Government

Democrats make pay-for-play insinuation over Reynolds donations

Gov. Kim Reynolds speaks at a conference at the Coralville Marriott Hotel & Conference Center in Coralville on Wednesday, June 6, 2018. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)
Gov. Kim Reynolds speaks at a conference at the Coralville Marriott Hotel & Conference Center in Coralville on Wednesday, June 6, 2018. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)

DES MOINES — Iowa Democrats are suggesting campaign donations to Gov. Kim Reynolds from one of the state’s Medicaid management companies are further proof Reynolds has made a habit of rewarding donors.

Republicans responded by noting Medicaid funding comes from a complex equation that includes more than just the governor, and by accusing Democrats of playing politics with Iowans’ health care.

Iowa Democrats on Monday highlighted a pair of donations to Reynolds’ campaign made by the political advocacy leg of Amerigroup, one of the private companies that manages Iowa’s $5 billion public health insurance program for more than 680,000 low-income and disabled Iowans.

The first donation to Reynolds from Amerigroup was for $1,000 on Dec. 13, 2017. Democrats noted five months later the state entered into contract negotiations with the Medicaid management companies.

The second donation was for $1,500 on Aug. 22. Two days later, Democrats noted, the state approved a 7.5 percent increase in funding to the Medicaid management companies.

Both donations appear among state campaign finance records posted online.

“What I think we’re seeing here is that Gov. Reynolds rewards her political campaign contributors,” Troy Price, chairman of the Iowa Democratic Party, said Monday at a downtown Des Moines news conference.

Republicans pushed back at the pay-for-play insinuation.

The governor’s office noted Medicaid funding decisions are made with analysis and input from the state human services department and its independent actuary, are calculated based on expected medical costs for Medicaid recipients, and must be approved by the federal government, which is a partner in funding the program.

Reynolds’ campaign spokesman said Democrats are playing politics with health care.

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“These accusations are as false as they are desperate,” Reynolds campaign spokesman Pat Garrett said in a statement. “Gov. Reynolds will continue to make improvements to the Medicaid system and focus on providing long-term, sustainable care to Iowans who need it.”

Price said the donations are part of a larger body of evidence of an “ethically challenged” Reynolds, noting her acceptance of riding private planes owned by a wealthy casino owner and a company that administers Iowa workers’ compensation claims. Neither incidents violated any state laws.

“We are seeing a disturbing pattern in this administration ... a coziness between her and corporations out there who have business before the state and not being focused on what actually is in the best interest of the people of Iowa,” Price said.

Hubbell said the ability to self-fund his campaign will help him avoid any appearance of pay-for-play. He and his wife have poured more than $3 million into his own campaign.

“I made it very clear from the very beginning, just like (former Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack) told me, you need to be your own biggest contributor. As long as you are the biggest contributor, no one can tell you what to do,” Hubbell said Monday after a town hall meeting on mental health care issues. “We’re by far our biggest contributor and we will continue to be. We don’t have any special interest other than the people of our state.”

James Lynch of The Gazette contributed from Cedar Rapids.

l Comments: (515) 422-9061; erin.murphy@lee.net

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