JEFFERSON CITY (AP) — A Missouri lobbyist strategizing how to advance a measure to help college students like his son who have been disciplined for sex-discrimination complaints suggested pushing the idea that the real problem on campuses is not rape but women regretting casual sex, emails obtained by the Associated Press show.
The documents offer a glimpse into how the connected Capitol insider worked to craft legislation and lobbied lawmakers to change how colleges and universities across the state handle claims of sexual harassment and rape after his own son's expulsion. The proposals, which appear unlikely to pass this year, have been slammed by one critic as "revenge legislation."
The emails, obtained through an open-records request, show lobbyist Richard McIntosh sent detailed edits last year to legislative staffers writing the House version of the Title IX overhaul. One edit that appears to be from McIntosh recommends adding "specific language allowing decisions prior to this legislation to be reviewed." That would enable McIntosh's son to appeal his expulsion to a state panel on which his mother sits.
The federal Title IX law bars sex-based discrimination in education, including sexual harassment and assault.
In one November email, McIntosh asked staffers to add a provision to make the changes take effect immediately if signed into law.
"Do you think that passes the smell test in the House to garner the number of votes for an emergency clause?" McIntosh wrote.
Emails also give insight into McIntosh's strategy to persuade lawmakers to enact the proposals.
He suggested taking a "couple of shots at the rape equals regret wouldn't hurt" in a February email to Republican Sen. Cindy O'Laughlin, which he also forwarded to other supporters shortly before a Senate Education Committee hearing on the legislation. The email includes a link to a blog on the men's rights website avoiceformen.com in which the author argues "women, more than men, regret casual sex, and it is these unsatisfying sexual unions caused by regret — not rape — that is the real sex problem on campus."
Sexual assaults are among the most underreported types of crime, according to researchers, and false reports are rare. FBI statistics show only 2-8 percent of sexual assault reports turn out to be false.
A column from conservative news website Daily Wire that McIntosh shared with House bill sponsor Rep. Dean Dohrman and legislative staffers argues the #MeToo movement is an example of "mass hysteria" and compared it to the Salem witch trials. In that metaphor, the modern "witches" are people accused of rape.
Pending Missouri bills pushed by McIntosh would allow accused students to hire attorneys and cross-examine witnesses, including their accusers. Cases could be appealed to a panel known as the Administrative Hearing Commission, which currently includes McIntosh's wife and the mother of his son.
Proponents of changing Title IX proceedings said the current process does not give accused students a fair shot at defending themselves.
Colleges and universities, victims' rights advocates and the Missouri NAACP president all oppose the effort, citing concern about the potential chilling effect on victims.
Dohrman has said McIntosh asked him to carry the legislation and said McIntosh told him that his son was expelled following a Title IX complaint at Washington University, a private school in St. Louis. The specific allegations are not public.
McIntosh has previously declined to comment when asked by AP about his son's expulsion and did not return requests for comment Wednesday. His wife, Audrey Hanson McIntosh, also did not return AP requests for comment.
It's not uncommon for lobbyists to work directly with legislative staffers to draft bills, said Mike Reid, the lobbyist for the lobbying group Missouri Society of Governmental Consultants. He defended the practice, saying "many lobbyists are the experts in certain areas."
McIntosh's emails also indicate his wife played a role in the legislative effort.
He suggested in November that House staff add the "AHC language that I sent you from Audrey yesterday." He listed both his and his wife's personal contact information in an October email to the House bill sponsor and staffers.
The efforts have been aided by wealthy St. Louis businessman and Washington University trustee David Steward, who co-founded World Wide Technology. McIntosh has lobbied for World Wide Technology since 2000.
The recently formed Missouri Campus Due Process Coalition is bankrolled by Kingdom Principles, a nonprofit that is at least partly funded by Steward. McIntosh is listed as the registered agent for Kingdom Principles and was among 29 lobbyists the group hired for the 2019 session.
After the Kansas City Star first reported on the link between the legislation and McIntosh's son last week, Republican Senate Majority Leader Caleb Rowden said it's doubtful the bill would come up for debate again this session. The deadline to pass bills is May 17.
"It's unfortunate that something of this magnitude that maybe should require attention was brought about in this way," Rowden told reporters. "Hopefully it doesn't greatly diminish the more robust policy conversation that can and should happen around Title IX."
Republican House Speaker Elijah Haahr on Thursday said he does not plan to bring the bill up for debate in the House this session.