Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Griffin Got Paid, Sure, but a Fee or a Bribe?

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Griffin Got Paid, Sure, but a Fee or a Bribe?

Article excerpt

Government workmen have reached the halfway point in the construction of "United States of America vs. Bob F. Griffin."

Brick by brick last week, federal prosecutors erected their case against the former speaker of the Missouri House and three political allies whose careers are closely tied to his. Once the government's case is complete, the defendants' four lawyers plan to begin dismantling it.

"Five down and how many to go?" asked Cathryn Simmons, as she rode down the elevator of the federal court building in Kansas City Friday evening. Simmons is one of Griffin's co-defendants, all Democrats, who for five days last week sat in quiet attention as the government laid out the foundation of its charges. Two federal prosecutors presented the testimony of 26 witnesses and boxes full of documents to show that: Griffin recommended the services of Simmons, a political consultant, to a group of highway contractors who wanted the gas tax increased by six cents in 1992. The tax was approved with Griffin sponsoring it, and Simmons' company was paid $264,000 for about three weeks' work. Griffin got paid, too - $10,000, which the government says can be traced to the contractors' payments. Griffin was paid $95,500 by Simmons' companies over a three-year period. An IRS agent said $51,000 of that can be traced - like the money from the contractors - to Blue Cross Blue Shield of Kansas City and to a hospital. Both had hired Simmons as a political consultant, and the government contends Griffin got paid for his handling of health care legislation and for removing a member from a hospital regulation committee. The IRS agent also said that during the time Simmons was paying Griffin, the speaker had poured $181,000 into "Bobby G's," his financially troubled restaurant in Cameron, Mo. Griffin's son, Jeff Griffin, was paid $5,000 by Simmons to lobby on a highway bonding bill that Bob Griffin sponsored. It was approved in a special session in 1993 and the government contends the $5,000 payment to Jeff Griffin was an indirect bribe of Bob Griffin. Tying the paper documents together was the testimony of Richard "Rick" Moore, a political consultant and former holder of several local offices in the Kansas City area. Moore, 47, is testifying in hopes of leniency on a fraud charge. While his testimony often lacked specifics, Moore's narrative had power - that Griffin was bribed, that Simmons wanted Griffin to have secret ownership in casinos and that Simmons and others were trying to create documents to make it look like Griffin was doing legal work for the money she paid him. After Moore's testimony, one lawyer emerged from the courtroom and said Moore was "a snake." The government builds cases with snakes all the time, and often it works. Defense lawyers portrayed Moore as a desperate admitted felon looking to stay out of prison by telling a story. …

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