TAX MACHINE

Missouri Governor’s Sex Scandal Strategy: Release a 300-Word Tax Plan

Gov. Eric Greitens has promised constituents ‘a detailed, thoughtful, and thorough plan to cut taxes’—but opponents say it’s a ‘desperation play.’

Christian Gooden/Getty

On Jan. 10, Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens promised his constituents “a detailed, thoughtful, and thorough plan to cut taxes.” One week and one administration-threatening sex scandal later, Greitens released “the boldest state tax reform in America.”

It’s 300 words long.

Greitens—a Rhodes scholar-turned-Navy SEAL with the good looks of a Just for Men model and barely concealed ambitions for national political office—had initially planned a statewide tour of Missouri to tout tax cuts for “the hardest-working families in our state.” But accusations that he physically assaulted a former mistress and coerced her silence with nude photos he had taken while she was duct-taped to a piece of exercise equipment have apparently derailed his top legislative priority.

Far from “detailed, thoughtful, and thorough,” Greitens’ tax plan, released on Thursday, is composed of four “principles” and five bullet points. Greitens pledges to cut income taxes for Missouri taxpayers making more than $9,072 a year but doesn’t say by how much. The first-term governor also pledges to cut enact tax cuts for businesses and low-income families—again, without specifics as to how much or who qualifies—while also being “revenue-neutral.”

“It's the boldest state tax reform in America because it’s tax reform for working families—not lobbyists and special interests,” Greitens said of his 300-word tax plan.

In an accompanying video released by Greitens’ office, the governor meekly declared that “our plan works for working families.” Looking as if the circuit attorney conducting the criminal investigation into his affair might be just off camera, Greitens vowed to “cut taxes for working families,” saying that “what I’m really proud of is that this plan lowers taxes on 97 percent of Missourians.”

The press release closes with a promise that Greitens will travel the state to promote his tax cuts—a move that critics who have accused the governor of “hiding” say they would welcome.

“Until Eric Greitens stops hiding and, in his own words, offers a full and detailed public denial of the allegations that he threatened his former mistress, Missourians won’t hear anything else he says,” Kansas City Democrat and House Minority Leader Gail McCann Beatty said in a statement, adding that “this magical feat sounds more like the desperation play of an administration in danger of collapsing from scandal than a serious policy proposal.”

Hours after Greitens promised tax cuts in his first “State of the State” address at the Missouri State Capitol in Jefferson City, local television station KMOV News went live with a story detailing accusations that he had blackmailed and physically assaulted his former mistress. In a recording provided by the ex-husband of Greitens’ unnamed former lover, the woman alleged that Greitens had blindfolded her, duct-taped her to a Bowflex, and took a photo of her while she was unclothed.

It's the boldest state tax reform in America because it’s tax reform for working families—not lobbyists and special interests.
Eric Greitens

“He stepped back, I saw a flash through the blindfold and he said: ‘You’re never going to mention my name,’ otherwise there will be pictures of me everywhere,” the woman tearfully told her then-husband, according to KMOV News.

The next day, TPM reported that the woman had also told her husband that Greitens had slapped her after learning that she and her husband were still sexually involved.

“Greitens invited her to the Greitens family home and into a guest bedroom,” Roy Temple, a Missouri Democratic operative who had discussed the alleged incident with the woman’s husband, told TPM. “Before engaging in sex, Greitens asked if she had had sex with anyone since their last encounter. According to the account he gave me, she replied that she had had sex with her husband, at which time Greitens slapped her.”

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In a joint statement issued after the initial story, the governor and his wife, Sheena Greitens, acknowledged that Greitens had been “unfaithful” in his marriage but denied the blackmail charges. Greitens’ attorney later denied the assault accusations in a statement to The Daily Beast.

Greitens’ tax plan is the most public indication since the scandal first hit that he does not immediately intend to resign from office, as some elected officials from both parties have urged him to do. But if Greitens does venture into the public eye for the first time since the allegations of sexual misconduct were reported, he’ll be doing it without his spouse: Sheena Greitens has taken the couple’s two children out of state on what Greitens spokesman Parker Briden called a “planned vacation.”