A New York company whose ownership donated $300,000 to Democratic Gov. Kathy Hochul’s reelection campaign has been paid $637 million by the state for at-home COVID-19 tests.
Records show that Digital Gadgets LLC, an electronic device wholesaler that expanded into medical supplies at the start of the pandemic, has been paid $637 million to manufacture at-home COVID-19 tests for the New York Department of Health.
The company is owned by Charlie Tebele, a New York City entrepreneur who has donated nearly $300,000 to Hochul’s reelection campaign. Some state Republicans have called on the government to release all its communications with Tebele and his company.
“I’m calling on Governor Hochul, and the department of health, to turn over all of their communications with the Tebele family and Digital Gadgets,” said New York Republican Party Chair Nick Langworthy. “New Yorkers need to know who our government spoke to and when they spoke to them, and what they discussed.”
According to New York Comptroller Tom DiNapoli’s website, between Dec. 30 and March 25 the Health Department made 239 separate payments to Digital Gadgets. In total, the company sold 52 million COVID tests to the government, pricing each one at around $13.
Despite the exorbitant sums of taxpayer money involved, however, no contract was ever explicitly initiated between New York and Tebele’s company — and no competitive bidding process took place to choose Digital Gadgets as the state’s test supplier.
This oversight was made possible after the governor declared a state of emergency last November, suspending competitive bidding protocols and the normal contract review and approval process for state spending.
In a statement, Hochul denied that anything unethical had taken place between New York and Tebele’s Digital Gadgets. The Democratic governor also claimed she had been unaware that the company was owned by one of her high-profile campaign donors.
“I was not aware that this was a company that had been supportive of me,” Hochul said. “I don’t keep track of that.”
“The fact that there was someone who could meet that need at the time allowed us to deliver critically important test kits when nobody else, including the federal government, could get their hands on them,” she added.