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MDN.ORG Mo. Digital News Missouri Digital News MDN.ORG: Mo. Digital News MDN.ORG: Missouri Digital News
Lobbyist Money Help  

Suspicion, but few details, emerge from Star article

April 13, 2006
By: Ferdous Al-Faruque and Jason Rosenbaum
State Capital Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY - Few details emerged Thursday after a Kansas City Star report that the FBI is investigating lobbying activities in Missouri.

Attorney General Jay Nixon gave a crptic response, laced with long pauses, when asked if he or his staff had met with federal officials on any type of lobbying investigation.

"I don't want to overstate in way shape or form aum, the, ah, limited ah knowledge or role of this office aum, in this one."

But Nixon added a bit later, "Something tells me this is not the last time that this will be mentioned."

The Star's report did not cite a source nor did it provide any details about exactly what lobbying activities were involved.

The article said a meeting took place last week between the FBI, the Cole County prosecutor's office and staff from the Missouri Ethics Committee where the lobbying practices were potentionally discussed.

Rick Thornton, supervisor at the FBI office in Jefforson City, said that due to policy he was not in a position to confirm or deny whether or not there was an investigation.

"The only time we would release information about an ongoing investigation is when something was done publicly such as a search or an arrest," he said.

"The FBI has jurisdiction in matters involving political corruption, public corruption, government fraud and so forth," Thornton said. "Those are areas of our primary jurisdiction, so obviously if there is an issue such as (inappropriate lobbying practices), that's what we look at."

A spokesman for the U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Missouri was not available for comment.

Bob Connor, executive director of the Missouri Ethics Commission, had no comment on the allegations of an investigation.

"I can neither confirm or deny any investigation," Connor said.

While some legislators have said they had been hearing rumors about a possible investigation, top legislative leaders said they had absolutely no factual information.

They said they had not been questioned by investigators nor knew of any legislator or lobbyist who had been questioned.

"I'm not aware of anybody in House, any members, any staff or anybody that's had any conversation on anything like that," said House Speaker Rod Jetton, R-Marble Hill.

Jetton added that no lobbyists came up to him to talk about any investigation.

In light of scandals in Washington, D.C. involving lobbyist Jack Abramoff, some state lawmakers scrutinized lobbyist activity and influence in Missouri.

There has also been an ongoing controversy concerning Jetton's role as a consultant to Sen. Jason Crowell's, R-Cape Giradeau, 2004 election campaign. Jetton made $33,000 from the arrangment.

The Missouri Ethics Commission has brought in an outside investigator to look into whether the relationship was legal -- at Jetton's request.

"We hope to get a final answer," he said. Jetton said his campaign work for Crowell continues.

"Nothing changed, I've been helping him like I've been helping him," he said.

And despite the looming spector of an investigation, Jetton said House Republicans will continue to persue their agenda.

"We've pretty much got our hands full to finish up the bills," Jetton said.

Senate President Pro Tem Mike Gibbons, R-St. Louis County, said he also did not know of anybody who had been questioned in a federal investigation.

Meghan Maskery contributed to this story.