Gov. Kathy Hochul tried to avoid blame Friday for a growing “pay to play” scandal in which one of her top political donors obtained no-bid contracts that overcharged taxpayers $637 million worth of COVID-19 test kits. .
And he also dismissed the idea that someone in his administration should pay the price for it, telling The Post dismissively: “They did what they did.”
When asked about the recently revealed deal with Digital Gadgets of New Jersey, whose owner Charlie Tebeble and his relatives have contributed about $330,000 to his campaign, Hochul at first repeated his team’s talking points about the scandal. latent.
“My directive to my team was, ‘The only way we’re going to get kids back in school is by stockpiling as many test kits as you can from wherever you need them, just do it,'” the governor said, when She was asked. to answer for The Post at an unrelated event in Lake George.
“That was my only participation.”
New York could have saved as much as $286 million on the tests if Hochul’s administration had gotten a better price from the company, which the Times Union recently reported charged the state twice as much as other vendors selling the same test.
But when pressed further, Hochul would not say who in his administration was responsible for the seemingly attractive deal, or even if he planned to hold anyone responsible.
“They did what they did and I will say that no contribution has ever had an effect on any public policy decision in my administration,” he said.
Hochul declined to answer additional questions on the matter.
Hochul has amassed a giant war chest while running for a full term in office, but the growing scandal and other alleged pay-for-play schemes involving donors have fueled Republican attacks.
“For anyone trying to keep up with Kathy Hochul’s escalating pay-to-play scandals, this Medicaid issue is on top of her $600 million-plus no-bid contract with Digital Gadgets, a major campaign donor, to COVID tests costing New York taxpayers double what it does. rate,” Republican gubernatorial candidate Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Suffolk) tweeted on Thursday after a Post report about alleged pay-to-play with a donor tied to state Medicaid transportation contracts.
A steady trickle of revelations about the timing of the rapid testing deal has shadowed the governor in recent weeks amid growing calls from government watchdogs and political rivals for state and federal officials to investigate the deal.
“At best this was a horrendous price gouging and at worst it was pay-to-play and price gouging,” John Kaehny, executive director of the good governance group, told The Post. Reinvent Albany.
Digital Gadget honcho Charles Tebele donated $25,000 on Nov. 9, 2021, to Hochul before holding a fundraiser for her four days before he declared a state of emergency and suspended state contract rules, according to the Times Union. .
State records show Tebele spent $5,150 on the fundraiser, while his wife Nancy Tebele, whose LinkedIn shows her working as a sales executive at the company, also donated $18,000.
His son also got an internship with the campaign.
Family members, some of whom had never donated to state campaigns before, sprang into action in the following weeks and months as the $637 million in money began trickling into Digital Gadgets.
Charlie Tebele held another fundraiser for Hochul in April before a final payment from the state about two weeks later, according to the upstate newspaper.
Meanwhile, the campaign promoted his son to the position of “financial associate,” a move that nearly tripled the New York University undergraduate’s biweekly salary to $1,842, records show.
A spokesman for Tebele, John Gallagher, has denied that anyone in the family or company discussed the rapid testing contacts or the state of emergency with the Hochul administration while defending the price Digital Gadgets charged for the tests.
“As we have previously stated, neither Mr. Tebele nor the company communicated in any way with the Governor or the Campaign about the tests or any company business, and any implication to the contrary is false,” Gallagher said in an email. earlier this week.
Republicans and good governance advocates have called on state or federal officials to investigate whether Hochul and Tebele are telling the truth about the $637 million deal, while New York Democrats continue their efforts to prevent collateral damage from the growing scandal.
“I think the governor has responded. Right now I’m not responding,” Andrea Stewart-Cousins, the majority leader in the state Senate, told The Post yesterday at an event in Yonkers.
A spokesman for Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
Source : nypost.com