Government & Politics

Lobbyist’s crusade to change Title IX in Missouri stems from his son’s expulsion

After his son was accused and subsequently expelled from Washington University in St. Louis last year through the school’s Title IX process, a leading Jefferson City lobbyist launched a campaign to change the law for every campus in the state.

Richard McIntosh has argued to legislators that Title IX, the federal law barring sexual discrimination in education and mandating that schools set up internal systems to police sexual violence, is tilted unfairly against the accused. His proposals — made first as a failed amendment to an unrelated bill near the end of the 2018 session and then this year as a full-fledged bill — create more protections for those accused of Title IX violations.

Rep. Peggy McGaugh, R-Carrollton, was a supporter of McIntosh’s amendment last session. She said Tuesday that she didn’t know about his son’s expulsion initially, but she said McIntosh later told her about it and she even met his son.

McGaugh said she had a son graduate from the University of Missouri, and she feels she has a “commonality” with McIntosh for that reason even though “my son’s never been in trouble like that.” She said she feels due process is important for both complainants and the accused.

Asked about his son’s expulsion last month, McIntosh referred questions to his lawyer. Matthew Jacober declined to discuss the matter. He did not return a phone message Tuesday.

Had McIntosh’s 2018 amendment been enacted, it would have allowed his son to appeal the result of his Title IX hearing to the state Administrative Hearing Commission, where his mother and McIntosh’s wife, Audrey Hanson McIntosh, is the presiding and managing commissioner.

The 2018 amendment was offered by Rep. Shamed Dogan, R-Ballwin, who said he was encouraged by McIntosh. Dogan also said he believes the changes are necessary. The Title IX amendment was eventually cut out of the bill in a different committee. Dogan declined to comment for this story.

Prior to this session, which started in January, McIntosh provided a standalone bill to his friend, Rep. Dean Dohrman, R-La Monte. McIntosh asked him to sponsor it, Dohrman said last month.

Dohrman declined to comment on whether he was aware of McIntosh’s son’s expulsion before he agreed to sponsor the bill.

The initial version of McIntosh’s House bill from this session would have allowed those suspended or expelled for Title IX violations, including those like his son, whose case had already been decided, to appeal their punishments to the same administrative court where McIntosh’s wife sits. It also contained an emergency clause making the measure effective immediately.

Other provisions would have allowed those accused of sexual assaults to sue their schools, campus staff or their accusers for damages if the Title IX process improperly found them responsible. And it would have allowed lawyers to cross-examine sexual assault survivors about their drinking habits or sexual history.

Parts of the House bill, including the emergency clause and provisions for suing and cross examining complainants, were removed by Republican Rep. David Gregory, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, last month. The retroactivity clause was also removed.

After Gregory’s changes, the House version of the Title IX bill would still route appeals to the state Administrative Hearing Commission. The House bill was voted favorably out of Gregory’s committee and the House Rules Committee, and it now awaits a placement on the voting calendar by the Speaker.

Across the state, university presidents, Title IX administrators, student groups and victim advocacy groups have vehemently opposed the legislation. They argue that it would scare victims from reporting their experiences and seeking justice, that it’s unconstitutional and that it pits campuses between competing state and federal laws. They say that it addresses a problem of false reports that is not at all widespread to the detriment of policing campus sexual assault, which is a major problem. The federal government is set to outline new policies this fall, so critics also say that Missouri shouldn’t jump ahead of that process.

Shortly after his son was expelled, McIntosh started a dark money group called Kingdom Principles dedicated to changing Title IX. The group has spent an unknown amount of money underwriting a group that is polling and buying ad time. Kingdom Principles is also bankrolling 29 lobbyists in the Capitol to push the bills — an unusual show of muscle for a single issue even in a state Capitol overrun with lobbyists.

Such groups are known as “dark money” because they are registered as nonprofits that don’t have to disclose their donors. But The Star confirmed that a source of funding for the group is St. Louis billionaire David Steward — a client of McIntosh’s since 2000 who is also a member of the Washington University Board of Trustees.

Rep. Gina Mitten, a St. Louis Democrat and the ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee, said she had heard the rumors about McIntosh and his son.

“If that’s the case, it certainly explains the vindictiveness of the bills as filed and the onslaught of lobbyists hired to satisfy a clearly personal agenda,” she said.

The Title IX legislation has gone off “like a bomb” this session, she said, as the bills seemed to come out of nowhere, advancing so quickly, and so many lobbyists are pushing behind the scenes for them.

“My hope would be at a minimum this would give members in both chambers some serious pause about fast-tracking such big changes,” Mitten said.

There is a Senate version of the bill that is similar to the House’s, but the sponsor, Sen. Gary Romine, R-Farmington, said his office drafted the legislation without outside assistance. The Senate version never contained the provisions for retroactivity or the ability to sue complainants directly that the House bill did. It does set similar guidelines for the hearing process and would also allow appeals to the administrative judges and cross-examination.

Romine said the expulsion of McIntosh’s son is “not the purpose of the bill,” and that he didn’t learn of the lobbyist’s personal stake until after he’d offered it.

His Senate bill ran into a filibuster last Tuesday night from Democrats. until it was laid over without a vote at 2 a.m. Wednesday. It still has supporters, but its path forward is unclear as the session is coming to its final weeks.

Last academic year, Washington University expelled four students through its Title IX proceedings, up from two the previous year. The school’s handling of Title IX complaints inspired campus protests last April, when more than 1,000 people gathered to share their stories and decry what they said is a slow, burdensome and ineffective process for sexual assault survivors seeking justice.

The campus outcry last spring, led by a group called Title Mine, forced concessions from the school, including the hiring of more Title IX staff, a full-time investigator, implicit bias training for staff and the creation of an oversight committee.

Washington University was also investigated by the federal government in 2017 for its handling of several Title IX cases two months after a student published an account saying the school had moved slowly and mishandled her complaint of sexual assault.

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