Missouri lawmakers' frustrations with Republican Gov. Eric Greitens and his constant criticism of "career politicians" in the state Capitol are boiling over during a special legislative session he called on abortion.
Senators spent hours at the start of the session last Monday complaining about the governor, and a bipartisan coalition is calling for a legislative investigation of him over a campaign finance reporting violation.
Ash Grove Republican Rep. Mike Moon last Monday posted a video of himself on Facebook as he butchered a chicken at his farm, work he said was interrupted by the special session.
"But like any good career politician," Moon said, pausing to cut off the hen's head, "when I get the call, I'm going back to work."
Greitens campaigned on his status as a political outsider and pledged to "clean up Jefferson City," which he said is filled with corrupt, career politicians. That criticism didn't stop after Greitens took office in January, and it's led to tensions with the lawmakers he depends upon to pass his agenda.
This is the second time the governor has called lawmakers back to the Capitol since the end of the annual session in May. Before the last special session, which focused on luring steel mill and aluminum smelter jobs to southeastern Missouri, Greitens said in a statement "some career politicians failed to do their jobs" by not passing legislation during the regular session. He said he was "canceling their summer vacations and calling a special session to get this done."
Republican Sen. Bob Dixon, of Springfield, said Greitens' rhetoric "poisoned the well" and hurt his relationship with lawmakers.
"It really has been a consistent poisoning from really throughout the campaign and it did not change when he came to the building," said Dixon, one of the senators asking for an investigation of Greitens.
A resolution filed by Kansas City Democratic Sen. Jason Holsman asks for an investigation of how Greitens' campaign used a donor list from a charity Greitens' helped found and that wasn't originally listed in campaign finance reports. Greitens' campaign was fined for failing to report use of the donor list. The charity helps veterans transition to the private sector through volunteer work.
The charity, The Mission Continues, says it did not give the list to the campaign. The campaign has not said how it got the list.
The resolution also claims there is coordination between the governor's office and a nonprofit, A New Missouri, that promotes the governor's agenda.
Greitens' spokesman, Parker Briden, said in response to the call for an investigation that "temper tantrums from career politicians don't bother us."
Republican Senate Majority Leader Mike Kehoe has said his ethics committee won't take up the resolution calling for an investigation during this special session.
Greitens told reporters after leading an anti-abortion rally Wednesday at the Capitol he has a "great relationship with a lot of the legislators who are standing up to do what's right."
As for the others, he doesn't appear bothered by their frustration.
"I came in as an outsider," Greitens said. "We didn't come to join the insiders and the lobbyists. We came to beat them."
So far, Greitens' rhetoric doesn't appear to have sabotaged his agenda, which in large part is the same as that embraced by Republican legislative leaders. For example, legislators delivered a right-to-work bill banning mandatory union fees to his desk within a month of his taking office, a big win for the governor — and for GOP lawmakers whose previous efforts to pass that legislation had been stymied by a Democratic governor who promised to veto it.
Republicans also appear likely to pass the abortion regulations — a key part of their party's platform — called for by Greitens.
But senators, before passing an abortion bill Thursday, used the session to publicly complain about the governor.
St. Joseph Republican Sen. Rob Schaaf last Monday sarcastically referred to Greitens as "the Great Seal of Missouri," saying Greitens didn't deserve the title "governor." It's a play on the name of the state seal and the governor's former job as a Navy SEAL officer.
Schaaf also laid into the governor's mantra that lawmakers, who typically are in session from January to May, are "career politicians."
"I'm a doctor and I see patients and I get a part-time salary for a part-time job," Schaaf said. "The governor gets a full-time salary for a full-time job and lives in government-subsidized housing."
Greitens lives in the Jefferson City governor's mansion.