The Blunt administration accuses the Attorney General and his staff of violating state law in providing grants to help low income Missourians get medicines. The Attorney General says he’s following court orders.
The legal settlement that triggers the disagreement is less a political football than it is a political ping-pong match. And to continue with the sports analogy, much of it is inside baseball. Governor Blunt’s Commissioner of Administration, Larry Shepker, is quick to protest against any hint that politics are involved in his investigation and ensuing allegations. The Attorney General’s spokesman says the timing and Shepker’s rhetoric are, well, interesting. Here’s the deal:Missouri got a bunch of money in a merchandising practices suit against pharmaceutical services company. Caremark. The Attorney General’s office says it had the power to put the money into his trust fund, not into the Merchandise Practices Revolving Fund, although the check was written to the Merchandising Practices account.Law violation, says Shepker. No, says the Attorney General’s spokesman, it’s in keeping with the court order. A grant program was set up to distribute the money to organizations providing the court-ordered service. No authority to do that, says Shepker. The best way to do it, says the Attorney General.No appropriations authority, says Shepker. House Bill 12, says the Attorney General. Shepker has stopped grant payments. The Attorney General says Shepker’s office approved 488-thousand dollars of them first. Shepker says his office delegated the authority to the Attorney General to properly deal with the money. The checks were still processed through Shepker’s office, says the A-G. Just responding to concerns expressed in May by the House budget chairman, says Shepker. Where was the chairman in February, says the Attorney General, when he announced his grant program and where the money was being held and when the bill dealing with the program was before the chairman’s committee? Shepker recommends the money be appropriated through Missouri Healthnet. The Attorney General says there’s no guarantee the money would be spent appropriately if the legislature gets its hand on it. Bottom line–stalemate. Some money has been granted. Some is blocked. There’s not time for a lawsuit to accomplish anything before Governor Blunt leaves office, to be succeeded–the Attorney General’s folks hope–by the present Attorney General who could release the funds to be granted from the trust fund that would be supervised by a new Attorney General who might or might not be of the same party of the current Attorney General. And so it goes in your state government.
Download Bob Priddy’s short version (:63 mp3)