The list of current and former Republican governors facing some serious investigations is surprisingly long.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R), for example, is at the center of a series of scandals, while former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) is facing corruption charges. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) has faced some uncomfortable questions recently; Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) has found himself at the center of an investigation into his handling of a district attorney’s drunken driving arrest; and subpoenas have already been issued in an investigation involving North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory’s (R) administration.
And it looks like we can now add Kansas to the list (thanks to my colleague Tricia McKinney for the heads-up).
The Federal Bureau of Investigation is exploring whether confidantes of Gov. Sam Brownback operated influence-peddling operations in Kansas pivoting on personal access to the Republican governor and top administration officials.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.
As influence-peddling controversies go, this one’s pretty straightforward.
Parallel Strategies has quickly become a powerful firm in Kansas, led by a former Brownback chief of staff, a former Brownback adviser, and a former Brownback senior staffer. Their operation has quickly put together a formidable client list that includes, among others, Brownback.
With this in mind, when Kansas’ far-right governor decided to privatize the state’s Medicaid program, it created an opportunity for Parallel Strategies – which then turned into a controversy that’s drawn the FBI’s interest.
According to the report in the Topeka Capital-Journal, Parallel Strategies allegedly helped secure “behind-the-scenes financial arrangements” that “handed to three for-profit insurance companies exclusive contracts to provide Medicaid services to 380,000 of Kansas’ disabled and poor.”
The scope of the inquiry is raising eyebrows.
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. […]The FBI also has looked into activities of individual legislators and lobbyists unaffiliated with Parallel Strategies.
It’s worth noting, of course, that FBI inquiries don’t always lead to charges. It’s quite possible that the investigation won’t turn up anything and that the suspicions won’t pan out.
But over the last four years, Brownback and his team have been accused repeatedly – by locals in both parties – of running a ruthless, hardball political operation, so it’s certainly of great interest that the FBI wants to know whether the governor’s team directed businesses to hire former members of the governor, who in turn made “behind-the-scenes financial arrangements” on the companies’ behalf.
It’s worth keeping an eye on this one.