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FBI questions former speaker about handling of bill

Friday, January 22, 2010 | 3:54 p.m. CST

KANSAS CITY — A former Missouri lawmaker said he has been questioned by the FBI about former House Speaker Rod Jetton's handling of legislation regulating the adult entertainment industry.

Republican Bob Johnson, of Lee's Summit, said FBI agents interviewed him Jan. 14 about Jetton's role in 2005 legislation, The Kansas City Star reported Friday.

After passing the Senate, the adult entertainment bill had been assigned by Jetton to a House committee led by Johnson, who opposed the bill. State records show that strip club owners who opposed the bill had collectively donated $35,000 four days earlier to a fundraising committee with ties to a top adviser of Jetton's.

The legislation never made it to the House floor, prompting opponents of adult entertainment to tack less-restrictive wording onto another bill in the Senate. That second bill passed but was later struck down in court for technical reasons.

Johnson said the bill and Jetton's role in it were the only issues the FBI discussed in his questioning. He said the agents' questions concerned when exactly the original bill came to the House and how the committee dealt with it.

"No question there's interest in Rod Jetton," Johnson told The Kansas City Star. "That's all they wanted to talk about."

A spokesman for the FBI would neither confirm nor deny the existence of an investigation. A U.S. attorney's office spokesman declined to comment.

Jetton, a Republican who left the speaker's office early last year, is currently facing a felony assault charge stemming from a sexual encounter with a woman in Sikeston, where he has pled not guilty. Jetton's attorney, Stephen Wilson, said he had no comment about the apparent FBI investigation.

As House speaker, Jetton had broad discretion to assign bills to any committee he desired.

The bill in question would have required admission fees and special taxes on adult businesses, mandated them to close by 10 p.m. and banned full nudity in strip clubs. Semi-nude dancers would have had to perform on a stage 10 feet from patrons, who would have also been prohibited from tipping the performers.

Johnson, who led the House Local Government Committee, said he opposed several provisions of the legislation, which he said would have ended local zoning control over adult entertainment clubs and transferred that power to the state.

But Johnson said he was unaware of the $35,000 contribution from the adult entertainment industry to the Committee for Honest Campaigns at the time.

Don Lograsso, House general counsel, said in a March 2006 article by The Kansas City Star that he didn't believe Jetton was aware of the contribution. Lograsso claims he had not advised Jetton about which committee should be assigned the legislation.

Jetton also said in that 2006 article that he had not consulted with Lograsso on where to assign the bill and was unaware at the time of the $35,000 contribution.

"It had no bearing on that bill," Jetton said.

 


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