APRIL 02, 2009
Federal agents are investigating several Missouri “pay to play” schemes in which state lawmakers exchanged favors—including prestigious committee posts—for political donations.
Among the main targets of the probe is House Minority Leader Paul LeVota, a Democrat from Independence suspected of making sought-after committee assignments contingent upon lawmakers contributing money to his party campaign committees.
Two legislators said the FBI asked them about a letter LeVota sent last year soliciting donations because it was on Missouri Democratic Campaign Committee letterhead yet the money was directed to LaVota’s personal campaign coffers in his hometown.
Other Missouri House leaders are suspected of promoting legislation in exchange for campaign contributions. One high-ranking Republican, who became a lobbyist after resigning in 2007, is under investigation for pushing a certain bill. He admits that Republicans who were given prime committee spots were expected to help raise money for the caucus.
Several lawmakers told a local newspaper this week that they experienced instances in which colleagues were handed campaign money in the hallway outside the House chamber and cases where legislation was introduced with the obvious intent of benefiting a wealthy donor. A few veteran politicians said the FBI investigation was long overdue because the ethical culture in the state capitol had long eroded.
One four-term Democrat from Kansas City said he was disgusted by the “loosening and chipping” of ethical standards in the House driven by the pressure to stockpile campaign cash. “I don’t know how some of these guys go to sleep at night personally,” the legislator said.
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