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Tuesday, July 01, 2014

Behavioral Health Billing By AZ Firms Raises Anew Questions About Any Political Connections; Will We Get Answers? Plus: King's New Political Calender And How Dem Guv Remarks Haunt Effort 

Was New Mexico gouged by those Arizona behavioral health firms brought in to replace New Mexico firms in one of the most controversial shake-ups of the administration of Gov. Martinez? And where is the reporting on whether there are any political connections--campaign contributions, for example--from those associated with the Arizona firms? First, the news:

. . . All five Arizona firms billed the state between $200 an hour and $300 an hour for the salaries of their management and executive teams. A marketing and communications director from one firm, for example, billed at a rate of $250 an hour, even for time spent waiting in an airport for flights between Arizona and New Mexico. That works out to an annual salary of $520,000.

The eye-popping figures billed by the Arizona providers occurred during a transition period between June of last year and Dec. 31, 2013, when the state subsidized $24 million in costs associated with their takeover of the behavioral health caseload. During that time, the new providers billed the state for everything from employee salaries to phone bills, hotel stays, rental of ballrooms where they interviewed prospective employees, meals, legal expenses, office space rental, car rentals and airfare.

The state stopped subsidizing the Arizona companies for transition costs at the end of 2013. That meant that, effective Jan. 1, the companies were expected to rely on Medicaid billing for revenue, just like the New Mexico companies they had replaced.

New Mexico behavioral health firms that were tossed out over allegations of fraud contained in an audit have cried foul. One of our readers did some investigative reporting back in August to get the ball rolling on any political connection angle from those associated with these firms to the Guv's campaign or the Republican Governors Association which has spent major money on her re-election bid. All fair questions. But we await more from New Mexico's full-time investigative reporters. Here's that August 7 blog report:

We asked recently what political connections there are--if any--between the Martinez administration and the five Arizona behavioral health firms that have been called in to replace NM firms that have been accused of fraud. . .  Reader Greg Lennes got to work on our question and comes with this:

Joe, There is a link between Susana Martinez and Jim Click, a Tucson businessman who is the founder and president of Linkages, a nonprofit whose mission is to increase "employment opportunities for people with disabilities."

The CEO of La Frontera, Dan Ranieri, serves on the board of directors of Linkages with Click.

On May 7, Jim Click hosted a fund-raiser for Governor Martinez. Here is the invitation:

Jim Click, Jr. and the Southern Arizona Hispanic Republicans (SAHR) invite you to join Governor Susana Martinez for a reception on Tuesday, May 7, 2013 5:30 p.m. at The Viscount Suite Hotel, Tucson, Arizona  $100 per person  *Contributions to Susana Martinez for Governor are limited to $10,400 per election cycle per legal entity. Personal, Corporate and PAC contributions are acceptable.*

I wonder if Click introduced Ranieri of La Frontera to the Governor? 

This newspaper report says:

The $4.75 million contract with La Frontera provides for hourly pay rates for its top officials for the next 90 days that include $300 an hour for an executive director, $275 an hour for a chief operations officer and a chief financial officer, and $250 an hour for a manager. After 90 days...La Frontera should be fully billing Medicaid and those transitional pay rates will expire, according to HSD...

That's good investigative reporting, Greg. In the game of La Politica, always follow the money. Always.

THE NEW CALENDER


Dem Guv nominee Gary King writes in a fund-raising pitch that the '14 campaign could be decided by the end of August. It doesn't seem to be an exaggeration, given the pounding he is taking on the tube. He says:

A lot of races don't truly heat up until September or October, but clearly - this one is an exception. Washington Republicans began attacking our campaign just 48 hours after the election because they know what we all know--Martinez is a failed leader. We're pushing back hard on Martinez's lies, but the outcome of this race could come down to how much TV we can afford these next two months.

King's missive again raises the question of him using much more of his own considerable financial resources to compete against the R onslaught. If he doesn't raise big money soon, that will be the issue confronting him.

King's fund-raising prowess was certainly not enhanced when the head of the Democratic Governors Association--Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin--declared the NM Guv race as unwinnable for the Dems.

Former NM Governor Bill Richardson weighed in here, telling us he has been speaking to Shumlin and believes DGA will reverse the pessimistic statement during the course of the campaign, but so far the group hasn't and that is holding King back. We are even hearing a conspiracy theory that there are some staff at the DGA that really doesn't want King to win. Check it out, Guv. Schumlin. Meanwhile. .

Schumlin also pronounced the chances of Dem Wendy Davis taking the Texas governor's race as highly improbable. That statement was a shocker because even if Dems can't win it this year, the state is seen as trending Dem in the long-term and the Davis candidacy is seen at a minimum as a building block.

Rather than take her whipping from the DGA lying down, the Davis campaign lashed out at Schumlin, calling him a Washington desk jockey:

The uninformed opinions of a Washington, D.C., desk jockey who's never stepped foot in Texas couldn't be less relevant to what's actually happening on the ground.

Wendy and company can afford to be cavalier towards the DGA. She became a national political star when she filibustered an ant-abortion bill in the Texas legislature. Her campaign has raised over $20 million. As for the DGA, the slogan accompanying this blog item sums it up for the critics:

"Republicans didn't get to where they are without a fight, but the Democrats sure as hell did."

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