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New York Gov. Kathy Hochul is under fire over a surveillance report showing the Empire State paid nearly half as much for COVID testing from one of her campaign donors in New Jersey.
The Times Union first reported that California paid 45% less for rapid COVID-19 tests from a prominent Hochul donor than New York State did last winter, when the Omicron variant caught on around the holiday. New York could have saved $286 million if it paid the same price as California.
Records show the Hochul government bought 52 million of the “Carestart” tests manufactured by New Jersey-based company AccessBio for $637 million, averaging $12.25 per test at the expense of the taxpayer’s cost. Instead of buying the tests directly from AccessBio like California had done, New York went through an intermediary, New Jersey-based distributor Digital Gadgets, LLC, the report said.
Digital Gadgets, LLC is owned by a New York family who donated nearly $300,000 to Hochul’s campaign.
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Hochul’s opponent for the governorship, Republican Rep. Lee Zeldin, responded to the report’s allegations while he was campaigning
“Kathy Hochul’s campaign gets $300,000 from a donor, and then they go around circumventing New York bidding laws. They end up agreeing to a $600 million contract and paying more than double the usual rate,” Zeldin said on Friday, according to NY 1. “Kathy Hochul’s approach to this job is to sell access in a way that that even Andrew Cuomo would never think of. That exceeds all possible limits. And it needs to be investigated. There are so many aspects to this $600 million COVID deal that I absolutely wouldn’t have opted out.”
“In accordance with Governor Hochul’s commitment to upholding high ethical standards, campaign contributions have no bearing on government decisions,” Jerrel Harvey, Hochul campaign communications director, said in a statement obtained by Fox News Digital.
A spokesman for Digital Gadgets told the Times Union the price New York paid was “very competitive at the time,” even though California paid $6.75 per test by going direct to the supplier.
“Any implication to the contrary is misleading and willfully disregards the fact that, given the size and date of the order, Digital Gadgets paid more per unit for AccessBio testing than the State of California, thereby risking hundreds of millions of dollars in capital costs to execute an order of this size.” , incurring millions of dollars in costs for chartering aircraft and overtime for employees over Christmas and New Year’s, and then also having to meet the state’s retrospective requirement that tests have an extended expiration date — requiring the additional procurement of materials,” the spokesman said.
Digital Gadgets founder Charlie Tebele has also denied any wrongdoing.
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John Kaehny, executive director of Reinvent Albany, renewed his call for an investigation into the $637 million in government deals paid to Digital Gadgets, telling the New York Post, “There’s a dark cloud of pay-to-play hanging over it.” ”