Here's a little more info:The FBI is examining whether Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback’s former chief of staff and a lobbying and consulting firm he helped found are trading on their ties to the governor to benefit themselves and others financially, a person familiar with the inquiry told The Associated Press on Monday.
The person said the agency has been looking for several months into the activities of Brownback confidante David Kensinger and his Topeka firm, Parallel Strategies, which he and two former Brownback staffers formed last year. The person said the FBI had interviewed multiple people.
The person is not a law enforcement officer and insisted on anonymity because the person is not authorized to speak publicly about the FBI’s inquiry. The existence of the investigation was first reported by The Topeka Capital-Journal on Sunday.
The person who spoke with AP said the FBI is examining the aftermath of the Brownback administration’s decision to turn over the management of the state’s Medicaid program for the needy and disabled to Kansas subsidiaries of three large health insurance companies.
One of the three firms awarded management of the program at the time employed a lobbyist, Matt Hickam, who was a former partner of Kensinger at another lobbying firm. - AP, 4/28/14
Now here's the real kicker: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.David Kensinger (L) & Riley Scott (R)
Kensinger's departure as Brownback's chief of staff two years ago allowed him to return full time to consulting and lobbying. He was free to focus on fine-tuning the governor's political organization, Road Map Solutions, in preparation for the governor's 2014 re-election bid.
"There are no timeouts in this game," Kensinger said in Wichita immediately after the November 2012 election. "Either you're moving the ball on the other side or the other side is moving the ball on you."
Brownback said his trusted aide, who started working for him 20 years ago, wouldn't stray far from the governor's affairs.
“I am deeply appreciative of the work and energy David has given me, our team and the state of Kansas," Brownback said. "We will miss him but are pleased he will continue to work with us as we work to make our great state even better."
Initially, Kensinger set up shop in a large office on the fifth floor of a S. Kansas Avenue building. The space played host to a downsized Kensinger and Associates — it no longer included longtime partner Matt Hickam, who hung his own shingle in 2010.
By this past September, Parallel Strategies went operational with Kensinger, Stafford and Scott in the fold. Their firm serves as an umbrella organization enabling collaboration on certain clients and permitting each principal to remain engaged in their own independent lobbying or consulting businesses.
"Key friends of Sam have garnered a rather large number of big lobbying contracts in a very short period of time," said an experienced Kansas lobbyist. "They are making lots of money. Perhaps as important, they can impress upon their clients the need to be supportive of the governor and his agenda."
Topeka lobbyist Rob Mealy took to Twitter to express disenchantment in mid-2012 about work by Brownback associates to accumulate lobbying clients. Mealy indicated poaching activities had the blessing of state government insiders.
"Client poaching, a lobbyist on lobbyist crime, on the increase since the Kansas primary with the poachers getting an assist," wrote Mealy, who declined to comment for this story. - The Topeka-Capital Journal, 4/26/14
And this FBI probe is not good for Brownback:As it relates to KanCare, the three Medicaid contractors reinforced their lobbying operations by hiring individuals who are no strangers to Brownback.
Scott, a partner in Parallel Strategies, was added in January by United Healthcare. Gary Haulmark, a former deputy Cabinet secretary in the Brownback administration, resigned from state government in 2013 to represent Amerigroup. Sunflower employs Hickam, who ran a lobbying firm with Kensinger from 2004 to 2010.
"I believe it is wrong for people as closely connected to the seat of power to be in a position of lobbying for pay," said former Sen. Dick Kelsey, a Republican who represented a district south of Wichita. "I still have a problem with the pay-to-play concept."
Kelsey said Brownback officials had a political interest in tamping down complaints about KanCare until after the November election. There is an aggressive behind-the-scene campaign to minimize public criticism about denying access to treatments, placing administrative hurdles on providers delivering care, and to delaying payment of contractors.
At the same time, Kelsey said, the managed care organizations want to please the administration by hiring Brownback associates. It is a symbiotic relationship, Kelsey said, that hasn't best served interests of clients.
Rep. David Crum, an Augusta Republican and chairman of the House-Senate oversight committee for KanCare, said he had at least four meetings this year with executives and lobbyists with Medicaid companies operating KanCare. He expressed no reservation about lobbyists hired by the firms, and he discounted the possibility of "any scheming and carrying on."
"Probably the individual I've known the longest is Gary Haulmark," Crum said. "I have a huge amount of respect for Gary. He always has been a straight shooter."
Crum said he was optimistic the Medicaid reform initiative would fulfill Brownback's goal of saving the state $1 billion over five years while also improving medical outcomes for clients.
"In the next year or two," he said, "I think we'll really, truly appreciate the effectiveness of how that managed care system is going to work."
He also was certain the Kansas Department of Health and Environment and the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services had the capacity to protect the state's investment in KanCare.
Sen. Laura Kelly, D-Topeka, said enough uncertainty about the direction of KanCare existed to warrant a significant inquiry by the Legislature. She said producing an accurate assessment would require assurances that individuals and organizations coming forward wouldn’t be subject to retaliation for speaking out.
Kelly, who serves with Crum on the KanCare oversight committee, said the model for the Legislature could be the inquiry of the Kansas Bioscience Authority led in 2011 and 2012 by Wichita Sen. Wagle, who since then was elected Senate president. The KBA, a state-financed economic development entity working to expand agriculture, animal health and human health innovation, was the subject of a legislative review and a forensic audit that cost nearly $1 million.
"If the situation at the Bioscience Authority warranted an investigation, this situation does, too," Kelly said. - CJ Online, 4/26/14
We shall see what happens but right now Brownback is on the ropes. Lets make sure Paul Davis (D. KS) is ready to beat Brownback in November. Click here to donate and get involved with Davis' campaign:This news will help the efforts of Democratic gubernatorial candidate Paul Davis paint Brownback as being a person who tolerates abuses of the political system.
The reported probe also will help center attention on Brownback’s widely reported ousting of even moderate Republicans in the 2012 elections. That intra-party feud destroyed alliances among some people in the GOP party in Kansas. Brownback largely succeeded in his efforts, giving him a Legislature bent to do his wishes on all kinds of monetary and social issues.
The crucial but unanswered question right now: Could a governor so intimately and ruthlessly involved in leading a strategy to destroy part of his own party not know that his closest allies may have been benefiting from their connections to him?
Here’s the concise summary of the story: “The Topeka Capital-Journal learned the months-long inquiry involves Parallel Strategies, a rapidly expanding Topeka consulting and lobbying firm created in 2013 by a trio of veteran Brownback employees who left government service to work in an environment where coziness with former colleagues could pay dividends.”
The biggest apparent topic is the relentless work Brownback and his staff did to support privatization of Kansas’ Medicaid program. It was and remains controversial, in part because of the troubled roll-out that irritated many people receiving services through Medicaid. - Kansas City Star, 4/28/14