Whatever his flaws, Eric Greitens was the first Missouri governor to try to stop a program called the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC).
The governor’s defense attorneys believe that friends of the LIHTC program may well be behind the four mysterious cash payments totaling $120,000 to Al Watkins. Watkins is the attorney who got the media wheels spinning on the Greitens sex scandal.
At least $50,000 of that money came from newspaper publisher Scott Faughn. The attorneys for Greitens openly traced Faughn’s interest to the LIHTC program.
As conceived, LIHTC provides a federal tax credit to encourage investors to develop housing for low-income individuals. The feds have turned the program over to the states to assure closer scrutiny, and in Missouri the program is administered by the Missouri Housing Development Commission (MHDC).
That is what is supposed to happen. The reality is that a disproportionate chunk of the money has gone to lawyers and consultants. According to Fox2, only 42 percent of the generated revenue has gone to building low-income housing, a fact that two separate Missouri auditors have pointed out and criticized.
“This has been going on for decades,” said Jason Crowell, a MHDC board member appointed by Greitens to shake things up. Crowell took Fox2 reporter Chris Hayes to a low-income housing complex in Cape Girardeau that was built at a cost of $376,000 per unit.
“And I’m telling you,” said Crowell, “as someone who’s volunteered for Habitat for Humanity, I could build almost four Habitat Humanity Homes in Cape for what we spent on one apartment unit.”
There is a lot of money to be lost if Greitens were able to rein the program in. As Fox2 points out, PACs associated with the LIHTC program have donated to many of those involved in the case, including St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner, Rep. Jay Barnes who led the House investigation, and Lt. Gov. Mike Parsons.
Although he does not produce evidence enough to make this insinuation, Fox2’s Chris Hayes looks to Parsons as the person most likely to have engineered what would appear to be a borderline coup.
Says Hayes of Parsons, “If he were to take the reigns as governor, he would have the power to immediately appoint new board members and shoot down the LIHTC reforms that began right around the time news of Greitens’ affair was being shopped to reporters.”
Hayes compares the Greitens scandal to a real-life episode of the Netflix “House of Cards.” On this point, he is absolutely on safe ground.