Disgraced former Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens is receiving a major boost for his 2022 Senate bid from one of the Republican Party’s biggest megadonors.
Richard Uihlein, a billionaire shipping and industrial supply company executive, is donating $2.5 million to a newly formed, pro-Greitens super PAC. The cash infusion will give Greitens a financial lift as many of the party’s contributors shun the former governor, who resigned from office in 2018 amid allegations that he sexually assaulted his hairstylist.
Uihlein is one of the party’s most sought-after givers. During the 2020 election, Uihlein and his wife, Elizabeth, donated more than $4.7 million to outfits that backed former President Donald Trump’s reelection bid. Uihlein, who has a long history of bankrolling conservative causes, is a past donor to Greitens, giving more than $300,00 to his successful 2016 gubernatorial bid.
The contribution to the pro-Greitens super PAC was confirmed by two people familiar with the matter. The organization, Team PAC, describes itself as “committed to electing proven conservatives and veterans to federal offices,” a reference to the former governor’s service as Navy SEAL.
Greitens, who is running for the seat being vacated by retiring Sen. Roy Blunt, will need the money. The former governor could face an avalanche of attacks from Republican establishment-aligned groups amid concerns from party leaders that his nomination would jeopardize the party’s hold on what should be a safe seat and imperil their prospects of winning the Senate majority. In a sign of the possible bombardment to come, former George W. Bush adviser Karl Rove, who is deeply involved in the world of GOP outside groups, has openly savaged Greitens and warned that “Democrats, fair or unfair, are going to take him apart.”
The former governor also faces the hurdle of competing for the Republican nomination against a slate of well-funded candidates. The list includes Mark McCloskey, a wealthy personal injury attorney, and state Attorney General Eric Schmitt, whose campaign and super PAC raised a combined $2.8 million during the second fundraising quarter.
Further complicating matters is that Greitens is running without the fundraising team that powered his 2016 gubernatorial bid. Missouri businessperson David Humphreys, who gave more than $2 million to his last campaign, has said he has no interest in helping this time around. Also on the sidelines is major GOP donor Ron Weiser, who played a key role in fundraising for Greitens but is now focused on his role as Michigan state GOP chair.
So, too, is Jeff Layman, a prominent Missouri-based GOP fundraiser who served as Greitens’ 2018 in-state finance chair. Layman said in a text message that he isn’t helping any of the candidates in the race “due to my respect for multiple people in the field.”
Greitens has turned to Kimberly Guilfoyle, the girlfriend of Donald Trump Jr. who is working as the former governor’s national chairwoman. Greitens raised a paltry $27,000 during his first week in the race, though his second quarter fundraising totals, due to be released next week, will present a fuller picture of his campaign finances. Guilfoyle has hosted several Florida fundraisers since joining the campaign in April.
The Illinois-based Uihlein could conceivably give more to Greitens as the race progresses. During the 2018 midterms, he contributed more than $4 million to a super PAC that backed Kevin Nicholson, Wisconsin Republican Senate candidate who ran unsuccessfully for the nomination. Like Greitens, Nicholson is a veteran and former Democrat.
So far this election cycle, the Uihleins have also provided six-figure contributions to the Republican National Committee and to the party’s House and Senate campaign arms.
Greitens left office following accusations that in 2015 he took his hairstylist to his basement, blindfolded her, bound her hands, and coerced her into performing oral sex. She also alleged that he took a picture of her and threatened to blackmail her if she told anyone about the incident.
Greitens admitted to having an extramarital affair but denied engaging in blackmail, coercion, or violence. He ultimately cut a deal with the St. Louis prosecutor’s office that he would resign the governorship if they dropped unrelated charges that he misused a veterans’ charity he founded to help fundraise for his 2016 run.
As he campaigns for Senate, Greitens, like Trump, has cast himself as the victim of an establishment class determined to take him down. He has taken to Trump-aligned media platforms such as Newsmax and “War Room,” a podcast hosted by former Trump chief strategist Steve Bannon, to make his case. He has also surrounded himself with figures in the former president’s orbit, including former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who is slated to host a rally for Greitens later this week.
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