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ALEC’s All-Star Right-Wing Disgrace Resigns as MO Speaker Following Sexting Scandal

John Diehl judiciously studies the ALEC playbook

John Diehl judiciously studies the ALEC playbook

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Now-former Missouri House Speaker John Diehl may have been a model American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) politician, but it turns out that he is not a model citizen.  The man who fought hard for “Right-to-Work” has resigned in disgrace following the revelation of a sexting scandal involving him and a 19-year-old intern.  

Diehl originally made no comment, but eventually released a statement after the story went public:

“I take full responsibility for my actions and am truly sorry to those I let down.  I apologize for the poor judgment I displayed that put me and those closest to me in this situation. I also regret that the woman has been dragged into this situation. The buck stops here. I ask for forgiveness. I will begin immediately working to restore the trust of those closest to me, and getting back to the important work that is required in the final days of session.”

Later, the 49-year-old married father-of-three chose to formally resign.  In his resignation statement he said:

“It was wrong and I am truly sorry. Too often we hear leaders say they’re sorry but are unwilling to accept the consequences. I understand that, as a leader, I am responsible for my actions and I am willing to face the consequences.  I’m not going to further jeopardize what we have accomplished this year and what can be accomplished in the future.”

Before the revelation of the text messages, Missouri Southern State University, where the young intern, Katie Graham, was a student, decided to pull its four interns out of Jefferson City a month early.  Richard Miller, Dean of the School of Arts and Sciences at Missouri Southern, said the decision was due to “an unspecified incident” and that student privacy laws prevented him from further comment.  He did tell The Kansas City Star that the incident differed from any the school had faced in the program’s 20 years of existence: “This is the first time we have pulled all the interns.  Usually, when something happens, it is a problem with the interns themselves, but that was not the situation this year.”

Miller said no decision about the future of the program has been made and the interns have been reassigned to legal offices and political action committees throughout the state.

As Steve Kraske wrote for The Star, Diehl’s behavior follows a pattern for those who have risen to that position in Missouri politics.  Five of the last twelve speakers of the house have succumbed to various levels of scandal:

John Diehl is hardly the first. A federal grand jury indicted Richard Rabbitt for taking kickbacks. Bob Griffin went to prison for corruption. Rod Jetton testified before a federal grand jury on bribery, although he was never indicted.

Steve Tilley was never charged with anything, but he found a way to lawfully pocket campaign funds that remains ethically dubious.

And now we’ve got Diehl, who disgraced himself by sexting with an intern.

Ironically, Rep. Diehl sat on the ALEC Communications and Technology Task Force and originally tried to fool reporters by showing his phone records containing only six texts between him and Graham.  The Star quickly pointed out that his records did not include iPhone iMessages, which are not counted as normal texts for billing purposes. When those records were released, Diehl’s story changed and he was on the fast-track to resignation.

The sexting is not Diehl’s first scandal, although its juicy nature ultimately led to his demise.  Late last year Diehl was in hot water with members of his own party for providing false documents to the Environmental Protection Agency which could have delayed a bipartisan plan to “reduce carbon pollution in Missouri by closing or improving the efficiency of coal-fired power plants, making greater use of natural gas power plants, increasing clean energy use, and having utilities help customers improve energy efficiency.”

In October 2014, Progress Missouri filed a complaint with the Missouri Ethics Commission claiming Diehl and four other ALEC members received improper benefits after they failed to properly report a $3,000 dinner at a Texas Steakhouse.

Diehl is as extreme as they come, having ruffled feathers on the human rights front by using his position to state “there will be no Ferguson agenda” as protesters chanted outside of a press conference.  On top of his attempt to push ALEC’s “Right-to-Work” agenda, he and his cohorts successfully thwarted Medicare expansion in February.  


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