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Tax returns could halt talks for Missouri governor debates

In this Aug. 16, 2016 file photo, Missouri Attorney General and Democratic candidate for governor Chris Koster speaks at a campaign appearance in Springfield, Mo. Gubernatorial candidates in some states including Missouri have been staking strategic positions contrary to their party's national norms and presidential nominees. Attorney General Koster faces Republican nominee and former Navy SEAL officer, Eric Greitens in the general election. (Guillermo Hernandez Martinez/The Springfield News-Leader via AP File) /The Springfield News-Leader via AP)
October 04, 2016 - 10:27 AM

ST. LOUIS - Missouri Democratic gubernatorial candidate Chris Koster is calling off debate negotiations with Eric Greitens unless the Republican nominee releases his tax returns for the years 2012 through 2015.

Koster's campaign sent a letter to Greitens' campaign manager, Austin Chambers, noting that Koster released his own returns Thursday. The letter says Greitens has promised to release his returns once Koster did so, but so far has not.

Koster, Missouri's two-term attorney general, and Greitens, a first-time politician and former Navy SEAL officer, have debated just once, appearing Friday with three lesser known candidates at a forum in Branson.

The letter calls on Greitens to release his personal returns and those for Eric Greitens LLC by Thursday. It says the release of taxes is an "absolute condition" for continued discussion of a debate on Oct. 14. KTVI-TV would host that debate in St. Louis.

"Only with such candid disclosure is it possible for Mr. Greitens to provide the voters an equivalent assurance, as has Attorney General Koster, that no conflict or inconsistency exists between Mr. Greitens' actual financial history, his campaign's rhetoric, and his suitability to act as Governor," said the letter from Andrew P. Whalen, Koster's campaign manager.

The Greitens campaign responded by accusing Koster of political gamesmanship, saying in a letter it "will not meet the arbitrary and political demands of crooked Chris Koster."

"Letters like the one sent by your campaign scream that Koster is terrified of debating Eric," Chambers wrote. "Koster knows that Missourians deeply disagree with his liberal positions and are tired of his record of epic failure."

Koster's returns showed that he earned $113,000 in 2015, mostly his salary as attorney general.

Records have shown that Greitens earned $175,000 annually as head of the charity he formed to help veterans, The Mission Continues, before stepping down as CEO in 2014. It is not known how much he has earned from other income such as speaking engagement and book royalties.

Tax returns have also been an issue in the presidential campaign, with Republican nominee Donald Trump declining to make his public, citing an ongoing audit. The New York Times recently obtained his 1995 income tax returns, which showed the businessman reported losses of more than $900 million.

News from © The Associated Press, 2016
The Associated Press

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