JEFFERSON CITY — Missouri legislators paid hundreds of thousands of dollars for political advice and campaign help from a former state House speaker who now is charged with assaulting a woman during a sexual encounter.
Missouri campaign finance records reviewed Wednesday show former speaker Rod Jetton's consulting firm received more than $400,000 from fellow Republican lawmakers during the past three years. That includes $124,000 paid to Jetton since he left the legislature this January.
Jetton, 42, of Marble Hill, was charged this week with second-degree assault in Scott County, where he is accused of hitting and choking a woman during a sexual encounter. His attorney says Jetton is not guilty but is closing the consulting business and getting out of politics.
Jetton, who is recently divorced, served in the House from 2001-09 and as speaker for the last four years of his tenure. He is scheduled to appear in a Scott County courtroom Jan. 6,2010.
State finance records show Jetton was paid more than $40,000 in 2007. Candidates for the Missouri House and Senate in 2008 reported paying Jetton almost $300,000. In the non-election year of 2009, Jetton's firm so far has earned about $130,000.
The records show only those payments made to Jetton by clients required to report financial activities to the Missouri Ethics Commission. They don't include money paid to Jetton by candidates for federal office — such as presidential candidate Mitt Romney and congressional candidate Bob Onder — or interest groups such as one that hired Jetton to help defeat proposed utility legislation earlier this year.
Before announcing this week that his business was closing, Jetton said on his Web site that he had 13 clients for the 2010 election, including 11 state lawmakers.
Among the lawmakers who have hired Jetton is House Majority Leader Steven Tilley, who has been picked by House Republicans to be speaker after the November 2010 election if the GOP keeps control of the chamber. Tilley's campaign paid Jetton nearly $50,000 this year, according to campaign finance reports.
In a written statement released Wednesday, Tilley said he planned to sever ties if Jetton is convicted.
"These are very serious charges, and our legal system must handle them," said Tilley, R-Perryville. "Each of us is innocent until proven guilty, however, if these accusations are true, I can assure you that my office will have nothing to do with someone convicted of these charges."
Jetton started his political consulting firm in 2004. Initially, his only client was friend and fellow southeastern Missouri lawmaker Sen. Jason Crowell, who paid Jetton $21,000 during his first Senate campaign and $12,000 in 2005.
Jetton was criticized by both Democrats and some Republicans for working as a political consultant while simultaneously serving in the legislature. The Missouri Ethics Commission in 2006 said no law prohibited such an arrangement but expressed "serious concerns" about the ability of a lawmaker-consultant to avoid legal violations and "about the appearance of impropriety" associated with it.