FBI said to be investigating Kansas Gov. Brownback associates in Medicaid scheme

by Joan McCarter –

Brownback speaks at a Family Research Council "Values Voter Summit" in Washington

Gov. Sam Brownback (Reuters)

Gov. Sam Brownback (R-KS) just had a big ol’ wrinkle thrown into his re-election campaign in the form of a reported FBI probe into three of his former employees, including his former chief of staff, in an influence-peddling case. The three have been working on Brownback’s Medicaid privatization scheme, which turned management of the state’s existing Medicaid program over to subsidiaries of three large health insurance companies. Kansas has refused Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act.

The core of the investigation is whether these three confidants of Brownback used their connection to Brownback and his staff for financial gain.

Parallel Strategies was founded by David Kensinger, Brownback’s former chief of staff and campaign manager and current director of the governor’s political organization Road Map Solutions; George Stafford, a longtime fundraiser, employee and adviser to Brownback; and Riley Scott, a senior staff member to Brownback while he was in the U.S. Senate and son-in-law of Kansas Senate President Susan Wagle, R-Wichita. […]Kensinger was the governor’s chief of staff during formative construction of KanCare, but quit two months before contracts were signed with AmeriGroup Kansas, United Healthcare of the Midwest and Sunflower State Health Plan, a subsidiary of Centene. These contractors now employ as lobbyists one of Kensinger’s partners at Parallel Strategies, Kensinger’s former lobbying partner and a one-time Brownback deputy Cabinet secretary. Questions center on whether Brownback representatives pressed companies or organizations to hire specific lobbying firms or whether entities that showed inadequate deference were targeted for political or financial punishment. […] It is unclear how far the federal investigation has progressed or whether evidence will materialize to warrant proceeding to court. Joel Sealer, special agent with the FBI in Kansas City, Mo., said the agency’s long-standing policy was to decline public comment on topics of inquiries and targets of probes.

Brownback and his staff were “relentless” in getting his privatization scheme, which “remains controversial, in part because of the troubled roll-out that irritated many people receiving services through Medicaid.” The obvious question at the heart of this reported probe is whether Brownback staff was so relentless in pursuing the privatization because they were lining their future nests.

While the FBI hasn’t officially confirmed the investigation, sources in the state seem to be pretty certain about it. At the very least, the questions raised by these news reports are going to add to Brownback’s Medicaid headache in his re-election campaign. He’s already got the problem of leaving at least 182,000 people out in the cold by refusing to expand Medicaid. Now he’s got the potential problem of enriching his former staffers with the existing program.

 

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos