A dark money group started by a longtime Jefferson City lobbyist and at least partially funded by a St. Louis billionaire is leading the fight to transform the way Missouri universities handle sexual assault cases and grant more power to the accused.
The group, called Kingdom Principles, was founded by Richard McIntosh, a longtime lobbyist of Flotron & McIntosh.
David Steward, co-founder and chairman of the information technology provider World Wide Technology — one of St. Louis’ largest private companies — is among Kingdom Principles’ donors. He’s also a former member of the University of Missouri System Board of Curators.
In October, Steward landed on Forbes’ 400 wealthiest Americans list, with a personal net worth of $3.4 billion.
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A spokesperson for Steward could not immediately be reached.
McIntosh has been a lobbyist for World Wide Technology since 2000. He registered to lobby for Kingdom Principles, the group he created, last week.
Because it’s a 501(c)4 nonprofit, Kingdom Principles is not required to disclose its donors.
Kingdom Principles is bankrolling “The Missouri Campus Due Process Coalition,” which is buying ads on social media and conducting polling to measure support of the House and Senate bills that would alter Title IX proceedings in the state.
Questions about the group were directed by McIntosh to Joe Lakin, co-founder of the political consulting firm Victory Enterprises. Lakin said he was brought on this week to identify and rally like-minded individuals to show legislators there is support for change. Lakin confirmed that Steward provided funding to Kingdom Principles.
Title IX is a federal law mandating equality in education for people of both sexes. If students are sexually harassed or assaulted they can file complaints with their university’s Title IX office, which opens an investigation and can suspend or expel students who have been found at-fault.
The proposed bills in the Senate and House have come under fire from victim groups and Title IX administrators for being unnecessary and potentially damaging by giving more rights to those accused of campus sexual assault than any other state.
For instance, both the Senate and House bills would entitle the accused to see the evidence against them and ban schools from declining to consider evidence.
Also, both versions say that if the administrative courts find that a student was not given due process, a student can sue his or her university and the employees who conducted the investigation. The state attorney general would also be able to investigate and punish universities.
Critics say the possibility of cross-examination and more lawyers in the process could intimidate survivors and dissuade them from reporting their experiences.
Proponents say the Title IX process, which is how U.S. campuses police sexual harassment and violence, is slanted unfairly against the accused.
McIntosh has been lobbying hard on this issue since last year.
McIntosh encouraged Rep. Shamed Dogan last session to file an amendment to a separate bill that would have enacted many of the changes to Title IX that have been proposed this session, Dogan said, which he did.
Dogan put the Title IX changes in an amendment to last session’s Senate Bill 704, which was intended to “(Modify) provisions relating to political subdivisions.
“That’s something that I think is needed to provide some balance to those procedures. You don’t want someone’s life to be ruined by false accusations,” Dogan said.
The amendment made it out of the House Local Government Committee, which Dogan was the chairman of, but ultimately was not adopted on the House floor.
“It was late in the session so there is just a very limited number of vehicles that are moving, so you can’t introduce standalone legislation after a certain point,” Dogan said of why the changes were attached to that bill.
The House version of the Title IX bill is scheduled for a public hearing Tuesday at 5 p.m.