House Minority leader denies accusations of bribes

Tuesday, March 31, 2009 | 9:12 p.m. CDT

JEFFERSON CITY – A report by The Associated Press naming the House Democratic leader as the a subject of FBI questioning prompted a hasty closed-door caucus of House Democrats Tuesday.

Democratic Leader Rep. Paul LeVota, D-Jackson County, told reporters afterward that he told his caucus he knew nothing of any FBI investigation involving the legislature.

On Sunday, the Kansas City Star cited unnamed legislators as saying the FBI had questioned them about "pay for play" schemes in the legislature. On Tuesday, The Associated Press cited two unnamed legislators as saying they were questioned about LeVota and linkages between campaign contributions and committee assignment.

The caucus was held just a few hours after The AP story broke.

"I told the caucus that the AP reporter came in, mentioned that two lawmakers mentioned my name to the FBI," LeVota said. "I told the caucus what I told the AP reporter that I don't know anything about the FBI, never talked to the FBI, never been a target of the FBI."

He denied the accusations and said he thinks caucus members are behind the accusation.

"I think that there are disgruntled members of the caucus who are fabricating things against me," LeVota said. "...either committee assignments or anything else. It could be a number of things. When you're minority leader, you've got to make some decisions that not everybody's happy with," LeVota said.

Ted Wedel, chief of staff to the office of the Minority Leader, refused to comment on the matter.

The Jackson County Democrat said no vote was taken during the caucus meeting.

A few lobbyists and legislators said they would not be surprised if there was a corruption investigation because of activities between lobbyists and a few legislators in the past couple of years.

Rep. Brian Yates, R-Jackson County, said that he is not surprised by the news.

"In the previous administration of our speaker, I believe there was some ethically challenged things going on, but I don't have any evidence of an actual crime being committed," said Yates.

At the time, Rep. Rod Jetton had run a political consulting company at the same time he had been House Speaker. He accepted consulting payments from legislators whose bills were assigned to committee by Jetton.

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