Federal prosecutors in Kansas City, Mo., alleged last week that the former Missouri House speaker accepted bribes to kill state healthcare legislation and remove a member of the state's certificate-of-need committee.
Executives of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas City, the region's dominant insurer, and Health Midwest, the region's largest hospital system, are not named as defendants in the 26-count indictment, which was handed up by a special federal grand jury. But a summary of charges provided by the U.S. attorney's office said the organizations sought to influence the outcome of legislation and regulation that would have affected them.
The grand jury indicted four people on bribery and racketeering charges. They are Bob F. Griffin, 61, for 15 years state House speaker; Cathryn M. Simmons, 50, a political and public relations consultant; Michael L. Fisher, 39, president of the Greater Kansas City AFL-CIO; and Steven R. Hurst, 52, a lobbyist.
The indictment alleges that Griffin, a Democrat, used his office to steer political consulting contracts to Simmons, who then collected payments from interested parties and used portions of the money to pay bribes to Griffin.
Among Simmons' clients were the Kansas City Blues, and, through an intermediary, Health Midwest.
In a written statement, Health Midwest said the prosecutor's announcement "shows Health Midwest's involvement to be incidental to the charges." The hospital system said it has cooperated with the government in the investigation.
The Kansas City Blues had no comment on the charges.
The indictment alleges that Griffin accepted $41,000 from Simmons regarding some healthcare legislation. In late 1993, Missouri Gov. Mel Carnahan's administration was preparing a major healthcare overhaul to be introduced in the next session.
The indictment says Blues executives were worried about the legislation. In January 1994, executives allegedly met with Simmons and Fisher, and hired one of Simmons' companies "to kill or substantially amend any healthcare reform bills."
Then in February 1994, Griffin met with Blues executives at Simmons' residence in Jefferson City, the state capital, to talk about the bill, prosecutors said. Later that month, Griffin introduced the governor's bill, but it was defeated in April 1994. According to the indictment, the Blues paid Simmons $102,000 for her services.
In another scheme, Simmons is charged with bribing Griffin with $10,000 to remove Rep. Bill Skaggs from the Missouri Health Facilities Review Committee. The speaker, by law, appointed two representatives to the nine-member committee. The indictment says Health Midwest wanted Skaggs off the panel, and Simmons got Griffin to comply. The prosecutor's summary of the scheme does not indicate where Simmons got the $10,000.