TOPEKA, Kansas — Kansas' medical board is investigating U.S. Senate candidate Milton Wolf's posting of X-ray images of fatal gunshot wounds and other medical injuries on a personal Facebook page, but Wolf's campaign said Wednesday that "politically motivated" allegations were behind the inquiry.
The Topeka Capital-Journal reported in a story posted online late Tuesday (http://bit.ly/WC7qN1 ) that it received a letter from a State Board of Healing Arts attorney disclosing the investigation. The newspaper first reported Wolf's postings in February.
Wolf is a Leawood radiologist who's being backed by tea party as he seeks to unseat three-term U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts in the Aug. 5 Republican primary.
Roberts was expected early on to cruise to re-election in a state where the GOP has won every U.S. Senate race since 1932. But Wolf has attacked the veteran senator for listing rented space in the Dodge City home of supporters as his official residence, and Roberts has stumbled in explaining his ties to Kansas.
Wolf acknowledged in February that he posted the X-ray images and dark humor commentary in 2010 on a personal Facebook account, which has since been disabled. He apologized publicly, and his campaign has disputed statements in Roberts' ads that patients' privacy was violated.
"We're confident that if the board did investigate these politically motivated allegations, it would find that Dr. Wolf never violated patients' privacy," Wolf spokesman Ben Hartman said in an interview with The Associated Press.
Hartman also accused board member Anne Hodgdon, of Lenexa, an active Republican and Roberts donor, of working "at least behind the scenes" to ensure an investigation. Hodgdon told AP she didn't know of the investigation until a Capital-Journal reporter contacted her Tuesday night, and the board's top staffer said Hodgdon acted months ago to avoid involvement in any potential inquiry.
"It couldn't be further from the truth," Hodgdon said of Hartman's allegation. "I am just simply Milton Wolf's scapegoat of the moment."
The Capital-Journal reported that Dan Riley, disciplinary counselor for the board, sent a letter dated July 14 to the newspaper, confirming "a formal investigation to collect all the relevant information" about Wolf's postings. The Capital-Journal did not print the full letter or post it online, and the paper declined to make it available Wednesday to the Associated Press.
State law requires the board to keep complaints and related information confidential and it doesn't make them public until it approves an agreement with a physician on sanctions or a staff attorney files a disciplinary petition.
A complaint is reviewed first by a board investigator and, after that, a panel of three doctors. A four-member board subcommittee reviews cases further, but its membership rotates each year, and Hodgdon was last on it in 2012. The full board ultimately decides on sanctions if there's a disciplinary petition.
Board executive director Kathleen Selzler Lippert would not confirm or deny the existence of a complaint or investigation involving Wolf. She cited the confidentiality law in response to an AP open records request for Riley's letter to the Capital-Journal and letters he may have sent to others seeking information.
Roberts has repeatedly mentioned Wolf's past Facebook postings in his radio and television ads. Roberts executive campaign manager Leroy Towns sent reporters an email memo calling Wolf "a dangerous choice" for Republicans.
Hartman said Roberts is panicking because he's "in free fall" as Wolf questions whether the senator is out-of-touch with Kansas.
Wolf's campaign criticized Hodgdon because she's been vocal in supporting Roberts and questioning Wolf's credentials on social media. Campaign finance records show she contributed $2,600 to Roberts in September.
But Lippert said Hodgdon told the board's staff in February that she was "familiar" with Wolf and removed herself from involvement in any matters potentially related to him. Hodgdon said she acted because she knew the campaign "was going to get ugly."
Kansas State Board of Healing Arts: http://www.ksbha.org/main.shtml
Wolf campaign: http://www.miltonwolf.com/
Roberts campaign: http://www.robertsforsenate.com/
Information from: The Topeka (Kan.) Capital-Journal, http://www.cjonline.com