Missouri Republican Senate Candidates Fundraised at Democratic Contender’s Estate

Gun Rights

This spring, a historic St. Louis farm built by former President Ulysses S. Grant was the site of major fundraisers for two front-runners in Missouri’s Republican Senate primary. The estate is jointly owned and operated by five members of the Anheuser-Busch family, including Trudy Busch Valentine, a Democratic candidate for Senate in Missouri. The fundraisers were hosted by two other co-owners — Busch Valentine’s siblings.

In 2017, Busch Valentine, an heir to the Anheuser-Busch fortune, and four other relatives purchased the farm from their family trust for $51 million. In March, her brother Peter Busch, a co-owner of the estate, hosted a high-dollar fundraiser there for former Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens, whose ex-wife accused him of physically abusing her and one of their children in an affidavit reported publicly the day before the event. (He resigned as governor in 2018 amid several criminal investigations, including one that involved sexual misconduct.) An event flyer advertised tickets starting at $1,000, an upper “co-host” rate of $10,800, and a “special appearance from the Budweiser Clydesdale.” Busch Valentine entered the race the following week.

In May, Andy Busch, another brother and co-owner, held a high-dollar fundraiser for Missouri’s Republican Attorney General Eric Schmitt at the farm. The Schmitt campaign reportedly raised more than $100,000 from 100 supporters at the event. According to filings with the Federal Election Commission, the campaign paid $11,000 to the farm in June for “event food and beverage.”

Both Schmitt and Greitens are in the state’s upcoming Republican Senate primary, which means that they could both potentially face Busch Valentine in the November general election. A third brother, August Busch III, who is not part of the group that owns the farm, is a major Republican donor who gave $250,000 to a political action committee backing Schmitt last June. Though some of her siblings appear to support her opponents, FEC filings indicate that several relatives have also contributed to her campaign.

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In May, Busch Valentine used her influence as a partial owner of the farm to stop another controversial event from taking place on its grounds. In the weeks after a mass shooter killed 19 students and two teachers at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, the farm was set to host a fundraiser for the National Rifle Association. After The Intercept reported on the planned event, Busch Valentine wrote in a tweet that once she learned of the plans, she “persuaded the Board to cancel the event.”

In response to questions about the Schmitt and Greitens fundraisers, Busch Valentine’s campaign manager, Alex Witt, said in a statement to The Intercept that the candidate “cannot make unilateral decisions about events at Grant’s Farm.” The farm’s board is composed of its five co-owners, and Busch Valentine does not have veto power over events.

In this photo taken in 2012, vistoros attend The Busch family mansion at Grant's Farm in Grantwood Lake, Mo. for a special event. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that the more than 200-acre wildlife park in south St. Louis County has been a constant in the lives of the residents of Grantwood Village. But it is now poised for change, although of what form is the subject of a lawsuit between the sibling heirs of the Busch beer dynasty. (Tom Borgman/St. Louis Post-Dispatch via AP)  EDWARDSVILLE INTELLIGENCER OUT; THE ALTON TELEGRAPH OUT; MANDATORY CREDIT

Visitors attend an event at Grant’s Farm, the estate owned by members of the Anheuser-Busch family, in Missouri in 2012.

Photo: Tom Borgman/St. Louis Post-Dispatch via AP

Seeking the Democratic nomination, Busch Valentine has emphasized her support for efforts to codify access to abortion into federal law and was endorsed earlier this month by Pro-Choice Missouri, a grassroots advocacy group based in St. Louis. The candidates who campaigned at her family’s estate in the months leading up to the Supreme Court’s ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, however, have made none of the same assurances: In 2017, Greitens called Missouri legislators into a special session to consider protections for anti-abortion organizations. Last year, Schmitt joined an amicus brief calling on the Supreme Court to overturn the right to abortion in Dobbs v. Mississippi Department of Health.

The political action committee for Anheuser-Busch, Busch Valentine’s family company, has contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars to Republican candidates who oppose the right to abortion, including the late Rep. Todd Akin, who claimed that in cases of “legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.” The PAC has also contributed to at least 35 Republican senators who voted to confirm Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett. Representatives of Anheuser-Busch were also on a list of attendees for a private retreat the Republican Attorneys General Association hosted for corporate donors in Palm Beach, Florida, earlier this week.

Witt said that Busch Valentine has “never held a management or policy role with Anheuser-Busch, and therefore, has no control over their corporate PAC contributions.”

According to her most recent financial disclosure, filed July 3, Busch Valentine is also invested in several corporations that have helped fund lawmakers who passed anti-abortion laws in the wake of the decision to overturn Roe v. Wade. As of the filing, Busch Valentine owned between $3.1 million and $6.5 million in stock in companies including General Motors, Berkshire Hathaway, Citigroup, Johnson & Johnson, Eli Lilly, Altria Group, Pfizer, UnitedHealth Group, and Walmart — all of which were recently named in a Business Insider report as top contributors to lawmakers who supported so-called trigger abortion bans.

“The authority to make investments in Trudy’s current portfolio has been delegated to a third-party advisor,” Witt told The Intercept. “If elected to the U.S. Senate Trudy and her husband, John Fries, will place their assets in a blind trust. As noted in other coverage, Trudy has also pledged to push for a ban on Members of Congress and their families trading stock while in office.”

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