Missouri speaker texts

Hannah Giles and Joe Basel of The American Phoenix Foundation may now be wishing they had focused their undercover hidden camera investigation on the Missouri legislature instead of the one in Texas. As you’ll recall, the Texas House spent much of the final weeks of the legislative session grinding its collective teeth over the Phoenix Foundation teasing that secret video will reveal Texas legislators acting badly in the bars after hours.

But, relying on nothing more than one of the all time best police reports, today’s St. Louis Post-Dispatch has a tawdry tale of Show-me State Legislators Gone Wild!

“The culture allows for a lot of immature, sort of sophomoric behavior,” said former Sen. John Lamping, R-Ladue. “There are a lot of people who revisit the college years, the fraternity years, while they’re down there, and everybody knows it.”

Jefferson City, Missouri, is a sleepy little town on the banks of the namesake river, 30 miles south of my alma mater, the University of Missouri at Columbia. I got my first experience covering state government and politics there as a student reporter, but I never saw anything like this. In fact, someday, I’ll tell you how I ended up in a prayer circle with John Ashcroft. But I did know that there were places where legislators and lobbyists went at night, including a bar called The Library. Sorry, honey, I won’t be home for dinner; I’m at the library.

To get the full impact of the Missouri scandal, you’re going to have to read the story, but here’s the tease:

Nine vodkas mixed with sugar-free Red Bull served in plastic cups.

A lobbyist for the Democratic governor having an affair with the Republican House whip.

Her nickname for him? Fifty, as in Fifty Shades of Grey.

The lobbyist rats out her Democratic boss, allowing her Republican lover to orchestrate a House override of the governor’s veto of an income tax cut.

The Republican whip becomes speaker but resigns after revelations of sexy text messages with a 19-year-old college intern.

Piggyback rides in a bar.

The story originally started breaking in the Kansas City Star, with a focus on the intern and the text messages, as displayed above. After weeks of fighting the newspaper behind the scenes, the speaker made a swift departure once the text messages became public. 

“I have acknowledged making a serious error in judgment by sending the text messages. It was wrong and I am truly sorry,” Diehl said in a written statement Thursday afternoon. “Too often, we hear leaders say they’re sorry but are unwilling to accept the consequences. … I am willing to face the consequences.”

A question for the American Phoenix Foundation: Hannah, Joe, can you beat this?