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Bill targets Missouri lobbyist with sex offender conviction

4-2-2014 Missouri:

JEFFERSON CITY — A registered sex offender who works as a lobbyist said Tuesday that, to keep working, he will comply with any new reporting requirements lawmakers might choose to impose.

The House General Laws Committee yesterday held a short hearing on a bill to require lobbyists to disclose whether they are registered sex offenders on forms filed annually with the Missouri Ethics Commission. Rep. Genise Montecillo, D-St. Louis, said she filed the bill in response to a notice from House Chief Clerk Adam Crumbliss about restrictions on the activities of Parker Bena, a lobbyist since 2007.

"Most people view this building as a safe building, and sometimes folks let their guard down," Montecillo said during the hearing. "I think people should at least be aware that there is one in the building."

The committee, chaired by Rep. Caleb Jones, R-Columbia, did not vote on the bill.

In a telephone interview after the hearing, which he did not attend, Bena said he had no objections to the new reporting requirement. "I know it is a matter of procedure, and I am fine with that," he said. "I will do what the law requires of me."

Bena pleaded guilty in 2001 in Virginia to possessing child pornography as part of a plea bargain with federal prosecutors. Before that, he was a prominent Republican and was one of Virginia's presidential electors in 2000.

"It was a one-time mistake and has not and will not happen again," Bena said. "I have paid my debt. I feel like I can live a normal life like anybody else. It happened entirely by accident. When I was questioned about it, I may not have said things the right way and ended up shooting myself in the foot."

Bena was released from federal prison on Jan. 29, 2004, and was on supervised release until Sept. 1, 2006. He registered as a Missouri lobbyist on March 15, 2006. He moved to Missouri, he said, because of his wife's family ties.

Missouri law places numerous restrictions on the residences and activities of registered offenders. Bena has a constitutional right to enter the Capitol, Crumbliss said. "What he does not have the right to do is make members and employees uncomfortable," he said.

Crumbliss said he has had complaints about Bena "getting aggressive" as he questions members about their families. To prevent misunderstandings, Bena has been told to limit his activities to the public space of the building, including the hallways, visitor galleries and hearing rooms, Crumbliss said. "He is not welcome in any non public house space," he said.

Bena's clients include a Chinese freight company; Economic Development Winnipeg of Manitoba, Canada; and a Kansas City freight consulting firm. He said he lobbies on economic development issues.

If he has made anyone uncomfortable, he said, "It was unintentional." ..Source.. by Rudi Keller

This article was published in the Wednesday, April 2, 2014 edition of the Columbia Daily Tribune with the headline "Sex offender lobbyist focus of House bill."

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