One legislator took a special interest in her.
It started as a bet on a basketball game. Kansas state Sen. Jim Barone bet her dinner that his alma mater, Pittsburg State University, would whip Washburn. But Washburn won the January 26 game, 76-61. Barone wanted to pay up.
Barone a chubby, graying and balding anti-choice, pro-gun Democrat from Frontenac, Kansas wasn't just being friendly. The then-63-year-old was in his eighth year as a lawmaker. In that time, he'd earned a reputation for latching on to pretty young women at the Capitol. Barone asked for the intern's cell phone number, and she gave it to him. She didn't think a senator 41 years her senior would call her. But Barone called often.
He'd call and leave messages for her saying she could call him at any hour; he'd be up all night. Barone called one evening in the waning days of the session. He wanted to get together with the intern. She had gone out for drinks with co-workers at Terry's Bar and Grill in Topeka, a hot spot for lawmakers and statehouse staff during the session. She laughed when she saw Barone's name on her caller ID, but she was "a little freaked out," says a senior Senate staffer who was with the woman that evening.
"She was laughing, but she thought it was going too far," according to the senior Senate staffer.
Barone told her he was going to stop by Terry's because he had a present for her, homemade wine from southeast Kansas. She didn't want to meet him. But, finally, she gave in.
"We have to be very discreet," Barone told her.
Discreet meant that the married Barone would give the wine to the intern outside the bar.
The young woman told her co-workers to stay inside the bar while she fetched the wine. Barone dropped off the bottle, and the woman returned to the bar. But the young woman's co-workers had seen enough.
"When he starts calling an intern and making unwanted advances," a co-worker who was at Terry's that night tells the Pitch, "that's when it crosses the line."
The 22-year-old intern wasn't the first allegation of harassment against Barone. The Pitch has learned of at least two other instances, dating back to Gov. Bill Graves' administration.
But his problems don't end there. The senator has used his position to get one of his sons out of legal trouble and to protect another son's lobbying interests. Barone's harassment of women and his abuse of power have led members of his own party to remove him from prominent positions in the Senate and to publicly question his ability to serve. The gift exchange was the last straw for a senior Senate staffer, who reported Barone to Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley later that session.
"I have never gone to the minority leader to do anything like that before, but because I was familiar with Barone's reputation, and because I felt this particular intern was vulnerable and naïve, I thought, I'm going to put a stop to this," the staff member tells the Pitch. "The bottom line is, what was he doing asking an intern for her phone number? What was he doing calling and leaving messages for her? That right there is incredibly questionable behavior."