Between 2004 and 2009, a private consultant collected $3.4 million from Wisconsin taxpayers for giving questionable advice that has now exposed those same taxpayers to tens of millions of dollars in potential federal claims.

The Reston, Va.-based firm, Maximus Inc., received the payments through a contract that gave the international consulting company a hefty financial incentive to push the limits of how much money the state could claim from the federal government for a psychiatric program for youth.

Maximus has a history going back more than a decade of being cited in audits for its work in Wisconsin — and a history of making political donations to governors of both political parties.

Over the past nine years, the state has acted on Maximus' advice and as a result received $67 million more federal money for the state psychiatric program. But last month a federal audit found that billing was improper and raised questions about whether the state might have to pay some or eventually all of that money back.