Ranking Member Tom O’Mara and Senator Anthony Palumbo repeat their calls for Senator James Skoufis to begin an investigation to Hochul Digital Gadgets Contract Scandal and the Governor’s after-action Covid review
ALBANY, NY – Senators Tom O’Mara and Anthony Palumbo, Republican Members of the New York State Senate Committee on Investigations and Government Operations, today penned a follow-up letter and again urged Investigations Chairman James Skoufis to open an immediate investigation into the Hochul Digital Gadgets Contract Scandal.
“The facts that have been revealed, and the pay-to-play suspicions that have been raised, demand a serious and thorough review. It’s ridiculous for Senator Skoufis and the Senate Democrats to continue crying, ‘There's nothing we can do.’ With New York government under the cloud that it’s been under for nearly three years, it’s outrageous to continue claiming that the Legislature doesn’t have investigative capabilities or responsibilities. It is simply the latest example of all-Democrat, one-party-rule in Albany protecting one of their own, in this case Governor Hochul. The Senate Democrat Majority has been totally absent in its responsibility to exercise oversight, and checks and balances on other branches of government, particularly the executive. They covered up for former Governor Cuomo’s nursing home corruption and they appear more than willing to do the same for Governor Hochul,” said Senator Tom O’Mara, Ranking Member of the Senate Investigations and Government Operations Committee.
“There is clear precedent for Senator James Skoufis to launch a full investigation into Governor Hochul’s conduct surrounding Digital Gadgets dating back to the Trooper Gate investigation surrounding disgraced former Governor Eliot Spitzer. Sadly, over the past two years, the chairman has served more as a roadblock to uncovering the truth, while refusing to investigate members of his own party. He has rejected numerous requests from Senator O’Mara and myself to look into the serious matters sourounding nursing home deaths, the former Governor’s accusations of sexual misconduct and now the current governor’s pay-to-play scandal. His politicization of this important committee, combined with his refusal to investigate Albany’s ruling class has derailed good government efforts, while weakening the already fragile confidence New Yorkers have in their state government to do the right thing,” said Senator Anthony Palumbo, Member of the Senate Investigations and Government Operations Committee.
The Senate Investigation and Government Operations Committee has the authority vested in Section 62-A of the Legislative Law to issue subpoenas to help determine whether Governor Hochul engaged in a pay-to-play scheme when her administration granted a $637 million state contract to Digital Gadgets, the company owned by a donor who provided more than $300,000 in campaign donations to the Governor’s gubernatorial campaign.
Senator Skoufis, referencing reports on the Hochul administration's pay-to-play deal, called the recent allegations “alarming” – all the more reason to begin an investigation.
An abbreviated timeline of Governor Hochul’s alleged pay-to-play with Digital Gadgets:
July 19, 2022: It is first reported by the Albany Times Union that a six-figure donor to Governor Kathy Hochul’s political campaign landed a $637 million contract to provide the state of New York with at-home COVID-19 test kits. The donor’s company Digital Gadgets received 239 separate payments from the Department of Health from December 2021 to March 2022, according to the state Comptroller’s office.
September 8, 2022: It is reported that the Governor’s office and Digital Gadgets were able to broker the $637 million deal thanks to the Governor declaring a statewide disaster emergency, which suspended normal contracting and procurement rules, and allowed for a non-competitive bidding process. It is also revealed that Digital Gadgets – a non-manufacturing distributor of the COVID tests – charged New York an average of $4.45 more per test than the next highest-paid company in the state.
September 9, 2022: Senator Sue Serino calls for an investigation by the state Attorney General and Albany District Attorney into the Hochul administration to determine if they engaged in pay-to-play in violation of state ethics laws.
September 16, 2022: It is reported again that the Governor’s deal for COVID-19 tests with this major campaign donor has left taxpayers on the hook for millions. The State of California paid 45 percent less for the same COVID-19 tests that New York obtained through this contract. According to the report, if New York had paid the same amount as California, it would have saved taxpayers $286 million. Senate Republican Leader Rob Ortt echoes Senator Serino’s calls for an investigation to be launched by the state Attorney General and Albany District Attorney.
September 20, 2022: It is reported that the founder of the company that landed the deal with the Hochul administration threw a fundraiser for her just a week prior to the contract being signed. Four days after the fundraiser, the Governor declared a statewide emergency, which allowed her administration to avoid the standard state bidding process and official oversight conducted from the Office of the Comptroller for the purchasing of the Digital Gadgets COVID-19 Tests.
September 22, 2022: Senators Tom O’Mara and Anthony Palumbo make their first calls on Investigations Committee Chairman James Skoufis to open an immediate investigation into the Hochul Digital Gadgets Contract Scandal and the Governor’s slow-walked “after-action Covid review.”
Any investigation would need to answer a series of questions:
Who negotiated the Digital Gadgets COVID-19 Testing contract? Was the Governor directly involved?
Was the Governor aware that a younger member of the company founder’s family began working as a paid intern for Hochul’s campaign fundraising staff in November?
Was the Governor aware that New York City under the former de Blasio administration had to cancel a $91 Million ventilator contract with Digital Gadgets, after they failed to deliver the goods?
Will the after-action Covid review contract need the State Comptroller’s approval? Or will it be signed like the emergency contracts were signed?
Will this after-action review examine all emergency contracts, including the Digital Gadgets COVID-19 Testing contract?
A copy of the letter is attached to the release.