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After Sen. Casey Ignited Investigations into Some Medicaid Companies, His Brother-in-Law Started Lobbying for One

This article first appeared in Broad + Liberty.

Sen. Bob Casey’s brother-in-law began state-based lobbying for a Medicaid managed-care company last year, just months before a pivotal and likely damaging report on the health care company from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services was poised for release.

The federal audit into Keystone First and other similar companies by the U.S. Department of Health’s inspector general came after Casey (D) pushed for it in the wake of an investigative reporting series by the Dallas Morning News alleging some Medicaid managed care organizations, or MCOs, were boosting profits by denying care or benefits to patients.

“Of the 50 pediatric skilled nursing service request denials in our sample, 10 were completely denied when they should have been partially allowed,” the audit found. It gave a special focus to pediatric skilled nursing payment requests “because of the vulnerability of the pediatric population and due to concerns raised in the Dallas Morning News article.”

The audit further noted that Keystone First was selected for the audit, “because it had the highest number of denied services of any Medicaid MCO in Pennsylvania during calendar years 2018 and 2019 (audit period).”

Casey’s brother-in-law, Patrick Brier, registered as a lobbyist for Keystone First with the Pennsylvania Department of State in June 2022. The inspector general for the U.S. Department of Health released its audit in December that year, days before Christmas.

Brier’s lobbying registration qualified him for that kind of work only at the state level.

Source: PA lobbyist search website

“Mr. Brier is not now and never has been engaged as a federal lobbyist on behalf of Keystone First,” said Scott Caulfield, a Harrisburg attorney who, according to his own description, specializes in “professional compliance and ethics due diligence work.” Caulfield is listed as an authorized representative on Brier’s lobbyist registration, and said in an email he was also authorized by Brier to answer on his behalf in response to questions from Broad + Liberty.

“In fact, Mr. Brier does not engage in any federal lobbying work whatsoever. Mr. Brier does not receive any compensation from, or have any financial interest(s) relating to, any firm or other person that lobbies any member of the United States Congress, for any purpose,” Caulfield concluded.

While it is true Brier has not been engaged as a federal lobbyist on behalf of Keystone First, Caulfield did not contest the assertion Brier has done state-based lobbying for the company.

Regardless, Brier’s work for the MCO, especially considering the close timing to the release of the audit, could give the perception of a conflict of interest given that the audit was largely spurred by Sen. Casey.

Sen. Casey’s office did not respond to a request for comment. A message requesting comment from Keystone First was not immediately returned.

The issue of a conflict of interest between Casey and Brier has come up before, in 2002.

Brier was part of a law firm that helped a Luzerne County-based nursing home negotiate a settlement with the federal government after it was found the nursing home had over $2 million “in Medicare overcharges to the federal government and unspecified Medicaid undercharges to the state government between 1990 and 1997,” according to a report from the Wilkes Barre Times-Leader.

Casey was criticized by citizens and local officials in his home county for taking credit in campaign commercials during the 2002 Democratic gubernatorial primary against former Philadelphia Mayor Ed Rendell for exposing financial corruption in nursing homes as auditor general, but somehow failed to notice the problems at the Luzerne-based home, Valley Crest. Critics at the time suggested Casey failed to sufficiently challenge officials in his own party who had long supported his political aspirations.

One elected official at the time “questioned whether the Democratic commissioners decided to hire a firm [for the settlement negotiations] with ties to Casey as a safeguard against a state audit,” the Times-Leader reported.

Casey responded by saying that the only reason people were aware of the familial connection was because he had proactively listed it on a disclosure form as something would likely be perceived as a conflict of interest.

Two other stories this year have also put Casey under the ethical spotlight.

In February, Politico reported that “Patrick Casey, the brother of Pennsylvania Democratic Sen. Bob Casey who joined Dentons Global Advisors Government Relations last year as a partner, registered to lobby in the fall, and reported lobbying the Senate on issues ranging from implementation of the CHIPS and Science Act to online travel policies last year, disclosures show.”

Just this week, the New York Post reported that Casey’s other brother, Matt, works at a personal-injury law firm which has donated “hundreds of thousands” to Casey’s campaigns over the years, and Casey “has tapped one of [the firm’s] partners to help him nominate federal judges.”

The story also noted that the nominating process mentioned was part of a “mutually beneficial” agreement between Casey and now retired Senator Pat Toomey, a Republican. As part of that agreement “each [would] appoint a co-chair and 10 panel members on a bipartisan basis to vet federal judicial nominees for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania starting in 2011, according to a comtemporary [sic] Casey press release,” the Post story said.

Finally, the Republican site Breitbart noted that in 2018, Casey was months late filing a required disclosure of a stock sale of an Ohio energy company by one of his children. The sale was notable because the company at issue, which also had power plants in western Pennsylvania, was heavily lobbying the federal government on regulatory issues while one of the company’s subsidiaries was facing bankruptcy.

Broad + Liberty followed up on that story by requesting comment again from Casey on that issue, but that request was not returned.

No one has yet formally announced a campaign to run against Casey, the Scranton Democrat who is serving in his third term. It’s also no secret that Dave McCormick, a businessman and former under secretary of the U.S. Treasury for International Affairs who lost a Senate bid in 2020 to fellow Republican Mehmet Oz, is likely to run again in 2024.

‘LIV’ Free or Die? DOJ Investigating PGA for Treatment of Players Who Join New League

When some of professional golf’s biggest names left the PGA Tour to join the more lucrative LIV Golf, it created headlines.

Now the PGA’s treatment of those players is creating litigation. And an ongoing federal investigation.

The Department of Justice (DOJ) has launched an investigation into the PGA Tour over allegations of anticompetitive behavior. And the tour, which once held an unchallenged monopoly in professional golf, may find it is running afoul of rules for the new “gig-economy” labor market.

The Wall Street Journal broke the story that players’ agents have received inquiries from the DOJ’s antitrust investigators regarding the tour’s bylaws and how the PGA is treating pros who chose to play in the PGA’s actions as many players leave for the Saudi-backed LIV Golf tour.

The list of golfers who have left the PGA includes Phil Mickelson, Bryson DeChambeau, and Dustin Johnson. And just days after he won the British Open, rumors are swirling that Cameron Smith might join them, along with Ryder Cup captain Henrik Stenson.

The PGA has banned and fined players for joining the Saudi tour. According to PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan, “their participation in the Saudi Golf League/LIV Golf event is in violation of our Tournament Regulations. The same fate holds true for any other players who participate in future Saudi Golf League events in violation of our regulations.”

Monahan said the “players have made their choice for their own financial-based reasons. But they can’t demand the same PGA TOUR membership benefits, considerations, opportunities and platform as you. That expectation disrespects you, our fans and our partners.”

LIV Golf Commissioner Greg Norman responded in a recent interview. “We haven’t done anything other than putting together a business model and giving independent contractors a right to earn a living doing something else, as well as still being a member of the PGA Tour.”

John Lauro, a Florida attorney who said he might represent the golfers if they litigate, said the PGA’s stance is wrong because the workplace is changing. “This a very problematic policy,” he told InsideSources.

The latest battle is more than a millionaires’ moneybrawl. It could portent legal battles in many American workplaces. When is the worker a freelancer and when is he an employee?

For the PGA to win in any potential litigation, Lauro adds, it would have to prove “some sort of compelling business interest that would support a restriction of this type.” That would mean the worker had received some kind of special training or had intimate knowledge that could be given to competitors. Lauro says “naked restrictions” would likely violate federal anti-trust statutes.

Still, PGA spokeswoman Laura Neal told InsideSources the controversy “was not unexpected. We went through this in 1994 and we are confident in a similar outcome.” In the 1990s, the PGA Tour resolved similar problems with the Federal Trade Commission.

Now the DOJ is asking questions of the suspended golfers’ agents. Justice Department spokesmen won’t confirm it but PGA officials say the government is involved. Lauro contends “the Justice Department is firing a warning shot across the bow of the PGA.”

And, says antitrust attorney Luke Hasskamp, the Feds could make a much bigger issue out of this base if they choose.

“Any time a dominant market player takes aggressive steps in the face of competition, that can catch people’s attention, especially those attuned to antitrust issues,” Hasskamp said. “The reality is true for the PGA Tour and its response to reports of efforts to launch a competing league.”

Hasskamp, who writes for the blog “Antitrust Attorney,” told InsideSources he believes the most likely antitrust challenge would be based on Section II of the Sherman AntiTtrust Act of 1880. It prohibits “monopolization or attempts to monopolize trade in the United States.”

Is there a PGA defense?

A former DOJ antitrust attorney speaking on background told InsideSources the PGA might argue “professional golf has never been a team sport based in a specific city with home stadiums. Instead the PGA is about promoting an affiliation” of individual golfers.”

“Frankly, given all the pressing concerns facing most Americans today, the allocation of DOJ resources to the potential PGA antitrust activity seems a colossal waste; however, I appreciate that from DOJ’s perspective they may feel political pressure to open up an inquiry,” the attorney said.

Texas Sen. John Cornyn is not happy about the PGA’s treatment.

“I am concerned about whether members of the Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division, or any other member of your administration, were involved in the investigation recently being made public,” the Republican wrote to President Joe Biden. “I also have questions about whether your administration had any contact with the Saudi-Arabian government about the investigation, either before it opened or afterward.”

A White House spokesman did not respond.

Former President Donald Trump, however, encouraged the players to “take the money now.”

“All of those golfers that remain ‘loyal’ to the very disloyal PGA, in all of its different forms, will pay a big price when the inevitable MERGER with LIV comes, and you get nothing but a big ‘thank you’ from PGA officials who are making millions of dollars a year,” Trump wrote on Truth Social.

Trump told golfers they should join the controversial Saudi-backed our. The next LIV Golf Invitational Series event is scheduled for Trump National Golf Bedminster later this month.

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Claim: Upper Darby Financial Fight Is Under Investigation by DA

A former finance director for Upper Darby says the Delaware County district attorney’s office is investigating the ongoing financial fight in the township, in which a bipartisan group of township councilors have accused Democrat Mayor Barbarann Keffer’s administration of inappropriately transferring funds.

When contacted by Broad + Liberty about Wednesday’s township council meeting, Gary Merron (D) said, “I am witness in an ongoing investigation concerning this matter, and have been advised by law enforcement that I should not comment at this time.”

He later clarified that the law enforcement agency was the Delaware County DA’s office.

The district attorney’s office did not return a request seeking to verify Merron’s claim. Similarly, a request for comment to Mayor Keffer was not returned.

Merron resigned in September 2021 without controversy.

Merron’s claim comes in a week in which tensions continued to rise in the now three-months-long affair which has pitted Mayor Keffer and Chief Administrative Officer Vince Rongione, both Democrats, against six members of council — three Democrats and three Republicans.

The controversy first spilled into the public eye in February, after Upper Darby Treasurer David Haman (D) gave a presentation in which he said he was having difficulty tracking the township’s funds received from the federal American Rescue Plan Act, or ARPA.

While the number and kind of allegations has multiplied since that meeting, the core allegation at the time was that certain bank accounts that would have contained the township’s ARPA funds showed balances lower than they should have, raising questions about when and how monies were moved.

The group of six said they were having difficulty getting a full accounting from Keffer and Rongione, and two weeks later authorized an independent investigation by an outside firm.

Since then, the accusations and maneuverings have only multiplied.

Last Thursday, Mayor Keffer released the results of an audit from Marcum, LLP, that Keffer ordered in the wake of the accusations of the February meeting. The Marcum investigation ran independently of the one authorized by council.

“Despite numerous interviews, NO person reported or provided information alleging misuse of the ARPA proceeds,” reads a summary of the Marcum audit from the mayor, among other key findings.

Keffer also held a town hall with two of the Marcum auditors to answer questions, and live-streamed it on the township’s YouTube page.

Merron’s claim that he was speaking with a law enforcement agency was also noted in the Marcum report.

Council members and critics of the report say that the Marcum investigation only had access to a select number of township accounts — but not all — making the findings incomplete.

On Tuesday, Rongione issued a press release accusing the council of violating elements of the township’s home rule charter. According to the release, Keffer said the alleged violations had become, “flagrant, obvious, and damaging to our community[.]” She cited a legal analysis that said the violations could be remedied by removal from office.

Finally, at Wednesday’s council meeting, members of the group of six allied against the administration were clearly eager to begin pressing the administration for more answers in response to the Marcum report, but were stymied by legal technicalities.

From left: Mayor Keffer, Councilman Silva, Councilman Andruszko, Councilwoman Wentz. Front: Treasurer Haman

For example, when councilman Brian Andruszko (R) began to question Rongione about whether the township had gone over budget in 2021, the assistant township solicitor recommended that the discussion was out of bounds because it did not hold strictly to the title of the agenda item, “Discussion regarding ARPA funds.” Council President Brian Burke (D) accepted the recommendation and stopped discussion.

Also at Wednesday’s meeting, the group of six passed a motion to appoint an accounting firm to wrap up the separate investigation they approved at about the same time Keffer authorized the Marcum audit.

Merron’s name appears more than 100 times in the Marcum report. Haman says most of the questionable activity came after Merron left office.

The duties of a treasurer can vary widely across the many governments in Pennsylvania. In Upper Darby, the treasurer has very little authority over the many accounts in the township’s name. Haman says his role is mainly one of oversight.

Haman also says he is working independently to formulate his own official response to the Marcum report. That report would be separate from the investigation still ongoing from council.

All the while, the township has not allocated any of the ARPA funds to any projects. Keffer and Rongione have argued the Marcum report has provided enough clarity to allow some funding to begin. The clutch of six councilors, however, have said a completely transparent understanding of the money must be in hand before project funding can begin.

This article previously ran in Broad and Liberty.

Upper Darby Council Approves Investigation into Mayor, CAO, Use of Federal Funds

2-17 Update: At Wednesday’s meeting, the council approved an investigation into the township’s finances by a 6-5 vote. Voting in favor were Councilors Wagner, Faraglia, Andruszko, Burke, Silva, and Wentz. Voting against were Councilors Blackwell, Hayman, Siddique, Tunis, and Billups.Video of the discussion is here.

Although the specter of any fiscal emergency in Upper Darby Township has been temporarily dispelled with an emergency allocation on federal funds approved last week, the political battle continues to burn behind the scenes as one councilwoman claims she has proof the mayor’s administration moved or spent funds without council approval.

Laura Wentz (D) is one of a bipartisan group of six council members pressing Mayor Barbarann Keffer (D) and her Chief Administrative Officer Vince Rongione on financial transparency issues after the township treasurer said some federal money provided through the federal American Rescue Plan (ARP) appeared to already have been spent or moved to another account.

While the mayor has the prerogative to establish priorities for the money, those priorities and actions must still be approved by council.

So, when the township treasurer said earlier this month that $6 million of the overall $20 million in ARP funding didn’t show up in the correct bank accounts, the group of six began aggressively trying to assert their authority.

“Not only do we believe that we have proof showing that the funds were spent, but then [the administration] spent two days, two or three days running around gathering money to put back to recreate that 6 million. I don’t know where they took it from, and that’s another concern,” Wentz told Broad + Liberty. “So, it’s an investigation of where’d the money go, how it was spent and where did the money come from that replaced it.”

Chief Administrative Officer Vince Rongione has been the focal point of the council’s ire, and says the entire affair is constructed of misunderstandings and incomplete information.

“I think we move money around all the time in the normal course of business,” Rongione said when told that Wentz claimed to have proof of irregularities.

“Anyone looking at the transactions, who’s not familiar with how the government functions might have some questions or concern about that, but it’s a regular occurrence that we move money from one account to another to make payroll or pay other expenses,” Rongione continued. “So, there’s nothing remarkable, there’s nothing out of the ordinary about money moving between and among our accounts.”

Rongione asserted that the $20 million is all presently accounted for “in a single, segregated account.”

Township Treasurer David Haman, who sparked the debate with his presentation at a council meeting on Feb. 2, said the federal ARP money should have been treated differently.

“Yes, [Rongione] is correct in that they move money all over the place, but they don’t move restricted funds around like that,” Haman said. “They move funds that are unrestricted as to use, and that are authorized for use by the council. It has to be authorized by use for the council, or he is not allowed to spend the money. So, the question here, the argument, is whether or not he used funds that were authorized for use by the council.”

If council approves the investigation, it could very well set up parallel inquiries, as Mayor Keffer has proposed an audit.

“We certainly believe that an internal, politically motivated investigation by council will not be helpful at giving the public confidence or ascertaining the truth,” Rongione said. “Which is why we believe that the best way forward is an independent, impartial, third-party audit of the facts.”

Meanwhile, although Wentz says she has a smoking gun, she believes the way in which that information reaches the public could be crucial to the overall debate.

“I think that [having] it all come out through an investigation makes it more legit than the finance committee just revealing” what the documents show, she said.

An audit and an investigation are not necessarily the same thing.

“The council investigation would be to determine whether the CAO [Rongione] violated the home rule charter,” Haman noted. “Because if the CAO violates the home rule charter, he forfeits his office and that’s the terminology that’s used. And so, they’re looking to determine whether they can force him out based upon the evidence presented in an investigation.”

This article first appeared in Broad+Liberty.