JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) -- The general counsel for the Missouri House was placed on an unpaid leave of absence Friday but denied any connection to an apparent FBI investigation into the activities of a former House speaker for whom he worked.
Don Lograsso, a Republican attorney from Blue Springs, said he asked to be placed on leave because his eyesight has been deteriorating and he likely will need surgery. House Speaker Ron Richard said he granted the request for Lograsso's indefinite absence.
Lograsso's announcement came the same day The Kansas City Star reported that the FBI had interviewed former Rep. Bob Johnson, R-Lee's Summit, about a potential connection between political donations and the handling of a 2005 bill regulating the adult entertainment industry.
After passing the Senate, the adult entertainment bill was assigned by then-House Speaker Rod Jetton to a committee led by Johnson, who opposed the bill.
State records show that strip club owners opposed to the bill gave $35,000 four days earlier to the Committee for Honest Campaigns, which was paying Lograsso for fundraising and consulting work.
The legislation never made it to the House floor, prompting senators to tack adult entertainment regulations onto a separate drunken driving bill that Jetton had sponsored. That second bill passed but later was struck down in court for technical reasons.
Johnson said the original bill and Jetton's role in it were the only issues the FBI discussed with him. He told The Associated Press on Friday that the FBI agents never asked him about Lograsso.
"Most of the time was really just about the process of how the House operates, how committees work and how amendments are drafted," Johnson said of the FBI interview.
An FBI spokesman would neither confirm nor deny the existence of an investigation.
Lograsso said the timing of his leave announcement and reports of an FBI investigation into the adult entertainment legislation were unrelated and an unfortunate coincidence.
Asked earlier Friday if he had received a federal subpoena, Lograsso responded: "I'm just not going to talk about it at all -- one way or the other."
Jetton, a Republican who left office early last year, declined to comment Friday about the apparent FBI investigation. Jetton already is facing a felony assault charge stemming from a sexual encounter with a woman in Sikeston. He has pleaded not guilty.
As House speaker, Jetton had broad discretion to assign bills to any committee he desired.
The bill at issue would have enacted admission fees and special taxes on adult businesses, required them to close by 10 p.m. and banned full nudity in strip clubs. Seminude dancers would have had to perform on a stage 10 feet from patrons, who would have been prohibited from tipping.
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 any political contributions by the adult entertainment industry until The Star first reported them in March 2006. Lograsso said in that article that he didn't believe Jetton was aware of the contribution and that he had not advised Jetton about which committee should be assigned the legislation.
Jetton also said in that 2006 news 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.
(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)
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