JEFFERSON CITY, Missouri from www.kansascity.com – Missouri Republican lawmakers who questioned a 2005 political donation believed to be a subject of a federal investigation said they were rebuffed and ostracized by the then House speaker and the chamber’s top lawyer.
Rep. Doug Ervin of Kearney and former lawmaker Brian Baker of Belton said Monday they were concerned about the $35,000 donation. The money came from the adult-entertainment industry at a time lawmakers were considering a bill regulating strip clubs.
But when they voiced their concerns to the then speaker, Rod Jetton [pictured], and the chamber’s top lawyer in 2005 and 2006, they said they were told nothing was wrong and were accused of attempting to undermine Jetton, a fellow Republican.
“We weren’t accusing him. We just wanted to know what was going on,” Ervin said. “And just from that inquiry, it made my life hellish here for the next three years.”
The donation was made to the Committee for Honest Campaigns, a Blue Springs-based campaign committee that had paid House General Counsel Don Lograsso as a consultant and fundraiser.
Four days after the donation was received, Jetton referred the adult-entertainment bill to a committee chaired by a socially moderate Republican, who declined to advance it further.
That committee chairman, Bob Johnson, told The Kansas City Star last week that he had been interviewed by the FBI regarding the bill. Johnson said investigators seemed particularly interested in Jetton.
Jetton could not be reached for comment Monday. In the past he has denied any wrongdoing involving “pay for play” allegations.
Ervin and Baker said they initially raised questions about the contribution with Jetton and Lograsso in 2005, shortly after the strip club bill was killed in committee.
“They obviously knew who that (campaign) committee represented,” Baker said.
But when they approached Lograsso, Ervin said he dismissed their concerns. Ervin said Lograsso also told him that the Committee for Honest Campaigns was organized specifically to discreetly funnel donations that could be politically damaging to fellow Republican candidates.
Lograsso on Monday acknowledged having conversations with Ervin and Baker on the adult-entertainment issue but declined to describe what was discussed, citing attorney-client privilege.
Ervin and Baker said that, following a Star story in 2006 about the donation, they held a tense meeting with Jetton and asked Lograsso to address the situation before the entire Republican caucus, which was worried that adult-entertainment money might find its way into their campaigns.
Lograsso did speak to lawmakers, Ervin said, telling them he had no control over the campaign committee. Baker confirmed Ervin’s recollection of events, as did other lawmakers who were present in 2006. Lograsso said Monday that he had talked to “many members of the House” about the donation.
Baker and Ervin, however, said they were “blackballed” by the speaker’s office until Jetton left the post in early 2009. Baker was stripped of a committee chairmanship and Ervin said he nearly lost his.
“It was a bad situation,” Baker said. “It was terrible, very uncomfortable from that point on.”