross said. 

Gross' fear is that the "dark money" that is allegedly being given to A New Missouri may be used to influence policies and elections, essentially allowing a select number of donors to influence the decisions of the government. 

Currently, Gross has two lawsuits underway, including one against the governor’s office for failing to release thousands of records. Gross has been told that he will not be given access to those records unless he pays thousands of dollars. 

Though the judge hearing the case dismissed the lawsuit, Gross is prepared to appeal the dismissal soon. 

“The initial process for filing the appeal will be on Monday,” Gross said.

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