The Recovering Politician Books is proud to publish its newest title, former Missouri House Speaker Rod Jetton, “Success Can Kill You: One Man’s Story of Success, Failure, Faith and Forgiveness.”
The book targeted to driven leaders, and points out how pride, flattery, bitterness and paranoia can have terrible consequences for those in charge of large organizations. Using personal examples, Rod warns readers about the dangers of letting success go to their heads. The book chronicles Rod’s meteoric rise from a young Marine officer to the second youngest House Speaker in Missouri state history. His political success made him a powerful force in the Republican Party and he was on the fast track to becoming Governor of Missouri, when his personal life exploded in a very public and humiliating fall.
On December 7, 2009, he was arrested for felony assault after a one-night stand with a woman he connected with on Facebook. Soon after that, he received a call from a former girlfriend telling him she was pregnant and he was going to be a father at the age of 42. Then, just a few weeks later, Rod found out he was the target of a grand jury investigation from his handling of a bill when he was Speaker of the Missouri House. Rod’s candid way of explaining his mistakes and pointing out the dangers of putting his career in front of his faith and family will be of great benefit to politicians, businessmen, church leaders and corporate executives focused on accomplishing their goals.
Click here to review and purchase.
Here’s an exclusive excerpt:
“Be not deceived, God is not mocked, for whatever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.” – Galatians 6:7
My bitterness and fighting had made me many political enemies across the state. Those enemies did everything they could to make sure the assault charges ended my political career. Over the last few years, I have had many supporters tell me I was set up by my political opponents. Let me set the record straight: I was not set up by anybody. I arranged to meet this lady on my own, and she was not part of any plan to get me. It is solely my fault and my responsibility.
But once my political opponents learned about the accusation, they took the information and did everything they could to make sure there was an investigation resulting in criminal charges. They used their political power to see me hang…however, I walked to the scaffold, gave them the rope, tied the knot, and put it around my own neck. Had I been in their shoes, I’m sure I would have done the same thing to them.
I remember talking to my good friend, Shannon Cooper, right after my arrest. In an effort to cheer me up he said, “Well Rod, at least things can only get better. You’re at rock bottom now, and the only way out is up.” While it did seem like my life had hit rock bottom, things were about to get a lot worse.
Two weeks after my arrest I was contacted by a lady I had dated that fall and was given some very sobering news. She told me she was pregnant and that I was going to be a daddy. Wow, that was a big news flash. My son was sixteen at the time and there I was at 42, about to be a new father.
To complicate the situation even more, she was still married. She was separated and in the process of getting a divorce when we started dating. Missouri law prohibits anyone who is pregnant from getting a divorce. They require that the parties wait until the child is born to do a DNA test to determine who the father is for child support reasons.
This woman came from a good Catholic family, and as you can imagine they were furious with both of us. The only thing they knew about me was what they saw on TV, which was not good. Her divorce, pregnancy and relationship with me were an embarrassment for them, and the whole complicated mess was like something on a soap opera.
For me, it meant another serious talk with my family. I will never forget telling my parents. When my mother heard the news, she gasped like someone had punched her in the gut. I could see the deep disillusionment in her eyes, but there was nothing I could do. What made it even worse for me was the realization that I was causing the woman who had done nothing but love and pray for me my whole life pain.
Once again my children were very kind and supportive. There are just no words to adequately describe how difficult it was to tell my two daughters and teenage son even more details about my whoring around. They were going to have a new sister or brother from someone they really didn’t even know, who was still married to another man.
That was one very rough Christmas. I was so thankful for God’s forgiveness and so appreciative of my family and friends, but everything else was a total and complete mess. I didn’t know what to do about my girlfriend and the arriving baby. She didn’t have any place to live so I rented her an apartment to live in and took care of her medical bills. I asked her to marry me, and she said yes, so I made plans to marry her once the baby was born. She was a very nice lady, and I felt responsible to her and the child, but I was adamant on us living apart and not having sex until we were married. By then, I was scared to death of breaking any more of God’s commandments.
Right after Christmas, I received more bad news. An old friend called to advise me of a federal grand jury investigation surrounding my handling of a bill regulating Missouri strip clubs during the 2005 legislative session. Over the years, many of my opponents had accused me of misconduct concerning this bill, but nothing had ever come of it. That fall a rumor about a new investigation had resurfaced, and my friend called to inform me that the FBI was moving forward with it.
I called my attorney who was helping me with the assault case, but he said he was not qualified to handle a federal case. He agreed to call the investigators and check on the situation. Later that week, he confirmed they were investigating the issue and two weeks after that I received a letter in the mail notifying me that I was the target of a federal grand jury investigation. The letter referenced several legal definitions of crimes they were looking into, but it all boiled down to bribery. The letter stated these charges could result in 20-25 years of prison time.
The accusation was that I took a $35,000 donation and promised to kill a bill regulating strip clubs in Missouri. I had been against the bill because it included a tax on strip clubs that I didn’t agree with, and the language regulating private businesses seemed unconstitutional to me. I had never been to a strip club and wasn’t trying to support them, but my disagreement with the language and my animosity toward Sen. Matt Bartle, the bill’s sponsor, were the reasons for my opposition.
Sen. Bartle was a hardcore Christian conservative, and we started out as a very good friends when I sat by him on the House floor during my first two years in Jefferson City. In 2004 when I had problems at home, Matt was one of the first people I asked to pray for me. Unfortunately, I let a legitimate disagreement on legal reform, along with my judgmental attitude, ruin our friendship.
One of the biggest issues most conservatives were trying to pass in 2004 and 2005 was legal reform. I helped lead the charge in the House, but Matt opposed our efforts in the Senate. He was the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and we had to make compromises with him to pass a bill. He was a trial attorney, and I decided that he only opposed us because of the money he made suing people. In hindsight, it was a mistake to judge his motives.
Matt Bartle quickly became a rising star in the Republican Party. He gained statewide recognition for opposing stem cell research and was developing a growing following across Missouri. I felt he was only taking some of these conservative positions to further his career and run for attorney general.
Matt also became friends with a few of my enemies from Kansas City, and in my world a friend of my enemy was a new enemy to me. As Speaker, I had power over all bills in the House, and I decided Sen. Bartle would not pass any legislation through the House while I was Speaker. As a Baptist preacher’s son and conservative Republican, I should have sat down with Sen. Bartle and worked out these differences, but I didn’t want to negotiate with my “enemy.” It is sad to look back and see how my pride caused me to lose a friend and be so judgmental.
I didn’t support the state relying on a tax revenue from strip clubs, but I also didn’t like the good press his bill regulating and taxing strip clubs was getting. I didn’t want to see him run for higher office, so I asked my chairman to slow the bill down and take out all the taxes and other extreme regulations.
In the meantime, the strip club owners were in Jefferson City trying to give donations to everyone they could. They thought Bartle’s bill would put them out of business, and they needed friends. I told their lobbyist to keep their money. I told them I didn’t like Matt Bartle and would kill any of his bills I could. Unfortunately, without me knowing it, the strip club owners made a $35,000 contribution to a political committee that was registered to one of the members of my staff.
At the end of the 2005 session I ended up stripping the taxes and some of the extreme regulations out of Matt’s bill and putting that language on a bill I sponsored strengthening punishments for repeat DWI offenders. At the time, I was proud of myself for killing his bill and passing his idea on a bill of my own. Matt was not happy, and I felt satisfied that I had shown him who was boss.
After the campaign reports came out in 2006, Tim Hoover with the Kansas City Star wrote a story about the $35,000 contribution, and my opponents started saying I had taken the money to kill the bill. It did look bad, but I had no idea they had even given any money to the campaign. I was furious with my staff, and I had to apologize to the whole caucus. The only thing that saved my credibility with the majority of my caucus was the fact that I had passed the watered down language on my own bill. Now, almost five years later, at the worst possible time for me, the federal government was opening the case back up.
In just over four weeks, I was arrested for assault, found out I was going to be a daddy, and then learned I was facing a possibility of over twenty years in prison. It was very, very discouraging, and I must admit I totally lost hope that January. There was no one to blame but myself. I was reaping what I had sown. My immoral lifestyle led to the assault charge and pregnancy, while my prideful and judgmental attitude against my political enemies led to the federal investigation.
When going through troubles, Christians always say, “Don’t worry, God won’t put on you any more than you can bear.” When I was hopeless, had lost everything, and the whole world seemed to be against me, hearing those words from someone who had no idea how bad my troubles were made me want to slap the person who said it. That advice is taken from 1 Corinthians 10:13 which reads, “There hath no temptation taken you but such is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.” In my opinion, this verse isn’t talking about handling troubles. I think it is God’s promise that he will not allow a person to be tempted beyond what they can resist, that He will provide an escape to keep them from sinning. But if they ignore the escape and give in to temptations, troubles will follow, and troubles will continue to get worse until the sinner gives up, repents and asks God for help.
My troubles had finally forced me to ask God for help. I had nowhere else to turn. I couldn’t do anything to stop the grand jury investigation, I couldn’t stop the assault charges, and my ability to take care of a wife and a new baby was enormously limited. In the past, when I hit an obstacle or setback, I would work harder and overcome the obstacle, but with my new troubles there was nothing I could do. No amount of better planning, shrewder scheming or harder work would fix my problems. I was at the point where there was nothing I could do.
At that point, I begged God for help. I had finally figured out that my way didn’t work. I realized that my pursuit of the things I thought were important, such as pleasure, fortune and fame, was a wild goose chase that ended in failure, embarrassment and pain.