by Frank Holmes, reporter
In Biden’s weak economy, the quickest path to wealth is easy: Be a Democratic campaign donor.
In at least one case, a donor who wrote large checks to a leading Democrat saw his business bag more than half a billion dollars in government contracts—or $1,712 in taxpayer funds for every dollar donated.
Nice work if you can get it. Here’s how.
Charlie Tebele is the founder and CEO of Digital Gadgets, a company that produces high-priced COVID-19 tests. Last year, he donated $70,000 to the campaign of New York Governor Kathy Hochul, a Democrat.
Not long afterward, Hochul personally inked two deals giving his company government contracts worth $637 million.
Digital Gadgets had asked for an outrageous $13 a piece for each COVID-19 testing kit. That’s reportedly way higher than its competitors. Three other companies asked for $7.80 or less; one company parted with its tests for $5. Hochul signed the contract the same day Tebele made his offer—December 20, 2021—hardly much time for haggling.
She agreed to pay him $12.25 for Digital Gadets’ tests.
The ink was hardly dry before Tebele came through with a lot more campaign cash. He held a fundraiser for Hochul, and his family personally kicked in close to $300,000 for her election campaign. (Not her re-election; she took office after a sexual harassment scandal sank her predecessor, Andrew Cuomo, and has never been elected governor).
She said it was all a coincidence.
“I was not aware that this was a company that had been supportive of me,” Hochul said in July. “I don’t keep track of that. My team, they have no idea.”
But investigative reporters say Hochul regularly mingles with donors at events and then tells them to meet with her team, who could potentially help get their pet projects through the state capital.
“A significant chunk of Hochul’s campaign fundraising was facilitated through top Albany lobbying firms, which held high-dollar fundraisers that were exclusive to their lobbying clients,” the Albany Times-Union reported. “According to the donors’ accounts in the emails, Hochul did not discourage discussion of state business at these events, and directed donors to connect with her campaign staff — which subsequently connected them to top state officials.”
She did the exact same thing with another donor: Wayne Chaplin of Southern Glazer’s Wine & Spirits, who met her at an October fundraiser. He wanted a special favor that would benefit his business while crushing his competitors—and Hochul immediately connected him with her staff. While his bill hasn’t passed yet, Republicans say Hochul has been standing up for Chaplin—and against the little guy—ever since.
The companies say there’s nothing to allegations that they’re buying influence or that Democrats are selling favors, and that they earned everything on the merits.
John Gallagher, a spokesman for Digital Gadgets, defended his employer’s actions by saying the company “provided 52 million high-quality AccessBio tests at a price that was very competitive at the time.” And since “the tests were manufactured in New Jersey,” the company could guarantee delivery during a time of supply chain issues.
But just two days before Hochul signed the Digital Gadgets windfall, the state paid a competitor called iHealth Labs $5 each for 5 million tests. It’s not clear if the company could have produced even more. It’s only clear that the state took its business to Hochul’s donors.
“The Hochul administration is saying it was not because they were a donor, but should answer the question of why they so eagerly got into business with this very high-priced vendor — and bought more than half their total amount from this one supplier — when they knew it was charging a much higher rate than they had been paying,” said Bill Hammond, a senior fellow for health policy at the free market Empire Center for Public Policy.
It’s obvious why Hochul needs the campaign funds: Polling data show Hochul’s lead over Republican gubernatorial candidate Lee Zeldin has fallen almost 10 points since mid-August.
Even in New York state, Republicans occasionally win statewide races, especially during a time of high inflation, recession, and personal scandal.
To reverse her slide in the polls, Hochul will need lots of election cash in the next 60 days.
Now we know how she gets it.
Frank Holmes is a veteran journalist and an outspoken conservative that talks about the news that was in his weekly article, “On The Holmes Front.”