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Bergthold is nothing if not thorough. He drafts his rules to cover every inch of a business, including sales percentages, zoning and the amount of floor space taken up by dirty movies and rubber assholes.
As recently as this week, Bergthold told The Wall Street Journal that Missouri's legislation was on solid constitutional ground. But he has said that before and been wrong. Five years ago, Sioux City, Iowa, shelled out more than half a million dollars to an adult bookstore after hired-gun Bergthold failed to put it out of business. According to court records, "Because of the City's ill-conceived, illegal, and unconstitutional actions in targeting and attempting to trample the plaintiff's First Amendment rights, the taxpayers have already paid dearly, to the tune of over $600,000."
That's pocket change to the people who are paid to fight the adult industry. Besides his law practice, Bergthold runs the Alliance Defense Fund, a nonprofit that defends the legislation he has written when the adult industry mounts lawsuits against it. Last year, Bergthold's group counted $30 million in donations. Because of the ADF's 501(c)3 status, it doesn't have to disclose who donated the money.
Bergthold has also been the executive director and general counsel of the National Family Legal Foundation, testifying around the country about the perceived negative effects of strip joints. The group now calls itself the Community Defense Council and is funded by donations from Bergthold's ADF. Every link in his long, incestuous chain of anti-porn groups stands to make money off a protracted legal fight over breasts in the Show Me State.
As the night goes on, Sally serves more customers. Bartle is still the subject of conversation.
"I won't stop dancing, but I'll go out of state," one of Sally's co-workers says. "I'll go to Iowa, maybe. It's good money up there, and they don't have any girls that look like me, so I'll get more customers." (The dancer is black.) "You'll see some really nasty stuff go on here if this goes through. I've been invited to work houses before, after hours, and I won't do that. You'll see ghetto shit going down you thought you'd never see."
"When they found out I was related to Bartle, they were like, 'Why does he want to take away my job?'" she says. "I was like, 'I don't know. I've almost never spoken with him.' But it doesn't surprise me. It's just the way he sees things, being raised in the church."
Unlike a lot of the women she works with, Sally is not a single mother. But at a time when money is tight all around, she says, she wishes that the Missouri General Assembly wasn't trying to make life harder.
"I just wish they'd fix the roads or something that would actually help people."