TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — 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.
Kensinger declined to comment. His partners in Parallel Strategies, Riley Scott and George Stafford, did not return telephone messages Sunday and Monday. Hickam also did not immediately return a call seeking comment.
Brownback spokeswoman Eileen Hawley said the administration has had no contact with the FBI and no indication that it’s conducting an investigation.
“We have heard absolutely nothing,” Hawley said. “This is a lot of rumor and innuendo, and we’re not going to comment on it.”
FBI spokeswoman Bridget Patton said the agency never confirms or denies the existence of an investigation.
The Kansas Democratic Party distributed a fundraising email Monday evening that cited the Capital-Journal’s story.
Kensinger managed Brownback’s 2010 campaign for governor and served as chief of staff in the governor’s office until April 2012. He returned to his private consulting and lobbying business and is now serving as president of Road Map Solutions, a nonprofit group supporting Brownback that in recent months has spent tens of thousands of dollars on television ads touting Brownback’s handling of economic and education issues.
Kensinger left the administration as it was considering five bids from private companies seeking one of the three contracts to manage the state’s $3 billion-a-year Medicaid program, since renamed KanCare, an initiative headed by Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer.
Near the end of June 2012, the administration awarded contracts to Kansas subsidiaries of Amerigroup Corp., based in Virginia Beach, Va.; Centene Corp., which has its headquarters in St. Louis; and United Healthcare, based in Minneapolis. The registered lobbyist for both Centene and its subsidiary is Hickam.
Kensinger’s ties to Brownback go back two decades, to when Brownback won a seat in the U.S. Senate. Kensinger managed Brownback’s successful Senate re-election campaign in 1998 and later served has the chief of staff in his Senate office. In 2004, he founded his own lobbying firm.
Scott and Stafford also served on Brownback’s Senate staff before starting their own lobbying firms and forming Parallel Strategies with Kensinger.
Records available online through the secretary of state’s office show it was established in September 2013, with Scott listed as the resident agent. The group’s website lists Brownback, Kansas Sen. Pat Roberts and Indiana Gov. Mike Pence as among its clients. The list also includes the Kansas Association of Realtors, Kansas City Power & Light Co. and the Kansas Coalition Against the Death Penalty.
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