Texas political grande dame Ann Richards memorably pigeon-holed George W. Bush as being all hat and no cattle. It appears that we in Missouri may have another he-man poseur waving a great big, empty hat as he enters the political arena. I’m referring to ex-Navy SEAL Eric Greitens, the Missouri GOP gubernatorial candidate.
Pay special attention to the ex-Navy SEAL label because that’s the metaphorical hat our hero flourishes. Greitens really was a SEAL and deserves all the respect that such a resume implies, although it doesn’t necessarily imply fitness to be governor. But the inexperienced political novice seems to think brandishing a glamorous past military affiliation is all it takes to persuade Missourians that he is qualified to begin his political career way up near the top as leader of the State.
With ads that showed him Ramboing corrupt Jefferson City political culture with very big explosive devices, he revealed that he thinks that Missourians are so mired in Billy Bob culture that they will prefer movie-style, tough-guy bombast over real leadership credentials. Who better to strong-arm the bad guys (and fearful right-wing culture is replete with bad guys) than a gun-toting Navy SEAL. (Of course, the fact that his promise to attack corrupt political culture with big guns means that he would have to take aim at most of his own GOP political colleagues may have soured his candidacy somewhat for some Republicans.)
Lately, however, Greitens himself has come under suspicion of bending ethical rules when it comes to his own fundraising.
A federal political action committee called “SEALs for Truth” cut Greitens a $1.9 million check prior to the Aug. 2 Republican primary. According to a disclosure form filed with the Federal Elections Commission, all of the group’s money came from a Washington, D.C.,-based nonprofit called the American Policy Coalition Inc.
The American Policy Coalition website contains no information about the group at all, and it appears to have filed no paperwork with either the FEC or the Missouri Ethics Commission. But the group is connected to an Ohio attorney who the Center for Public Integrity labeled the “nexus of one of the nation’s most mysterious networks pouring secret money into elections.”
Where the money actually came from may never be known.
Not too cool for a candidate who’s tried to play holier-than-thou when it comes to political corruption. But the part that really burns is the name of Greitens’ SEALs for Truth PAC. Turns out that the PAC likely doesn’t have anything to do with SEALs at all, a fact that the PAC and Greitens seemed to want to obfuscate:
In a statement released by “SEALs for Truth” shortly after making its donation to Greitens, it claimed former Navy SEALs made up “the largest number of donors to our organization.”
Greitens, a former Navy SEAL, also hinted during a meeting in August with the Missouri Farm Bureau that the group’s money came from Navy SEALs, saying “I’m honored to have my fellow SEALs standing behind me.”
Now why would any SEALs want to keep their pro-Greitens fervor secret? Could it be because there are no SEALs as such, just very rich individuals behind the single large donation to the PAC, individuals who really, really want things like right-to-work-for-less for Missouri?
In fact, speaking of SEALs, some of the fraternity have been more than a little annoyed about the efforts of Greitens and other former SEALs to exploit their association with the group
Now, Mr. Greitens, seeking the Republican nomination, finds himself in a battle with some former comrades, who charged in a slickly produced YouTube video that he exaggerated his record and was unduly benefiting from his time in the SEALs. The dispute lays bare a widening rift among Navy SEALs, provoked by what leaders and many in the ranks describe as rampant commercial and personal exploitation of a brotherhood that once prized discretion.
But, hey, what’s a man with no cattle going to do if he can’t put on an impressive hat? Opportunists gotta do what opportunists do.