Political donor Charle Tebele hosted a campaign fundraiser for Gov. Kathy Hochul last November — just four days before she declared a state of emergency that paved the way for his company to receive $637 million in no-bid state contracts.
The stunning revelation — uncovered by the Times Union on Tuesday — has sparked renewed calls for state or federal officials to investigate the alleged pay-to-play scheme involving New Jersey-based distributor Digital Gadget, which was inked just weeks after the Nov. 22 fundraiser.
The state bought 52 million tests from Digital Gadget at roughly twice the price paid by places like California that bought directly from a manufacturer — all while Tebele and family members funneled $300,000 to Hochul’s campaign.
“Kathy Hochul gave a no-bid $600M+ contract to a top campaign supporter after she unilaterally suspended NY’s competitive bidding law. The same day the donor offered to be the middle man for the COVID tests, Hochul agreed to pay twice the price,” her Republican challenger, US Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY) of Suffolk County, tweeted Tuesday.
“Where’s the AG, DA, & Comptroller?” he added.
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Digital Gadgets began receiving payments from the state about a month after the Nov. 22 fundraiser that occurred four days before she declared an official state of emergency, which she ended earlier this month, that suspended normal state contract rules.
The Hochul administration, which has denied wrongdoing, has justified the payments by saying it needed to buy rapid tests quickly to keep schools open amid a surge in COVID-19 cases.
Spokespeople for the administration, her campaign and Digital Gadgets did not respond to requests for comment by publication time.