In what could prove to be a preview of a heated 2016 Republican primary battle, former GOP Senate candidate Milton Wolf confronted Kansas U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran during a town hall meeting Monday over whether he was involved in pushing a story that derailed the tea party-backed doctor’s attempt last year to unseat Pat Roberts, the senior senator from Kansas.
The confrontation occurred in Wamego and centered on an investigation that the Kansas Board of Healing Arts (BOHA) opened against Wolf, a Johnson County radiologist, just days before the Republican primary last August.
That contest was closer than many expected with Roberts defeating Wolf by only seven points, 48-41.
Many have speculated that Wolf will target Moran during next year’s GOP primary. The 44-year-old Kansas native has so far declined to say whether he’ll mount such an effort.
A distant cousin to President Obama, Wolf has alleged that Moran, who was the chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee last year, had prior knowledge about X-ray images Wolf posted of anonymous patients on his Facebook account in 2010. The posts caused an uproar after The Topeka Capital-Journal reported them — and jokes Wolf made about the X-rays — last February.
The article hampered Wolf’s campaign against Roberts, who at the same time was under heavy scrutiny amid reports that he was not an official resident of Kansas. But the anti-establishment Wolf recovered slowly from the scandal and began closing ranks on Roberts ahead of the Aug. 5 primary. Just weeks before the contest, though, it was reported that BOHA had opened an investigation into Wolf over the X-rays.
But according to Wolf, BOHA recently cleared him of any wrongdoing. And so he attended Monday’s event and sat in the front row to get a shot at Moran. Called on during a Q&A, Wolf pressed his potential campaign foe on what he called last year’s “perfectly-timed false attack.”
Wolf turned toward the audience, which was comprised of about 60 locals, and informed them that BOHA has recently cleared him in the case and suggested that the inquiry was politically motivated. He said that the Board “couldn’t provide a copy of a complaint against me or name a single patient who complained against me.”
He has also questioned why a BOHA attorney named Dan Riley confirmed to the press last year that Wolf was the target of an investigation. Saying that BOHA is “very strictly bound by law to not discuss any investigation at all, any inquiry at all,” Wolf asserted that “the big question should be, how did the entire planet come to find out about this falsehood?”
“Were you aware, did you have any advance knowledge of any of this false Facebook X-ray line of attack before it was published in The Topeka Capital-Journal on Feb. 22, 2014?” Wolf asked Moran.
“It’s a very easy question to give a straightforward answer to,” Moran replied. “The answer is no. I didn’t know anything about this until I read it in the press.”
Moran sought to set Wolf at ease, telling him, “I am pleased that you’re exonerated.” To set the audience at ease, he said, “we need every doctor in Kansas that we can have.”
During his response, Moran mentioned the name of Anne Hodgdon, a BOHA member and devoted Roberts supporter who Wolf has alleged was involved behind the scenes in the X-ray investigation.
“Didn’t even know Anne Hodgdon was on the Board of Healing Arts until I read that in the paper,” Moran told Wolf, acknowledging that she has donated $250 to his campaign.
On his website, Wolf has called Hodgdon the “Lois Lerner of Kansas,” a reference to the former IRS official who targeted conservative groups. He also pointed to numerous social media comments Hodgdon made disparaging him.