Hochul Under ‘Dark Cloud of Pay-to-Play’ After Donor Got $637M Contract

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) is accused of being under a “dark cloud of pay-to-play” after reports revealed the company, whose administration has won a $637 million order to buy coronavirus tests was founded by one of Hochul’s prominent campaign donors.

In December, Gov. Hochul’s government awarded Digital Gadgets a $637 million contract to purchase 52 million rapid home coronavirus tests.

However, Digital Gadgets founder Charlie Tebele and his family are major financial supporters of Hochul’s campaign, so much so that Tebele held several fundraisers for Hochul.

A Nov. 22 fundraiser took place less than a month before Hochul approved the Digital Gadgets deal. Additionally, Hochul’s deal was made under emergency pretexts, which may have facilitated the deal’s approval.

As the Times Union reported:

The deal was made possible by Hochul’s revived suspension of competition rules on administration purchases of COVID-19 supplies — a policy change also introduced for a time by former Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo. Hochul issued an emergency order overriding these rules on November 26, four days after the Tebele fundraiser.

Interestingly, Tebele’s son James began an internship with Hochul’s campaign in November 2021, around the time of the Digital Gadgets contract, before eventually landing a paying job as the campaign’s “financial officer” in May 2022.

Tebele and his family have donated approximately $300,000 to Hochul’s campaign, with $70,000 donated before the Digital Gadgets deal was finalized. Additionally, Tebele hosted another fundraiser for Hochul in April, about two weeks after New York made the final payment on the $637 million contract.

New York also reportedly paid 45 percent more than California for the same rapid coronavirus tests, using third-party company 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 bought the same test that Tebele was selling at 45 percent less per unit.

Unlike California, which bought the AccessBio “Carestart” test directly from the manufacturer, the Hochul administration bought it through Digital Gadgets, a third-party vendor, which made an unspecified cut.

New York taxpayers could have saved almost $286 million if the state had paid the same prices as California for the rapid tests.

John Kaehny, managing director of Reinvent Albany, said that New York Post There’s a “dark cloud of pay-to-play” surrounding Hochul’s deal with digital gadgets.

“The more we know, the worse it looks. It’s a big deal,” Kaehny said. “There’s a lot of money and it’s looking really, really bad and there’s a dark cloud of pay-to-play hanging over it — and it’s not going away.”

Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY), Hochul’s Republican challenger filling the election gap, has urged New York law enforcement to investigate Hochul’s contract with Digital Gadgets.

“Kathy Hochul gave a top campaign backer a $600 million no-bid contract after unilaterally suspending the New York Bids Act,” Zeldin said tweeted. “On the same day that the donor offered to be the middleman for the COVID tests, Hochul agreed to pay double the price. Where’s AG, prosecutors and comptrollers?”

New York Republican Party leader Nick Langworthy called the payments a “brazen illegal kickback scheme that defrauded taxpayers out of hundreds of millions of dollars,” while calling for an investigation into Hochul.

However, both Hochul and Tebele have denied any wrongdoing.

“Mr. Tebele has never spoken to the governor about business (of the Health Department) – ever,” Tebele’s attorney said in July.

“Governor Hochul did not oversee the procurement process and was not involved in day-to-day procurement decisions,” said Hochul spokeswoman Hazel Crampton-Hays. “She simply directed her team to purchase as many available tests as possible to meet the tremendous need across the state, and they did just that to keep New Yorkers safe.”

Jordan Dixon-Hamilton is a reporter for Breitbart News. Write to him or keep following him Twitter. Hochul Under ‘Dark Cloud of Pay-to-Play’ After Donor Got $637M Contract

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