The following includes some content which may be editorial in nature and which expresses the opinion of the writer.
ALBANY, NY- And here all along we thought the only swamp was in Washington, DC. The New York Post reports that New York’s incompetent boob of a governor, Kathy Hochul (D), made a deal with a company tied to campaign donations to her election which forced New York residents to pay twice as much for COVID tests.
The company donated nearly $300,000 to her campaign, reports say.
The tests from her campaign donor cost twice as much as other state vendors, a new report detailed. This is yet another case of an apparent “pay to play” scheme in Hochul’s administration.
“Whether it was pay-to-play or total incompetence—New York taxpayers and then the federal taxpayers got massively ripped off,” John Kaehny, of a watchdog group called “Reinvent Albany” said of the deal funded between New York taxpayers and the company tied to Hochul’s campaign, Digital Gadgets.
Federal government relief aid was also used to purchase the tests.
For example, New York residents paid most companies only $5 for rapid tests, while Digital Gadgets got as much as $13 per unit among a total of $637 million worth of no-bid deals for millions of tests last year. This came in the midst of Hochul’s push to keep Empire State schools open during the Omicron wave of COVID-19 last year, the Times Union reported.
Hochul was able to award the no-bid contracts because standard procurement rules were suspended due to the protracted “state of emergency” that Hochul renews monthly in order to maintain unmitigated control over state government.
The revelations now have some Republicans demanding Hochul become forthright about the questionable purchases from Digital Gadgets.
“At the very least, the public deserves a hearing to address how this deal was arranged, why it lacked a formal contract, and the seemingly questionable timing of relevant communications,” Republican Assembly Minority Leader William Barclay said in a Friday statement.
This is just the latest questionable deal involving Hochul, although government watchdogs say the revelations about the rapid tests appear more egregious than the other deals, one involving Medicaid transportation services and the other involving the overhaul of New York City’s Penn Station in Manhattan.
In the Penn Station deal, Hochul raised questions for backing the overhaul, which would direct over $1 billion in tax breaks to another Hochul donor, Steve Roth, head of Vornado Realty Trust, who gave the maximum donation of $68,700 to Hochul’s campaign in December.
In the Medicaid deal, Medical Answering Services landed millions in state Medicaid business thanks to Hochul after the president of the company and his wife donated $52,600 to Hochul last September while she still served as lieutenant governor under disgraced former Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
Moreover, Hochul was also sharply criticized for supporting $600 million in public financing for a new stadium for the Buffalo Bills, who just happen to do business with a company that employs her husband, who allegedly recused himself from the deal.
“This deal looks to be the dirtiest,” Kaehny said of the business deal involving Hochul and Digital Gadgets in late 2021 and early 2022.
Hochul has raked in over $34 million in campaign donations over a short period of time over the past year and has claimed the campaign money influx has nothing to do with her decisions on government contracts.
“At a time when at-home tests were nearly impossible to find in stores and the Omicron variant caused a spike in COVID-19 cases, state agencies worked diligently to secure a large number of tests to allow kids across new York to safely return to in-person learning and protect residents and visitors in nursing homes,’ Hochul’s spokesman, Avi Small said in a statement.
A Hochul campaign spokesperson told the Post last week that so-called “high ethical standards” mean donors have “no influence” over government decision-making and dismissed concerns about the timing of the Digital Gadgets deal.
The deal was made last December after Hochul’s declaration of a state of emergency, which suspended rules requiring New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli to sign off on state contracts prior to them getting finalized.
It is unknown if the Hochul administration even attempted to negotiate the price down on the 52 million tests delivered via two purchase orders that charged $13 and $11.50 per unit, documents obtained by the Times Union showed.
Hochul’s administration claims that despite the lower cost of tests from the two other companies, the ones purchased through Hochul’s preferred vendor are “of a higher quality” than those offered by other companies, because they allegedly could only provide a limited amount of test kits in time for the reopening of school.
“Because of the reliability of the tests themselves and the assurances around delivery, comparing US-made AccessBio tests to inferior quality tests that were manufactured in China is not valid,” said John Gallagher, a spokesman for Digital Gadgets in a statement.
Digital Gadgets received payments from the NY Department of Health on Dec. 29, 2021, and March 25, 2022, for the tests which were distributed throughout the winter and spring, a spokesman for the DOH said.
State campaign finance records show that the head of Digital Gadgets, Charlie Tebele and his family had given roughly $300,000 to Hochul’s campaign. Tebele and his wife each gave the maximum $69,700 to Hochul’s campaign in May.
Ironically, the state bought many more tests than necessary, with over 7 million tests still being held by New York which are supposed to be distributed through the end of 2022, the Times Union wrote. This despite the caseloads of COVID-19 on a steady march downward.
“They way over-bought at a very high price—using these emergency powers—from a major donor. I mean, it’s just—the whole thing looks very bad,” Bill Hammond, a senior health care fellow at the Empire Center for Public Policy said.
The pay-to-play allegations are dogging the Hochul campaign, turning what might be considered an advantage into a liability in her gubernatorial race against Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY). According to mid-July campaign filings, Zeldin had $1.5 million on hand compared to nearly 10 times that amount for Hochul.
Zeldin has been sounding the alarm that Hochul has sold out the governor’s office to campaign donors.
“Kathy Hochul loves declaring health emergencies, because that’s how she hoards extra self-claimed powers that allow her to award MASSIVE no-bid, ridiculously priced government contracts to her top campaign donors, going around the state’s competitive bidding laws,” Zeldin tweeted late last week about the Digital Gadgets revelation.
Kathy Hochul loves declaring health emergencies, because that’s how she hoards extra self-claimed powers that allow her to award MASSIVE no-bid, ridiculously priced government contracts to her top campaign donors, going around the state’s competitive bidding laws.
— Lee Zeldin (@leezeldin) September 9, 2022
Meanwhile Gallagher claims that Tebele “never spoke” to Hochul about the COVID-19 tests, but absurdly claimed the exorbitant prices were fair to taxpayers due to the “timing” of the deals.
“Digital Gadgets provided 52 million high-quality AccessBio tests at a price that was very competitive at the time, and because the tests were manufactured in New Jersey, were able to provide a level of certainty around delivery and shipping that the State needed,” Gallagher said in a statement.
For more on Hochul’s pay to play issues, we invite you to:
The following contains editorial content which is the opinion of the writer.
ALBANY, NY- And here we thought Washington, D.C. was the only “swamp.”
The Daily Wire reports that Invisalign candidate and New York Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) was allegedly given hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign funds while the Empire State responded in kind by paying the family’s company over half a billion dollars.
Quid pro quo anyone?
The outlet reports that the family of New York City businessman Charlie Tebele donated nearly $300,000 to Hochul’s gubernatorial campaign, as outlined in an investigative report filed by the Times Union this past week.
Since December, Digital Gadgets LLC, a New Jersey-based company owned by Tebele has been paid some $637 million dollars in taxpayer funds to provide the Hochul-controlled Department of Health with at-home COVID-19 test kits.
Competitive bidding? Not in this case…Digital Gadgets gained the contract without a competitive bidding process, the Times Union report found.
Digital Gadgets was initially a wholesaler of products such as hoverboards and other electronic devices, typically selling its products to companies like QVC, the home shopping network. However when the pandemic struck, the company apparently saw an opportunity and changed over to supplying medical equipment.
As is typical in blue states such as New York, the politically-connected company started to get lucrative government contracts in the state.
The Times Union notes that even though the company “has not always delivered as promised,” that mattered little since it continued to be the recipient of major government handouts, er payments.
All the while of course, the family has been donating significant sums to certain politicians, Hochul among them.
According to New York State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli’s OpenBookNY website, payments to Digital Gadgets began on Dec. 30 and the Department of Health made 239 separate payments to the company through March 25. Those payments started four months after Hochul was sworn in as New York governor after the resignation of Andrew Cuomo.
One minor issue…the comptroller’s website shows no record of a formal contract being signed between Tebele’s company and the Department of Health.
In fact, a spokesperson in DiNapoli’s office, Jennifer Freeman said that no such formal contract exists. Instead, she said the department entered into “purchase orders” with the company.
“These purchase orders did not come to (DiNapoli’s office) for review and approval,” Freeman said.
In a case of impeccable timing, Hochul signed an executive order on Nov. 26 declaring yet another COVID-19 state of emergency which suspended some areas of state finance laws.
Pretty convenient, especially when you can pad your campaign coffers in the process. One area that was suspended was competitive bidding for certain contracts, as well as standard contract review and approval processes normally conducted out of the comptroller’s office.
Mad with power as most Democratic governors are, Hochul continues to extend the emergency executive orders on a monthly basis, with the latest one set to expire on August 13. Don’t bet on it.
Despite the fact the COVID pandemic has pretty much subsided and the American people have tired of dealing with the constant mandates, blue states like New York continue to milk it for everything its worth. And that includes spending tons of taxpayer dollars on things such as at-home tests.
According to Bryan Lessing, a Hochul senior advisor, the $637 million spent on at-home testing kits has been done in order to protect “vulnerable” New Yorkers from the highly transmissible (though very mild) omicron strain of the virus. He said during last winter’s spike at-home tests were difficult to come by amidst demand.
“Digital Gadgets successfully delivered all the tests the state needed within the required timeline,” Lesswing said.
He noted there were two purchase orders totaling 52 million tests, with one purchase order being for $13 per test and the other $11.50 per test.
“Given the circumstances and urgency of the situation, the state determined the price was fair and it was in the state’s best interest to move forward with the procurement,” Lesswing said.
Especially if you’re getting 300 large for your campaign in return.
He claims the state contacted multiple vendors and Digital Gadgets was the only one which could satisfy the needs of the state, which was to provide a large number of tests prior to schools reopening in January 2022. He claims the state also obtained tests from seven additional vendors.
Tebele’s attorney Harlan Lazarus issued a statement in which he said Tebele “supplied tens of millions of tests” to the state “in record time” when the federal government was having trouble obtaining the tests. Lazarus also claimed that Tebele had never spoken with Hochul about the testing procurement.
The Daily Caller said Tebele and his wife Nancy have an extended history as political donors in the state, with each donating $69,700 individually to Hochul’s campaign, the maximum allowed by law.
Digital Gadgets has scored a number of lucrative contracts with the state over the years. For example, the Times Union reported they scored two contracts for medical equipment under the Cuomo administration; one, a $100,00 contract has seen no money paid out, while another $600,000 contract saw the money returned.
They also received $119 million in an emergency no-bid contract for COVID equipment in spring 2020 from former New York City mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration ironically right after donating about $44,000 to de Blasio’s campaigns and related PACs.
In another stroke of sheer irony, Hochul’s campaign, as well as de Blasio’s presidential campaign hired a Tebele family member, a college student for the tidy sum of $3,700 per month to act as a campaign fundraising “finance associate.”
In addition, a number of Tebele family members are listed in campaign finance filings as having the same residential address; “state law prohibits political donors from being reimbursed for someone else for campaign donations,” the Daily Caller said.
In response, Tebele’s attorney said the children “are successful businesspeople in their own right” and decide political donations “independent of their father.”
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