Missouri Democrat Nicole Galloway is in a pickle. The Missouri State auditor, now turned candidate for governor, has bragged about an endorsement from a liberal dark money group just days after claiming that she “hate[s] dark money with a passion.” The duplicity has caught many off-guard, including some of her supporters.
The state auditor has repeatedly denounced dark money during her bid to unseat Missouri governor Mike Parson (R.). Galloway has told supporters and reporters that she “hate[s] dark money with a passion” and “absolutely think[s] it’s wrong” in the past, but she now welcomes its support for her gubernatorial run. During a May 8 call with supporters, she boasted that she had won the backing of 314 Action, which has pledged to spend millions in 2020 but does not disclose donors for its nonprofit arm.
“I will point out that I am endorsed by 314 Action, which is one of the leading organizations promoting science and data in policymaking,” she said. “I am proud of that endorsement.”
The group operates as a “hybrid PAC,” which allows it to contribute directly to candidates, as well as spend unlimited amounts on advertisements. While the PAC is required to disclose donors, the group also employs a nonprofit arm that can partake in political spending without making such disclosures. The group aims to become the “EMILY’s List for scientists”—a pro-abortion hybrid PAC and major Democratic donor—and plans to spend at least $10 million in 2020 to support Democratic candidates. Josh Morrow, 314 Action’s executive director, told Scientific American in 2018 that the group planned to use its nonprofit arm to buy political ads, saying, “It’s about leveling the playing field.”
Galloway’s praise for 314 Action is not the first time that her campaign’s actions have been at odds with her anti-dark money rhetoric. The Democrat criticized Parson for benefiting from a “dark money group” in March, pointing to a Parson-aligned PAC called Uniting Missouri, which is required to disclose donors. Galloway is backed by a similar PAC, Keep Government Accountable, which held nearly $940,000 on hand as of April 14, according to state records.
During her 2018 state auditor reelection campaign, Galloway said she would disassociate with any dark money groups that supported her, saying she has “taken a stand against dark money from the very beginning.”
“I don’t want anything to do with dark money,” Galloway said. “I think it is wrong. I don’t care where it comes from, I don’t care what side it is from, I have taken a stand against dark money from the very beginning because I absolutely think it’s wrong.”
Galloway went on to announce her gubernatorial bid in an August 2019 campaign video that accused Parson of taking dark money from “corporations and lobbyists.” Her Keep Government Accountable PAC has taken in nearly $200,000 from limited liability companies since 2018, state filings show. Galloway is allowed to fundraise for the PAC under Missouri campaign finance law.
Galloway, who did not respond to a request for comment, again attacked dark money in a May 4 interview with the Kansas City Star. She said that while she supported former Missouri governor Eric Greitens’s “willingness to say the system is broken,” she took issue with his association with dark money groups.
“He didn’t approach it the right way, and I hate dark money with a passion, but he was willing to take on the system, and I’m willing to shake it up,” she said.
Galloway’s backers at 314 Action also accept corporate money—the hybrid PAC reported a six-figure donation from Gemini Trust Company, a New York-based digital currency exchange, in May 2018. Founded two years prior and named for the first three digits of the number pi, the group backs “pro-science” candidates for federal and state office. While Morrow told Scientific American that 314 Action initially used its nonprofit arm for “issue-based advocacy,” the group began using money from the nonprofit to finance political ads during the midterm elections. It went on to use its nonprofit arm to launch a digital ad campaign supporting Rep. Joe Cunningham (D., S.C.) in December 2019, according to South Carolina’s Post and Courier. Morrow did not respond to a request for comment on the group’s use of its nonprofit arm for political spending.
Every single one of 314 Action’s candidate contributions since 2018 has gone to Democrats, including Sen. Chris Coons (D., Del.), Reps. Lauren Underwood (D., Ill.) and T.J. Cox (D., Calif.), and Arizona Senate hopeful Mark Kelly, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. The group has also backed Rep. Jeff Van Drew (R., N.J.), but those contributions came before the former Democrat flipped his party affiliation in January to protest the impeachment of President Donald Trump.
Galloway has emerged as the likely Democratic nominee for governor in Missouri, though she will have to defeat four other candidates before taking on Parson in November. President Donald Trump endorsed Parson in September after winning the state by nearly 20 points in 2016.