NY governor hopeful Lee Zeldin calls for probe into $637M deal with Hochul donor to buy COVID tests

NY governor hopeful Lee Zeldin calls for probe into $637M deal with Hochul donor to buy COVID tests – that other states bought straight from the manufacturer for much less money

  • During a campaign stop in Manhattan, Republican gubernatorial candidate Lee Zeldin called for an investigation into Gov. Kathy Hochul’s dealings
  • According to a new report, Hochul’s administration inked a deal with a campaign donor’s company to pay more for 52 million Covid-19 tests than other states
  • Zeldin said: ‘This crosses all sorts of lines. And it must be investigated’
  • The official line from Hochul’s office is that the governor was unaware that the company was a donor when the deal was signed 

During a campaign stop in New York City on Friday, the Republican nominee for governor in the Empire State Lee Zeldin called for a probe into sitting Gov. Kathy Hochul’s apparent dodgy dealings.

In 2021, Hochul’s administration inked a deal to buy 52 million Covid-19 Carestart tests for $637 million. At the same time, the state of California made a similar purchase but paid 45 percent less than New York, according to the Albany Times Union. 

The report says that the price increase was because Hochul went through a campaign donor’s company to facilitate the purchase. Whereas California went straight through the manufacturer, AccessBio.

The middleman company involved in the deal is named Digital Gadgets, which is based in northern New Jersey.

The company was founded in 2007 by Brooklyn native Charlie Tebele. In this election cycle, Digital Gadgets has donated $300,000 to the governor’s campaign. 

Republican candidate Lee Zeldin told the media on Friday: 'Kathy Hochul’s approach to this job is one of selling access in a way that even Andrew Cuomo would never even think of. This crosses all sorts of lines. And it must be investigated'

Republican candidate Lee Zeldin told the media on Friday: ‘Kathy Hochul’s approach to this job is one of selling access in a way that even Andrew Cuomo would never even think of. This crosses all sorts of lines. And it must be investigated’

The official line from Gov. Kathy Hochul's office is that the governor was unaware that Digital Gadgets was a campaign donor

The official line from Gov. Kathy Hochul’s office is that the governor was unaware that Digital Gadgets was a campaign donor

Digital Gadget was founded in 2007 by Brooklyn native Charlie Tebele, pictured here

Digital Gadget was founded in 2007 by Brooklyn native Charlie Tebele, pictured here

Zeldin, who is currently in the House of Representatives, is taking on Hochul in the November general election and has the backing of Donald Trump.

His campaign made headlines last month when a man walked on stage during one of Zeldin’s events with supporters and tried to stab him. Zeldin was unhurt and his attacker was arrested.

Tebele, along with family members, donated $70,000 prior to the contract being awarded and then another $227,000 after the deal went through. 

Zeldin told the media during an appearance in Manhattan: ‘Kathy Hochul’s campaign receives $300,000 from a donor, and then going around and circumventing New York’s competitive bidding laws, they end up agreeing to an over $600 million contract, paying over twice the going rate.’

Zeldin warned that it’s not the first time that Hochul has engaged in such behavior. 

He said: ‘Kathy Hochul’s approach to this job is one of selling access in a way that even Andrew Cuomo would never even think of. This crosses all sorts of lines. And it must be investigated.’

Zeldin added: ‘There are so many aspects of this $600 million COVID deal that I absolutely would not have signed off on.’

The official line from Hochul’s office is that the governor was unaware that Digital Gadgets was a campaign donor when the contract was awarded. 

Digital Gadgets said that the higher price was due to the timing of the deal with the supplier, which came three weeks before California’s deal. 

Digital Gadgets offered to sell 26 million tests to New York State at a rate of $13 per test on December 20, the deal was approved on December 21

Digital Gadgets offered to sell 26 million tests to New York State at a rate of $13 per test on December 20, the deal was approved on December 21 

Zeldin appears during New York's Republican gubernatorial debate at the studios of Spectrum News NY1 on June 20, 2022, in New York

Zeldin appears during New York’s Republican gubernatorial debate at the studios of Spectrum News NY1 on June 20, 2022, in New York

The company said in a statement, via spokesman John Gallagher: ‘The company made nowhere near $286 million in profit and any implication to the contrary is misleading and willfully disregards the fact that Digital Gadgets paid more per unit for AccessBio tests than the state of California did because of the size and the date of the order, risked hundreds of millions of dollars in capital costs to fill an order of this size, incurred millions of dollars in costs to charter aircraft and cover overtime for employees over Christmas and New Year’s, and then also had to meet the State’s subsequent requirement for tests to have an extended expiration date – requiring the additional sourcing of materials.’

Digital Gadgets offered to sell 26 million tests to New York State at a rate of $13 per test on December 20, the deal was approved on December 21. 

On January 4, another 26 million tests were ordered through Digital Gadgets. 

Hochul’s behavior was also questioned by state assembly Minority Leader William Barclay.

The Republican from Oswego, New York, said in a statement: ‘This is negligence, incompetence or blatant corruption — maybe all three. Either way, it demands answers.’ 

He went on: ‘Where are the Legislature’s investigative bodies? Where is the attorney general? The governor needs to be held accountable. The longer her political allies stay silent, the more this looks like Democrats covering up for one of their own.’ 

The executive director of government watchdog group, Reinvent Albany, John Kaehny, told the New York Post that his group is expecting a federal investigation into Hochul’s behavior. 

He said: ‘Yes, New York was in a crisis, but so was the rest of the country, and other states and the federal government paid nowhere near what New York did for the same test.’ 

While state senate Minority Leader Robert Ortt told the Post: ‘Even though she promised an open and transparent administration, this apple didn’t fall far from the corrupt Cuomo tree.’ 

Senior fellow for health policy at the Empire Center for Public Policy Bill Hammond told the Times Union: ‘The price is just way off the map, and we still haven’t heard anything close to a convincing explanation for why the price was so high, and why the Hochul administration not only accepted a price that was so high, but made this their primary supplier.’

He continued: ‘If the tests were being sold to another state at the same time — at a better price — New York should have been able to get something closer to that price, even if the state was snapping up the last tests available.’ ‘

Recently, Hochul, has upped her attacks on Republicans and told some to ‘go back to Florida.’

She also attacked DeSantis at an event marking the Holocaust by saying: ‘I just want to say to the 1.77 million Jews who call New York home: Thank you for calling New York home. Don’t go anywhere or to another state. Florida is overrated.’

New York is one of the Democrat states actively protecting abortion rights ahead of the crucial midterms. 

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