JEFFERSON CITY | from www.kcstar.com – A federal investigation into alleged “pay for play” activities appears to include former Missouri House Speaker Rod Jetton’s [pictured] handling of a 2005 bill that aimed to crack down on the adult entertainment industry.
Former state lawmaker Bob Johnson, a Lee’s Summit Republican, said three FBI agents last week interviewed him about the bill and Jetton’s role.
“No question there’s interest in Rod Jetton,” Johnson told The Kansas City Star. “That’s all they wanted to talk about.”
An FBI spokesman would neither confirm nor deny the existence of an investigation. A U.S. attorney’s office spokesman declined to comment.
Jetton, who left the speaker’s office early last year, has been under investigation for his alleged involvement in activities in which political donations were given in exchange for favorable treatment of legislation. He also faces felony assault charges in an unrelated incident last fall allegedly involving a woman in Sikeston, Mo.
Jetton’s attorney in his criminal case, Stephen Wilson, said he had no comment on the federal investigation.
The 2005 bill — proposing a host of new restrictions on adult clubs and dancers — ran into opposition after Jetton assigned it to an unfriendly committee that Johnson chaired. Records show that strip club owners who opposed the bill had four days earlier given $35,000 to a fund-raising committee with ties to a top Jetton adviser.
But in an interview with The Star in 2006, Jetton maintained that he and his adviser had not discussed which House committee would get the bill and that he was unaware of the $35,000 contribution.
“It (the money) had no bearing on that bill,” said Jetton, a Republican.
The House speaker has broad discretion to assign bills to any committee he desires, and members of both parties in 2006 privately questioned the contribution’s timing.
Johnson, who led the House Local Government Committee, said he opposed several provisions of the adult entertainment bill. It would have enacted admission fees and special taxes on adult businesses, requiring them to close by 10 p.m. and banning full nudity in strip clubs. Semi-nude dancers would have had to perform on a stage 10 feet from patrons, who would have been prohibited from tipping.
Johnson said the bill also would have ended local zoning control over the clubs, instead transferring that power to the state.
“People knew I had issues with the bill,” Johnson acknowledged, but noted that he learned of the $35,000 contribution only after reading about it in The Star.
Johnson said he was not sure if it was he or Jetton who initiated the original conversation about the bill, which was introduced by Sen. Matt Bartle, a Lee’s Summit Republican.
Johnson said the bill and Jetton’s role in it were the only issues the FBI talked to him about on Jan. 14. He said the agents’ questions concerned when the bill came to the House and how the committee dealt with it.
He said the agents also had questions about how the General Assembly’s committee process worked.
Johnson noted that the agents gave him no indication where their inquiry was headed, or whether it would go before a grand jury.
A spokesman for the U.S. attorney’s office confirmed that grand juries were scheduled to convene in Kansas City on Tuesday and Feb. 2 and Feb. 9.