On 22 February 2018, Missouri governor Eric Greitens was indicted on a felony invasion of privacy charge stemming from allegations that he blackmailed a woman with whom he was having an extramarital affair using a nude photo he had taken without her consent.
As reported by the Washington Post:
The indictment states that Greitens then photographed the woman “in a state of full or partial nudity” without her knowledge or consent. Greitens then “transmitted the image contained in the photograph in a manner that allowed access to that image via a computer,” which is a felony.
The next day, the Missouri GOP attempted to defend Greitens not by offering any challenge against allegations themselves, but instead by offering up a conspiracy-theory-tinged attack against the prosecutor in the case, St. Louis circuit attorney Kim Gardner.
In a 23 February 2018 post on Twitter, Missouri Republicans argued that the indictment was a political hit job because Gardner had taken more than $200,000 from billionaire financier George Soros:
Kim Gardner has received more than $200,000 from George Soros groups,” said Sam Cooper Executive Director of the Missouri Republican Party. “Missourians should see this for what it is, a political hit job. This law has never been prosecuted in this way and it is safe to say if Eric Greitens wasn’t governor, it wouldn’t have been this time either.
We have a progressive anti-law enforcement Democrat wanting to single-handedly oust a law-and-order governor. We look forward to a bipartisan committee of legislators elected by people across Missouri to find out what’s really going on – ensuring St. Louis liberals aren’t controlling the future of our state.”
Cooper here is referencing factual reports that Gardner received support during her 2016 campaign for circuit attorney from a Super PAC connected to George Soros — the Safety & Justice Commission — which included efforts that funded television and Internet advertisements. A 24 July 2016 story in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported:
Last week, Gardner’s campaign disclosed to the Missouri Ethics Commission a $67,693.23 in-kind contribution from the super PAC. The group apparently took in additional money after June 30, since it donated more to Gardner than it had on hand at that time. But any money donated to the PAC after June 30 won’t be made public until its next quarterly report is filed on Oct. 15.
On July 26, Gardner’s campaign reported to the Missouri Ethics Commission a $24,548.37 in-kind donation from the same federal campaign committee, a day after reporting a $25,738.86 contribution from that super PAC. Then on July 29, Gardner reported an additional $72,770.27 from Safety & Justice, bringing the Soros-backed super PAC total contribution to Gardner’s campaign to at least $190,750.73.
George Soros, a wealthy businessman and philanthropist who donates money to causes he supports (as wealthy people have always done) is arguably one of the most common targets of the far-right conspiracy theory world. Conjuring his name — at least in the dark corners of the Internet that house conspiracy theorists — is a symbol of a left-wing “globalist” conspiracy to destroy the United States as we know it. (No motive is usually given for this purported desire.)
People running for political office frequently take money from billionaire financiers. Sheldon Adelson, described sometimes as the George Soros of the right, gave $200,000 to the Greitens’ gubernatorial campaign, and Greitens also received millions of dollars in support for his GOP primary campaign from super PACs that effectively conceal the names of those who donate.
If the vague invocation of shadowy, rich puppet masters is a valid way to discredit the actions of a politician, then at the very least a dispute between Gardner and Greitens on those terms would end be a draw. The Soros gambit may work for Infowars, but as a legal defense against the malicious use of a nude photo taken without consent to hide an extramarital affair, it is a bit of a non-sequitur.