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Former Kansas Lawmaker Confirms Involvement In KanCare FBI Probe

A former state senator confirmed Thursday that he was contacted by FBI agents looking into allegations of “pay-to-play” deals in state government.

Dick Kelsey, a Republican who represented the Goddard area until 2012, said the FBI questions centered on David Kensinger, a longtime political adviser and former chief of staff for Gov. Sam Brownback.

“The FBI called me,” Kelsey said. “They wanted to talk to me and did a number of times, along with an in-person, two-hour interview. The investigation is very real.”

The FBI probe has been in the media for months, with most reports relying on unnamed sources who said they were interviewed by FBI agents. The FBI will not confirm or deny that an investigation is ongoing, which is its policy.

Kelsey, likely the most high-profile person to publicly state he was interviewed, said the last time he had contact with the FBI was about three months ago. He indicated that Kensinger’s involvement in KanCare — Brownback's privatization of the state's $3 billion Medicaid system through contracts with three managed care organizations — was a focal point of the interviews the FBI conducted with him.

An employee at Kensinger’s lobbying firm, Parallel Strategies, said Kensinger was out of town and unavailable Thursday.

Kelsey and Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley, a Democrat from Topeka, a held a news conference in Topeka to call on Brownback to cut all ties to Kensinger. The news conference comes a month before Brownback faces a re-election challenge in a heated race against House Minority Leader Paul Davis.

John Milburn, a spokesman for Brownback’s re-election campaign, suggested the timing of the news conference — a month before the election — was an attempt to keep the FBI investigation, first reported by the Topeka Capital-Journal in April, in the headlines in the final weeks of the campaign.

“Unsupported, wild accusations by people who clearly think they are losing a campaign of ideas is not news,” Milburn said. “We did learn two things today — these false smears are driven by political motivations and Democrats have no positive ideas to offer voters.”

Shawn Sullivan, director of the governor’s budget office, was in 2012 deeply involved in the KanCare contracting process as secretary of the agency then known as the Kansas Department on Aging. He said teams of career state employees were involved in the process to ensure that it wasn’t politicized.

“The state contracting process for the KanCare system was the most above-board procurement process in state history,” Sullivan said.

After heading Pat Roberts’ successful U.S. Senate re-election campaign in 2008, Kensinger led Brownback to an easy victory in the 2010 gubernatorial race. He resigned as Brownback’s chief of staff in 2012 but has remained involved, running the governor’s RoadMap Solutions PAC and acting as a Statehouse lobbyist.

Kensinger has been seen with the governor at multiple campaign stops this year. Milburn has said Kensinger is acting as an “unofficial, unpaid” adviser, but Hensley pointed to campaign finance reports that show the Brownback campaign paying thousands of dollars to an LLC affiliated with his sister, Tricia Kensinger-Rice.

“Considering her close ties to Kensinger, this raises legitimate questions about who is actually receiving that compensation and for what services,” Hensley said.

Kelsey was one of several Republican senators targeted in the 2012 primaries. Most were seen as moderates purged by Republicans who wanted a more conservative Senate. Kelsey was considered conservative but had voiced opposition to several Brownback priorities.

 

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