South Carolina Democrats are taking aim at one of the 2018 GOP candidates for governor of the Palmetto State, demanding an investigation into his alleged self-dealing while he was a member of the S.C. General Assembly.
S.C. Democratic party chairman Trav Robertson issued a statement this week calling on “Republican” attorney general Alan Wilson to launch an investigation into lieutenant governor Kevin Bryant – one of four announced GOP candidates for governor.
According to Robertson, Bryant “voted repeatedly on budget measures and provisos that dealt with Medicaid expansion, Medicaid payments, Medicaid reimbursements, and (state health care benefits) while his pharmacy, Bryant Pharmacy and Supply, directly received payment from these same programs.”
Bryant countered that he indeed did cast many Medicaid-related votes – but that he in fact voted against his own financial interests.
Last month, it was revealed that Bryant’s pharmacy collected $15.7 million in Medicaid payments and roughly $3.8 million from the South Carolina state health plan since 2008.
“If he doesn’t believe in Medicaid, then why would he accept millions of dollars in Medicaid reimbursement funds at his pharmacy and why would the hospital use him as a ‘preferred pharmacy’?” Robertson asked in press release. “It is illegal for an elected official to personally profit from or vote on legislation that would impact his or her business interests. When Bryant voted on any state budget measure or proviso that deals with Medicaid reimbursements, he violated that section of state law.”
Roberston added that “Bryant’s misconduct is brazen both in its scope and its simplicity,” and argued that S.C. attorney general Alan Wilson had a “duty” to investigate.
“The Attorney General clearly has what he needs to begin an investigation, and he should appoint a special prosecutor if he feels that he is too personally connected to Bryant’s misconduct,” Robertson said.
Wilson spokesman Robert Kittle told us the attorney general’s office has “not received a formal request to investigate anyone” in connection with this matter.
“The usual process that we follow is that if we receive a formal request, with specific information, this office, as in every case, would review that information,” Kittle told us. “This is not an investigative agency. But if we received a formal request we would seek investigative support from the appropriate agencies, if necessary.”
Bryant wasted no time in firing back against the Democratic broadside.
“Every vote cast was in the best interest of the taxpayer and individual liberty,” he told us, adding that he voted “‘no’ on medicaid expansion, ‘yes’ to cut reimbursement to providers, and ‘no’ on (raising the cigarette) tax to expand Medicaid.”
“How is that a conflict of interest?” Bryant asked.
Bryant added that he voted no on “every Medicaid budget” that came before the S.C. Senate during his tenure there.
Bryant represented S.C. Senate District 3 (map) from 2005 until his controversial “ascension” to the office of lieutenant governor in January of this year. He announced his candidacy for governor of South Carolina earlier this summer.
We’ve written previously on Bryant’s Medicaid payments, arguing that while they certainly create a major perception problem for the GOP candidate – it doesn’t appear as though he did anything illegal or even unethical.
“Bryant isn’t getting cozy, no-bid contracts via some shady, secretive process … he’s simply providing a health care service that the federal government has deemed worthy of subsidizing,” we noted in our original coverage of the issue.
Of course we also added that the taxpayer-funded largesse he received “will still cause headaches for him in the event his 2018 candidacy begins to gain traction.”
Looks like we were right …
For those of you unfamiliar with the prescription drug benefit Bryant’s business is profiting from, it was approved by former president George W. Bush and the “Republican” Congress back in 2003 – and is currently responsible for thirty percent of all prescription drug costs in the United States. Worse still, it is terribly expensive – in no small part because the federal government is not allowed to negotiate lower prices on the drugs it purchases (thank you, pharmaceutical industry lobbyists).
How expensive? According to the latest Medicaid Part D data (.pdf), the benefit costs taxpayers an estimated $103 billion a year.
In addition to Bryant, incumbent governor Henry McMaster of Columbia, attorney Catherine Templeton of Mount Pleasant and former lieutenant governor Yancey McGill of Kingstree have announced their intention to seek the GOP gubernatorial nomination next June. Fiscally conservative state Senator Tom Davis of Beaufort is expected to jump into the race any day now.
As for Democrats, former minority leader James Smith, State Senator John Scott and state representative Justin Bamberg have signaled their interest in running, but none have filed paperwork to run or formally announced their intentions.
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