New York Governor Kathy Hochul (D), is charged with being under arrest “dark cloud of pay-to-play” after reports revealed the company her administration awarded a $637 million contract to purchase coronavirus tests was founded by one of Hochul’s prominent campaign donors.
Dec. Hochul’s administration awarded Digital Gadgets a $637 million contract for the purchase of 52 million at-home, rapid coronavirus tests.
However, Digital Gadgets founder Charlie Tebele and his family are major financial backers of Hochul’s campaign, so much so that Tebele held multiple fundraisers for Hochul.
Hochul approved the Digital Gadgets deal less than a month after Hochul organized a fundraiser on November 22. Additionally, Hochul’s deal was made under emergency pretexts that may have made it easier for the agreement to be approved.
As the Times Union reported:
The deal was enabled by Hochul’s revived suspension of competitive bidding rules for the administration’s purchase of COVID-19 supplies — a policy change that had also been been put in place for a time by former Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo. Hochul, four days after Tebele raised funds, rescinded these rules through an emergency executive order.
Interestingly, Tebele’s son James started an internship on Hochul’s campaign in November 2021, around the time of the Digital Gadgets contract, before ultimately landing a paid job as a campaign “finance associate”In May 2022.
Tebele and his family have donated roughly $300,000 to Hochul’s campaign, with $70,000 being donated before the Digital Gadgets contract was made. Tebele also hosted a fundraiser in April for Hochul, two weeks after New York paid the last payment of the $637 Million contract.
New York also reportedly paid 45 percent more than California for the same rapid coronavirus tests by going through the third-party distributor Digital Gadgets.
As the Times Union explained:
In selling the antigen tests to New York, Tebele’s company charged a far higher price per test than other vendors the state used last winter. California purchased the exact same antigen test Tebele sold for 45 percent less.
California bought AccessBio, but not California. “Carestart”The Hochul administration purchased them directly from the manufacturer through Digital Gadgets. This third-party distributor took an undisclosed cut.
New York’s taxpayers would have been able to save close to $286 millions if California paid the same price for rapid testing.
John Kaehny, executive director of Reinvent Albany, told the New York Post there is a “dark cloud of pay-to-play” surrounding Hochul’s deal with Digital Gadgets.
“The more we know the worse it looks. This is a big deal,”Kaehny stated. “There is a lot of money and it looks really, really bad and there is a dark cloud of pay-to-play hanging over this – and it’s not going to go away.”
Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY), Hochul’s Republican challenger who is closing the polling gap, called on New York law enforcement to investigate Hochul’s contract with Digital Gadgets.
“Kathy Hochul gave a no-bid $600M+ contract to a top campaign supporter after she unilaterally suspended NY’s competitive bidding law,” Zeldin tweeted. “The same day the donor offered to be the middle man for the COVID tests, Hochul agreed to pay twice the price. Where’s the AG, DA, & Comptroller?”
Kathy Hochul gave a no-bid $600M+ contract to a top campaign supporter after she unilaterally suspended NY’s competitive bidding law. Hochul paid twice as much to the donor who offered to act as a middleman for COVID testing. Where’s the AG, DA, & Comptroller? https://t.co/OTTpeRMqWP
— Lee Zeldin (@leezeldin) September 20, 2022
Nick Langworthy of the New York Republican Party called the payments an “abuse” “brazenly illegal kickback scheme that defrauded taxpayers to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars,”Hochul should also be investigated
Hochul as well as Tebele denied any wrongdoing.
“Mr. Tebele has never had a conversation about (Department of Health) business with the governor — ever,” Tebele’s attorney said in July.
“Governor Hochul did not oversee the procurement process and was not involved in the day-to-day procurement decisions,” Hochul spokeswoman Hazel Crampton-Hays said. “She simply instructed her team to purchase as many available tests as possible to meet the tremendous need across the state, and they did exactly that to keep New Yorkers safe.”
The full article is available here here