Dark money and vendettas: a lobbyist’s attempt to change Title IX

Kalie Strain, Editor-in-chief

The elections of presidents and senators in our national government are full of drama and action. The drama of national-level politics leaves state congresses firmly in the shadows. Not many people know what is going on in Jefferson City, but there is plenty of excitement to uncover in the state’s capital, where bills are being introduced to wage the vendettas of wealthy lobbyists with access to dark money.

Representative Dean Dohrman, R-La Monte, proposed a bill in January to change Title IX in unprecedented and cruel ways. Title IX was created to ensure equality between the sexes in education.

Currently, if a student at Park University were sexually harassed or assaulted, they would be able to make a complaint with the Title IX office. Park’s Title IX office would then investigate the claim. If the claim was found to “more likely than not” have happened, the accused student could face consequences for violating the University’s code of conduct.

The consequences range from having their class schedule rearranged to ensure the complaining student does not have to interact with the accused to expulsion for more serious infractions.

Dohrman’s bill would throw that to the wind.

The bill was proposed to Dohrman by Richard McIntosh, a wealthy Missouri lobbyist whose son was expelled from Washington University-St. Louis because of a Title IX violation.

This bill would allow for students accused of Title IX violations to appeal to the Administrative Hearing Commission. McIntosh’s wife and his son’s mother, Audrey McIntosh, sits on this commission.

The bill would allow those accused to sue their university, university staff and their accusers in civil court. It would also allow for cross-examination of complainants and allow the accused, or their lawyer, to ask the complainant questions about their drinking habits and sexual history. This goes against Missouri’s rape shield law which prevents this type of questioning being directed toward the victims of sexual assault.

Luckily, this version of the bill is no longer moving through the Missouri Legislature. However, there is still a version, put forward by Representative David Gregory, R-St. Louis, that is waiting to be placed on the House’s voting calendar. Gregory’s version of the bill took out cross-examination and provisions for filing lawsuits.

Another version of the bill in the senate was filibustered by democrats on April 16. The filibuster was spearheaded by Senator Jamilah Nasheed, D-St. Louis.

“This is about protecting wealthy white boys who think they can do and get away with anything,” she said, according to the Kansas City Star.

All of this leaves me wondering why any version of this bill is still moving through the legislature. Where should our representatives and senators draw the ethical line? The original bill was brought forth with, at best, a conflict of interest. At worst, this was a way that a lobbyist could force his son back into Washington University-St. Louis and get revenge on the person that brought forth the complaint against his son.

McIntosh has declined to comment for stories in the Associate Press and the Kansas City Star. The Kansas City Star’s editorial board offered to tell McIntosh’s son’s story if he was indeed falsely accused, but has not heard back.

Is a bill to protect the accused necessary?

Rapes are notoriously hard to prove and convict. So difficult that 995 out of 1000 rapists will never face any jail time, according to the Rape Abuse and Incest National Network. That means there is less than a 1 percent chance a rapist will ever be held accountable.

False accusations of sexual assault are also rare. Rates of false accusations could be as low as 2 percent or as high as 10 percent. This number varies so much because there is no standard for police to categorize an allegation as false, according to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center. A department may deem a claim as false simply because a victim has trouble relaying details of the most traumatic parts of the attack.

Moreover, only 20 percent of female college students that are victims to sexual assault will report the incident to the police, according to RAINN.

Why is the Missouri Legislature crafting bills to solve a nearly nonexistent problem, that at the same time has policies that grossly exacerbates the very real problem of victims suffering in silence? The answer may lay in dark money and the individual interests of wealthy lobbyists.

I left requests for interviews with representatives Dohrman and Gregory. I look forward to hearing back from them to truly understand their positions and commitments to these bills.