If you’re a politically powerful person in America, there are a number of levers you can pull to help your disappointment of a kid stumble through life—you can bribe college administrators to get them into a school that they have no business attending, for instance, or get them a cush job they are categorically unable to perform.
Alternately, as appears to be the case of one lobbyist in Missouri, you can take your hubris right to your state’s system of government, and start a dark money group to rewrite Title IX laws so your son can get back into school—and then use the legal system to punish everyone from the person who accused him of sexual misconduct to the college employees who oversaw the investigation.
Since 2018, a number of proposed amendments and bills have rather unexpectedly appeared in Missouri’s state legislature. As one Democratic lawmaker told the Kansas City Star, the number of Title IX proposals have gone off “like a bomb.” Swarms of lobbyists have appeared to put pressure on lawmakers to vote in favor of these two bills—one in the House, and one in the Senate—which are up for a final vote in the coming weeks.
In addition to giving people accused of sexual misconduct more power than in any other state, the fleet of proposed laws include one retroactivity clause that allows punished students to appeal their cases in front of an administrative judge. Theoretically, if all the bills pass as proposed, Missouri state law would allow a student kicked out of school for sexual misconduct to appeal their position and sue the person who accused them, the administrators who performed the investigation, and the school itself.
It’s an interesting trend, considering that a powerful lobbyist named Richard McIntosh allegedly proposed many of these changes soon after his son was kicked out of Washington University in St. Louis, and that McIntosh’s wife sits on the same administrative court that would be set to handle such appeals.
As the Kansas City Star reported Tuesday night, shortly after McIntosh’s son was expelled from school, the lobbyist started a dark money group called Kingdom Principles solely dedicated to changing Title IX rules in the state. According to the paper, the nonprofit has at least 29 lobbyists on payroll. Over the last year, McIntosh has personally proposed a number of changes to Title IX laws: First he encouraged a Republican lawmaker to add a provision to an unrelated bill in 2018, which would have allowed accused students to appeal to the court where McIntosh’s wife sits. (The amendment was removed in committee.) This session, he handed off a stand-alone bill to his “friend,” Republican Rep. Dean Dohrman. The bill also included in its original form an “emergency clause” which would have made all of these changes effective the day the bill passed.
When Republican lawmakers introduced the pair of bills earlier this year, they were regarded by women’s advocacy groups as unprecedented. By all appearances, the bills took inspiration—and somewhat expanded on—Secretary of Education Betsy Devos’ changes to federal Title IX policies, vastly expanding the rights of people accused of sexual misconduct.
Both bills reimagine the investigative process as something that
Crucially, sections of the bills also include potentially ruinous financial penalties for institutions, investigators, and complainants should an accusation of misconduct be found unfounded or inconclusive. Both pieces of proposed legislation allow a student to sue a university and its employees on the grounds of not being given due process. The state’s attorney general would be given the power to punish schools for how they handled investigations. And in the form in which the Senate bill was originally introduced, it allowed students to personally sue a person who accused them of misconduct—a line which, as the Kansas City Star noted at the time, didn’t differentiate between “intentionally false” accusations and those which could simply not be corroborated.
In the final weeks of the session, the fate of the bills remains unclear, though last week it was filibustered by Democrats and tabled without a vote in the early hours of the morning. Reached for comment by the Star, Republican lawmakers who spoke on record appeared nonplussed by the issue of McIntosh and the problem of his son. One supporter, Representative Peggy McGaugh, said that she was aware of the issue and had even met personally with the boy. She told the paper he reminded her of her own son, though, as she was quick to point out, “my son’s never been in trouble like that.”