Rod Jetton used to be one of the most powerful politicians in the state of Missouri.
In 2000, the Marble Hill Republican was elected to the Missouri House of Representatives. In his second term he was chosen Speaker Pro Tempore, and on Jan. 5, 2005, he was sworn in as the 70th speaker of the House — the second youngest representative to do so.
Then, in 2009, everything began falling to pieces.
That year his nearly 20-year marriage ended in divorce and then, on Dec. 7, Jetton was charged with felony assault related to an incident that occurred on Nov. 15 of that year in which Jetton was alleged to have “recklessly caused serious physical injury” to an unnamed woman.
Following the arrest he closed Rod Jetton & Associate, a political consulting firm which catered to many high-profile clients, including Mitt Romney.
It was a stunning end to a political career that left Jetton’s life shattered. He was out of a job, divorced, separated from his three children and had few friends.
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Jetton has shared the humiliation and pain he experienced during his “dark night of the soul,” as well as the story of his redemption and rebuilding of his life in a recently published anthology titled “The Recovering Politician’s Twelve Step Program To Survive Crisis.”
The book, edited by former Kentucky State Treasurer Jonathan Miller, offers a forum to 12 politicians who suffered defeat, disgrace and degradation, yet went on to create a new and more contented life for themselves.
Jetton has written the eighth step in surviving a crisis: “Own Your Mistakes, Take Responsibility and Sincerely Say ‘I’m Sorry.’”
“My predicament was largely my own doing,” says Jetton. “But it was taking responsibility for my mistakes that set me free.”
Jetton admits it was his strong work ethic that helped him to build a successful real estate agency, win a seat in the state House and ultimately become Speaker. It was putting everything into his work to the exclusion of everything else that he believes ultimately led to his downfall.
“The biggest mistake I made was not having balance in my life,” admits Jetton. “I worked too hard at politics and forgot about my family, friends, community … and sometimes, the whole reason I went to Jefferson City in the first place. I remember telling my ex-wife that when the first campaign was over I would be home more. Then the legislative session started and I said that after session I would be home more. Then I was gone working on redistricting, and when that was done, the next session started … and after that I was working night and day to win the majority. I told her once we won the majority I would be home more.”
Jetton says that nobody was happier than him when term limits ended his official position in 2008. He was tired of feeling responsible for fixing all the problems in the state and tired of getting beaten up in the press and fearing his political enemies. Jetton believed that as a private citizen he would be able to be work behind the scenes on his friends’ campaigns without being in the crosshairs himself.
“Unfortunately, my marriage was in bad shape by that time; and even though I was out of office, things continued to get worse,” he recalls. “In early 2009 we separated, and by October we were divorced.”
Jetton was a 42-year-old successful divorced man whose personal life wasn’t turning out as he’d planned.
“My dad was a Baptist preacher, and the best parents in the world had given me a perfect childhood,” he says. “I was a family values conservative Republican who was not supposed to have these types of problems. I won’t go into details, but my life was not reflecting the teaching my parents had taught me, nor was I being the example I wanted my kids to see.”
Then things went from bad to worse for Jetton.
“After spending the night with a lady I had reconnected with on Facebook, I was charged with felony assault,” he says. “The press, along with my enemies, had a heyday. I immediately shut down my consulting business. Soon after that I was notified that I was a target of a federal grand jury investigation surrounding my handling of a bill in the 2005 legislative session.”
And what was the most difficult moment he had to face?
“It was having to tell my dad what happened,” says Jetton. “He has always been a tough man who lived what he believed, but he loved me and stuck with me through all this.”
At the lowest point of his life, Jetton says things began to turn around. He was never convicted in the assault case and the grand jury suspended their investigation into the ethics allegation and never charged him with a crime. He slowly began to gain back the respect he lost from his bad choices.
“I’m thankful for all the successes I was a part of,” says Jetton. “I’m also grateful for all the kind people I met along the way who helped and encouraged me. But I wish I would have worked less and stayed home more; been more forgiving and not gotten bitter at my opponents; been less prideful, less judgmental and more understanding. Plus, I wish I had lived the personal life I believed, instead of being such a hypocrite. Of course, I can’t change the past. I can only look to the future and focus on learning from my mistakes.”
This time Jetton says his life has a new foundation and purpose … and it’s not politics. He credits his personal faith in Jesus Christ for turning his life around.
“Each morning I wake up and thank God for the day,” he says. “I spend more time with my family and stay connected with my friends. I have a lovely new wife, a great job and a contentment I never knew in my first 42 years of life.”
He says that sooner or later everyone is going to make a mistake and do something stupid that they’ll regret.
“It happens to celebrities, business leaders and athletes, but it also happens to parents, kids and everyday people,” says Jetton. “Anyone who has made a mistake that becomes public has a problem. How you deal with it will either make it a bigger problem or put it in the rearview mirror.”
He says a cautionary tale can be found in the scandal that enveloped New York Congressman Anthony Weiner when illicit pictures of him appeared on the Internet after he had been sending them to his followers on Twitter.
“Weiner’s immediate response was to deny culpability,” says Jetton. “Once he was caught in the lie, he was soon forced out of office.”
Now looking to return to public service, Weiner has admitted he sent additional tweets to other women even after he admitted his transgressions, apologized to his wife and resigned from Congress.
“He obviously didn’t learn his lesson the first time,” says Jetton. “I’m glad I did.”
ST. LOUIS • Former political adversaries Jeff Smith and Rod Jetton sat at a long table at Pi Pizzeria on Delmar next to a stack of crisp softcover books, scrawling their signatures and chatting with a couple dozen patrons lined up around them.
On the menu was complimentary deep-dish pizza, soft drinks and humility.
“Hopefully, people can learn from the mistakes I made,” said Smith, whose preprison political talents were once compared to those of Barack Obama. “Really smart people learn from other people’s mistakes.”
Next to him, Jetton — in that retro-political fashion statement, the seersucker suit — explained how his own politics have changed as a result of his downfall. “I’m not near as judgmental,” said the one-time most powerful conservative in the Missouri House. “You make as many mistakes as I have, it’s hard to be judgmental, right?”
Smith, a Democrat and former Missouri state senator, and Jetton, a Republican and former Missouri House speaker, each wrote a chapter in the new book, “The Recovering Politician’s Twelve Step Program to Survive Crisis.”
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Smith served almost a year in prison after lying to federal investigators about an anonymous smear campaign in his unsuccessful 2004 run for Congress against Russ Carnahan. Smith, now an assistant professor at the New School for Public Engagement in New York, penned a chapter in the book aptly titled, “Tell the Truth: Don’t Even Go Near the Line.”
Smith’s lie collapsed when his “former best friend” wore a wire at the behest of investigators. In the book, Smith recounts telling his parents he might go to prison.
“My mom’s lips quivered. ‘I knew it from the start. Knew you’d get mixed up in something like this. I tried to tell you what politics was like.’
“My dad … asked, ‘How do they even know you lied? What proof could they have?’
“‘Steve’s been wearing a wire for the last couple months.’
“‘That (expletive),’ said my dad.”
Read the rest of… For Missouri politicians gone bad, redemption over pizza
Jetton pleaded guilty two years ago to a misdemeanor assault, admitting he struck a woman in the face and choked her during rough sex. Smith spent a year in prison after pleading guilty to lying about a campaign violation.
Jetton says he was approached by the book’s editor, Jonathan Miller, about taking part.
“And he said, ‘You know, I think you really ought to tell your story. And we could put a nice little book together that could really help some folks who may be going, or going to go through some kind of crisis or scandal. [They could] have some concrete plans and techniques on how to handle it, and also learn that, no matter how their situation turns out, they can overcome it and still lead a happy, successful life,’” Jetton said.
Jetton’s chapter is about how to apologize for the mistakes you made. He says his troubles started when he spent all of his time working, and put his family on the back burner, which led him to make poor choices. Today, Jetton lives in Poplar Bluff and works for a surveying and engineering company that specializes in rural communities. He says his faith and family are his top priorities now.
Who is Rod Jetton and what was his involvement in Missouri politics? What is the theme that comes through this book that is written by 12 different authors? Where did he make his biggest mistake while in office and what is his chapter about? What is human nature when you are caught? What is his advice for those entering politics? What is the average person’s misconception about politicians?
They call themselves “recovering politicians”—political figures whose careers and dreams have come crashing down because of scandals. Two of them are Missourians.
State Senator Jeff Smith was a rising star in the Democratic Party when he went to federal prison for a year for lying to federal investigators about a minor campaign finance law violation. Former Speaker of the House Rod Jetton was looking at a lucrative career as a political consultant when he became entangled in a one-night stand of rough sex. He avoided prison by pleading guilty to a misdemeanor charge. But his political career, like Smith’s, was ruined.
Smith knew as soon as he heard that an associate had been charged with a series of non-campaign crimes that he was political toast. “In just a few moments of weakness in that first campaign, I now realized that I’d thrown away everything that I’d worked for all my life,” he told county officials last November.
And Jetton realized as soon as his incident became public that he could not avoid admitting what he’d done—to his father, a Baptist minister. “That pretty much strips your pride away,” he has told us.
Their book is called “The Recovering Politician’s Twelve Step Program to Survive Crisis.” Smith and Jetton are two of about a dozen former office-holders whose lives have taken new directions since their falls from grace. Jetton now is in private business and is president of a political newspaper that covers the Capitol. Smith now is a political science college teacher in New York and has written several political articles for national magazines.
The book: The Recovering Politician’s Twelve Step Program to Survive Crisis, …
By Jonathan Miller, on Wed Jun 12, 2013 at 2:11 PM ET
Welcome to Episode Two of The Recovering Politician’s CRISIS TV, a weekly roundtable discussion of the highest profile national scandals, with expert analysis from those who’ve served in the arena and suffered through crises themselves.
SPOILER ALERT: Be prepared to laugh — these former pols tend not to take themselves too seriously.
CRISIS TV is hosted by The RP, former Kentucky State Treasurer Jonathan Miller.
This week’s guests include:
Rod Jetton, former Speaker of the House, state of Missouri
Jason Grill, former State Representative from Kansas City
Josh Bowen, Nationally renowned and published personal trainer
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This week’s topic — Baseball and Performance Enhancing Drugs
The panelists discuss the nature of the scandal, what Major League Baseball and accused players such as Ryan Braun and Alex Rodriquez have done wrong, how they could have handled the crisis more effectively, and what advice they would share with the players and owners.
The panelists discuss the lessons they learned from their own crises, detailed in the book they co-authored, The Recovering Politician’s Twelve Step Program to Survive Crisis. Click here to order.
Click here to purchase e-book for ONLY 99 CENTS this week only
There was nobody happier than I was when term limits ended my official position in 2008. I was tired of feeling responsible for all the problems that needed to be fixed in our state. I was also tired of getting beaten up in the press and having my enemies constantly trying to take me out. As a private citizen, I thought I would be able to be behind the scenes, work on my friends’ campaigns and not be in the crosshairs each and every day.
Unfortunately, my marriage was in bad shape by that time; and even though I was out of office, things continued to get worse. In early 2009, we separated; and by October, we were divorced. I tried to tell everyone it was a good thing for me; but inside, it really messed me up. After all, we had been married almost 20 years and had raised three wonderful kids.
I was a 42-year-old successful divorced man, whose personal life was not turning out like he planned it. My dad was a Baptist preacher, and the best parents in the world had given me a perfect childhood. I was a family values conservative Republican who was not supposed to have these types of problems. I won’t go into details, but my life was not reflecting the teaching my parents had taught me, nor was I being the example I wanted my kids to see.
I don’t know if you believe in God or not, but I do! In December of 2009, God finally had enough of my hypocritical ways and got my attention. After spending the night with a lady I had reconnected with on Facebook, I was charged with felony assault. The press, along with my enemies, had a heyday. I immediately shut down my consulting business. Soon after that, I was notified that I was a target of a federal grand jury investigation surrounding my handling of a bill in the 2005 legislative session.
Needless to say, I started 2010 with no job, very few friends and lots of time on my hands. As bad as my troubles were at the time, looking back now, I’m thankful for them. Life passes by so quickly, and very few of us get the chance to sit down and contemplate what is important. My troubles gave me a chance to analyze my weaknesses. With my pride stripped away, I was able to honestly evaluate my past actions. I saw how foolish I had been to put my family on the back burner. I learned how bitterness towards my enemies made me a bitter person toward everyone around me. The hardest thing for me to admit was that I wasn’t the same friendly and caring guy who had gone to Jefferson City in 2000.
Most of my friends say, “Rod you were not that bad, you handled it well. You were polite and treated everyone with respect. We liked you then, and we like you now.” I’m very thankful for those friends and their friendship, but I know the prideful thoughts I was thinking, and I know I should have handled things better.
As I mentioned earlier, I’m thankful for all the successes I was a part of. I’m also grateful for all the kind people I met along the way who helped and encouraged me. But I wish I would have worked less and stayed home more; been more forgiving and not gotten bitter at my opponents; been less prideful, less judgmental and more understanding. Plus, I wished I had lived the personal life I believed, instead of being such a hypocrite. Of course, I can’t change the past. I can only look to the future and focus on learning from my mistakes.
Life is wonderful for me now. Each morning, I wake up and thank God for the day. I spend more time with my family and stay connected with my friends. I have a lovely new wife, a great job and a contentment I never knew in my first 42 years of life. I was never convicted in the assault case, and the grand jury suspended their investigation into the ethics allegation and never charged me with a crime. I have slowly begun gaining back the respect I lost from my bad choices, and I am even back in politics.
Let’s face it. Sooner or later we are all going to make a mistake; we are all going to do something stupid that we regret.
Sometimes these mistakes go unnoticed and don’t cause us much trouble publicly. But for those in the limelight, their mistakes are written about, analyzed and discussed in the public square.
It happens to celebrities, business leaders and athletes; but it also happens to parents, kids and everyday people. Anyone who has made a mistake that becomes public has a problem; and how you deal with it will either make it a bigger problem or put it in the rear view mirror.
Just in case you’re thinking, “It can’t happen to me!” think about this: Powerful politicians, corporate leaders, pro athletes and Hollywood stars all have opponents, enemies and even subordinates who believe it is in their best interest to help promote problems for them. The more powerful or well known you are, the more likely it is that others are looking harder to find the mistakes you make. Additionally, the press desperately needs scandals to generate readers/viewers, and most reporters dream each day about breaking the story that takes someone down.
Click here to read the rest of Michael Steele’s extraordinary chapter by purchasing The Recovering Politician’s Twelve Step Program to Survive Crisis for only 99 cents this week only.
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Co-Founder and President of The Missouri Times, Rod Jetton, has co-authored a book on how to survive a crisis.
Jetton told The Missouri Times that his book, “The Recovering Politician’s Twelve Step Program to Survive Crisis,” is about the steps necessary to handle, overcome and survive mistakes or crises in life.
In the book, more than a dozen “recovering politicians” share lessons learned from some of their most difficult personal trials, from highly publicized and politicized scandals, to smaller, more intimate struggles.
In The Recovering Politician’s Twelve Step Program to Survive Crisis, a bi-partisan collection of former politicians, readers can draw lessons from more than a dozen “recovering politicians” who use their scandals to share guidance on how everyday readers can transcend crisis, recover, and launch their own second acts.
The book outlines deliberate, focused and vigorous courses of action and reaction that are meant to be applicable to helping readers resolve and transcend their own crises in the worlds of business, finance, non-profit, religion and in their own personal lives.
“Each of the writers did an excellent job of addressing how they dealt with their individual scandals,” Jetton said. “Politics is a blood sport and the lessons learned from these political stories are more needed today than ever before. With the explosion of social media and new technology celebrities, athletes, corporate leaders and even average individuals have less privacy than ever before and even a small mistake can turn into a major crisis if not handled properly.”
Some of the stories in the book include:
Republican National Committee Chair Michael Steele plunging into a nationally televised scandal when a subordinate uses the party’s credit card at a strip club with a sexual bondage theme
Former Missouri State Senator Jeff Smith facing a year in federal prison when he lies to federal investigators about a minor campaign finance violation.
Former Missouri House Speaker Rod Jetton enduring trial and tribulation when he is accused simultaneously of sexual and ethical improprieties.
Former Pennsylvania State Representative Jennifer Mann humbled by banner headlines alleging that her top aide is implicated in the state capital’s “Bonusgate” scandal.
“This book was a bi-partisan, collaborative labor of love,” Editor and co-author, Jonathan Miller added. “It has been an extraordinary honor to bring together former elected officials from both parties, each of whom has struggled through crisis or scandal, all of whom are eager to share their lessons with everyday readers. And best of all — it is a highly engaging, entertaining and informative book.”
“Mary Pickford once said that failure is not falling down but staying down,” former state Senator and co-author Jeff Smith said. “That’s the spirit in which we approached this book and we hope it helps others face adversity with courage, humility, grit, and even — when appropriate – humor.”
“I had made mistakes and let friends and family members down,” Jetton said of his own chapter of the book. “Too many times when we make mistakes we don’t sincerely apologize and take responsibility. I hope my story will help others learn you can move on and enjoy life even after making serious mistakes.”
The book can be downloaded in digital format for the Kindle, iPad, iPhone and more until June 11th for only 99 cents. The price will go to $4.99 for the digital version after the first week. A paperback version will be available soon for $8.99, and Miller, Jetton and the other authors will launch a national book-signing tour later this year.
“We are excited to offer over200 pages of wisdom and advice, gleaned not from the self-declared ‘experts,’ but from people who actually have weathered crisis and scandal as the principal, the man or woman at the center of the fire,” Miller said.
By Jonathan Miller, on Mon Nov 5, 2012 at 8:30 AM ET
(Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
If you haven’t entered the First Quadrennial Recovering Politician Electoral College Contest, you’ve got until tomorrow, Tuesday at 6:00 AM EST. Here are the details for your chance to win 2 FREE lower-arena tickets to the defending national champion University of Kentucky Wildcat basketball team’s official home opener at Lexington’s Rupp Arena, versus Lafayette University, on Friday, November 16 at 7:00 PM. Remember, the first step is to become a member of the RP’s new Facebook page, Facebook.com/RecoveringPol, and provide your predictions in the post marked “Designated RP Electoral College Contest Post.” The award will be presented to the individual who most accurately predicts the final Electoral College vote, with tiebreakers of predicting the Senate and Housr partisan compositions after the election.
The 2008 Electoral College Map
As a service to all of you procrastinators out there, our experts — contributing RPs and friends of RP — have weighed in on their predictions. You can choose to go with one of their picks, or stick with your own and feel smarter than a recovering politician.
So here goes. Feel free to comment below, but remember according to the rules, only comments at the Designated RP Electoral College Contest Post at the RP Facebook page will be qualified for the grand prize.
The RP: Obama 303, Romney 235. (Obama wins WI, NV, IA, NH, CO, VA and OH; Romney squeaks out the narrowest victory in FL); Senate: 50 Dems, 48 GOP, 2 Indy; House: 239 GOP, 196 Dems
Contributing RP Rod Jetton:
President- Romney 277 and Obama 261. Romney takes the true toss ups of NH, CO, IA and WI, while holding the safer states of FL, NC and VA. Obama keeps OH, MN, MI, NV and PA. The auto bailout keeps Obama with Ohio, but Ryan and the debates help Romney hold WI which Ohio is not required on their path to victory. PA will be close but O will hold on there. R wins popular vote 52-48. With unemployment at 7.9% and even worse, gas prices up over $3.50, it is amazing that any incumbent could even keep it close. When we add in how Obama seemed to have a bit of the Bush 42 attitude of not really wanting to mess with a re-election campaign plus the Libya debacle it is hard to see Obama winning. Romney is a solid steady campaigner that nobody loves, but he has a good resume and seems to be up to the job of fixing the economy.
Senate- D-52 and R-46. (I-2) The Republicans will pick up a few seats but the weak candidates will keep them from taking the majority. My state of Missouri is a good example of that. McCaskill was in bad shape and should have been defeated in 2012 but with all Akin’s messaging problems she is poised to survive.
House – R-237 and D- 198. There will not be a big change in the House and Romney’s debates and October surge will help Republicans down ticket in many of the battleground seats.
Jordan Stivers (Friend of RP): Obama 280, Romney 258; Senate: R-47, D – 51, I-2; House: R-237, D-198
Contributing RP John Y. Brown, III: Election Day will be followed by Wednesday….and, if all goes as planned, followed by Thursday. Short of cataclysmic fallout on Tuesday night, Thursday more than likely will be followed by Friday. And then we will probably see something resembling what we used to call “the weekend.”
Friend of RP Zac Byer (traveling with VP GOP nominee Paul Ryan): My head still says Romney tops out at 256, but after visiting 6 swing states in the last 56 hours, and my gut says otherwise: Romney: 277, Obama: 261; 51 D, 47 R, 2 I; 238 R, 197 D
Contributing RP Jeff Smith: Obama 277, Romney 261; Senate: R-48, D – 50+2I; House: R-240, D-195
Ron Granieri (Friend of RP): Obama: 280, Romney: 258; Senate: 51-49 Dems (with independents); House: 245-190 Reps
Contributing RP Nick Paleologos: Obama 275. Romney 263.
Contributing RP Jimmy Dahroug: Obama 275, Romney 263; Senate: Dems 51 GOP 47; 2 Indy; House: GOP 241 Dems 194
David Snyder (Friend of RP): Obama wins 290-248. Senate – 51 Democrats 47 Republicans, 2 Independents. House – 234 Republicans, 201 Democrats
Contributing RP Greg Harris: Obama: 332, Romney: 206 (Polls indicate presidential race is neck and neck among “likely” voters. Obama’s lead is greater among “registered” voters. These votes, under-represented in polling, will redound to Obama’s advantage in states like FL and CO.); Senate: R-44, D – 54, I – 2; House: R-232, D-203
All throughout 2012 Missouri’s U.S. Senate race was garnering significant attention because of its implications on the outcome of the majority, but after Congressman Akin’s offensive comment on rape he has became a talking point to all political commentators, a joke to average citizens around the water cooler, and a lightning rod of sensitivity to those who have suffered rape.
Many national political observers are asking, “How did this guy get elected in Missouri?” His rise from an unnoticed conservative backbencher in the minority Missouri state legislature to the Republican U.S. Senate nominee is not that complicated.
Akin is not that well liked by the establishment of the Missouri Republican Party and has never been respected by party leaders and other elected republicans. You probably expect all Republicans to say that after his comment, but as a former Republican leader who is now out of the party I can tell you Akin never did much to help other Republicans.
Sure, most politicians take care of themselves first, but usually they do something to play ball and help the “team,” but not Todd Akin. He never needed the help of the party to win any of his primaries, and they never respected him so he never lifted a finger to help anyone unless it helped advance his principles (something hardcore conservatives admire him for).
My point is not to bash Todd Akin, he is a patriotic American whose son’s serve in the military (U.S. Marines!) and I have no doubts about his genuine commitment to our country and its founding principles. He is a hardcore conservative and proved it when he was one of the few Republicans to vote against President Bush’s Medicare expansion for prescription drugs. He has a wonderful family that anyone would be proud of and he sticks with what he believes. He also avoids negative campaigning which attracts many of his supporters. I have always said, “If you want a conservative who will vote no on everything then Todd Akin is your man. He doesn’t get many reforms passed or change things but he can always be counted on to cut spending and vote no.”