KANSAS CITY — Missouri state Sen. Matt Bartle testified for 50 minutes before a federal grand jury meeting in Kansas City Tuesday. The subject: Why the Missouri House defeated of an anti-porn bill that Bartle sponsored in 2005.
The testimony from the Lee's Summit Republican marks the start of a more public phase of an ongoing pay-to-play investigation in the state Capitol that began at least a year ago.
Bartle refused to tell reporters exactly what he was asked or how he responded.
But he said he talked about "the circumstances surrounding the defeat" of his anti-porn bill that year.
Bartle said a big concern was the GOP-controlled House's handling of his bill. The measure, which easily passed the Senate, should have easily passed the House, Bartle said.
Instead, it was sent to what Bartle called an unfriendly committee and stripped of many of its key provisions.
Bartle managed to amend another bill later in the session with several anti-porn provisions, but the legislation later was ruled unconstitutional because it was attached to an unrelated bill.
At about the time Bartle's bill was assigned to the unfriendly House committee, a $35,000 campaign check from leading adult entertainment business owners was sent to a campaign committee with connections to Don Lograsso, the lawyer to House Speaker Rod Jetton.
As speaker, Jetton had a major say over which committee was assigned the anti-porn bill.
On Tuesday, Bartle said the $35,000 donation was deeply troubling.
"It sure looks really bad," he said.
"My concern," he added, "is the manner in which the bill died."
Bartle said he welcomed the federal government's investigation of the General Assembly because the probe is a reminder about the importance of ethical behavior in the state Capitol.
Asked if he brought the porn bill controversy to the attention of the FBI or if the FBI came to him, Bartle declined to answer.
"I won't get into that," he said.