When you tweet a photo of yourself holding a watermelon mojito on the deck of the luxurious summer home you share with a shady nursing home mogul whose industry you oversee, you are asking for trouble. To their credit, Kansas City Star reporters Lindsay Wise and Steve Vockrodt give Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill a liberal dose of it in a lengthy and unkind expose´.
The question that needs to be asked is why the Star would turn on McCaskill during an election cycle. The reporters may not know, but McCaskill surely does. More on this later.
The home at the Lake of the Ozarks is co-owned by mogul Rick DeStefane and McCaskill’s husband, Joseph Shepard. The reporters concisely describe DiStefane as “a close family friend, a regular campaign donor and a nursing home executive with a track record of serious safety problems in an industry the senator has vowed to clean up.”
Over the years DeStefane has given more than $60,000 to McCaskill and her supportive PACs. Most recently, he gave McCaskill $5,400, the maximum allowed for this election cycle. Although the senator has returned some recent donations, including ones from Barron-basher Rosie O’Donnell and opiod manufacturer Pfizer, she has not seen fit to return DeStefane’s donations. She should have.
Two days after DeStefane’s donation in June, 2016, he signed an agreement with the federal government to settle a Medicare fraud case against him and his nursing home company, Reliant Care Group, for $8.3 million. They were accused of “knowingly” submitting false claims for unnecessary therapies provided to the nursing home residents.
More troubling than the fraud is the chronic defenestration problem. Patients at the DeStefane’s nursing homes have the unfortunate habit of falling out windows. In November 2016, a a 45-year-old resident fell to his death from a third-floor window at the Hannibal facility. In March of this year, a 55-year-old resident was injured falling out a third floor window of the same building. There had been at least one other serious incident in the past. “You don’t routinely see people falling out of windows,” an aging advocate told the Star.
The Star reporters give McCaskill no quarter on the hypocrisy front. As they note, she emerged as the top Democrat on the Special Committee on Aging and now serves on the Senate Finance Committee, which oversees Medicare and Medicaid spending. The reporters then hang McCaskill with a quote from a Senate hearing she co-chaired last year: “Elder abuse and exploitation of any kind is a tragedy, but it is particularly painful when abuse is being perpetrated by those who have been entrusted to protect the victims.” Boom!
Back to the question of–why the attack? To imagine that the Star editors suddenly decided to start practicing real journalism is beyond naive. It’s not in their DNA. They want to win that seat for the Democrats. They believe that McCaskill is too wounded, too damaged, too old. This was their kill shot.
As the Sentinel reported three weeks ago, national Democrats have a candidate they have been grooming for the last few years. The Sentinel article is titled, “Is the Ubiquitous Jason Kander Betting Claire Won’t Run?” The Star just puts its money down on Kander.