Ex-GOP leader confirmed as University of Missouri curator

Associated Press

COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) — The Republican-led state Senate on Wednesday confirmed a former state Republican party chairman to the University of Missouri System governing board. 

Senators voted 19-13 to confirm Todd Graves as curator, with one Democrat joining most Republicans to vote in his favor and four Republicans banding with the nine remaining Democrats to vote against him. 

The early morning vote followed a multi-day effort by a group of Republicans and Democrats to stall or completely block his confirmation. 

Bipartisan criticism of Graves included questions about his political alliance with former Republican Gov. Eric Greitens, who angered many lawmakers before he resigned amid multiple scandals in 2018.

Graves was Greitens' pick to lead the Missouri Republican Party after Greitens won the governorship in 2016. Greitens tapped Graves' Kansas City law firm, Graves Garrett LLC, repeatedly when seeking legal help or filling out his administration during his short time in office. 

An attorney from Graves Garrett was Greitens' pick to represent the governor's office as he faced possible impeachment from the House over a sex scandal and ethics investigation in 2018. 

Sen. Paul Wieland, who repeatedly clashed with Greitens during his time in office, was among the Republicans who joined with most Democrats in opposing Graves' appointment. Wieland said he had unanswered questions about the numerous controversies tied to Graves or his law firm and was unwilling to vote for him in exchange for political favors. 

"There is nothing that they can give me to say that 'I want to vote for this nominee,'" Wieland said. "Because I'm not doing it to get something. I'm doing it because there's right, and there's wrong."

Several senators brought up a combined $200,000 in donations from the Republican Party to a political action committee with ties to Graves Garrett while Graves headed the GOP party. 

The Fair Missouri PAC pushed a Republican-backed redistricting change that was on the ballot last year. The PAC's treasurer, William Greim, is the brother of Graves Garrett lawyer Eddie Greim, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported. 

Other than the Republican Party, the only other group to give to Fair Missouri was Advance Missouri PAC. Advance Missouri's address was the same as Graves Garrett's law firm. 

Graves' law firm also represented the Republican-leaning Missouri Alliance for Freedom when it sued a former Republican state senator, Rob Schaaf, and Democratic Auditor Nicole Galloway for copies of their emails. 

A judge ultimately ruled in favor of Schaaf and Galloway, and the targeting of a Republican state senator grated colleagues who still are serving in the Senate. Schaaf has since left office due to term limits. 

Senators also questioned such a political figure serving on the university board and why only graduates from the Columbia campus are serving as curators for the four-campus system.

Graves and seven other curators on the nine-member board graduated from the University of Missouri-Columbia. The other curator did not go to school at any of the four campuses. 

Graves previously served as a U.S. attorney under former President George W. Bush. His brother is Republican U.S. Rep. Sam Graves. 

Republican Sen. Tony Luetkemeyer, of Parkville, in a statement said he was proud to usher Graves' appointment through the Senate. 

"As a seventh-generation Missourian and a proud graduate of the University of Missouri, he will be a tremendous asset to the Board of Curators," Luetkemeyer said. 

Luetkemeyer's spouse, Lucinda Luetkemeyer, is an attorney at Graves' law firm. She also previously served as the top attorney for the governor's office under Greitens.