Roberts highlights lawsuit in attacks on primary challenger

Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) is looking to make a lawsuit against the radiology company where his primary challenger, Milton Wolf, is employed an issue for the candidate.

According to The Kansas City Star, Roberts’s campaign has suggested Wolf’s position as one of a roster of radiologists employed by Alliance Radiology means he “may be motivated by profits instead of patients.”

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Roberts’s campaign is citing as evidence an ongoing lawsuit against Alliance by a former employee of the company, Mark Idstrom, who has accused it of engaging in a price-fixing scheme meant to establish a monopoly over radiology services in the Kansas City, Kan., area and drive up costs.

The case does not directly implicate Wolf, as he’s not a named defendant in the lawsuit. But Idstrom’s attorney told The Kansas City Star he believed “absolutely” that Wolf took part in crafting the business strategy that Idstrom alleges is illegal.

Leroy Towns, Roberts’s executive campaign manager, said the lawsuit raises questions about Wolf’s commitment to his patients.

“What has Dr. Wolf done in his own practice to hold down health care costs?” Towns said in a statement to the Star.

It’s an indirect reference to the healthcare reform law, which has become a flashpoint in the primary. Wolf and national conservative groups backing him have criticized Roberts for, they say, not doing enough to combat ObamaCare. The lawsuit could open an opportunity for Roberts’s campaign to raise questions about Wolf’s credibility on the issue.

Wolf, however, asserts that the lawsuit has nothing to do with his bid to unseat Roberts, and lawyers for Alliance maintain the firm has done nothing illegal.

“Attempts to link this frivolous case to public policy propositions I have made while running for U.S. Senate show either a failure, or a refusal, to follow the facts,” Wolf said in a statement.

He also suggested the issue was “planted” in the media by Roberts affiliates in response to Wolf’s attacks on Roberts focused on questions about his residency. A recent New York Times piece revealed the senator doesn’t live in the home he owns in the state, and instead rents a room from donors when he returns, prompting questions from critics about his commitment to the state.

In a later statement, Wolf’s campaign said the attack from Roberts’s campaign focused on the lawsuit was a “desperate line-drawing exercise,” and charged that Roberts is siding “with Democrats and trial lawyers” against him.

“Virginia resident, Senator Pat Roberts, still has not identified a single issue on which he can claim Dr. Milton Wolf is wrong.  So instead he's acting like the 47-year Washington insider he is and launching an all-out character assassination attempt on a Kansas doctor and his medical practice,” the statement reads.