State Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins repeatedly declined to comment Thursday on Gov. Kathy Hochul’s $637 million pay-to-play scandal — and said she was pleased with the outcome vague denial of wrongdoing by their Democrat.
At an independent news conference in her district, Stewart-Cousins (D-Yonkers) — who controls the state’s legislative agenda along with Hochul and House Speaker Carl Heastie (D-Bronx) — declined to answer a question from The Post about Republican demands for the Legislature to open investigations into the COVID-19 testing contracts awarded to one of Hochul’s key campaign donors.
“I have no comment on that,” Stewart-Cousins said.
“I know for a fact that the GOP called for it, and they said — obviously, I think the governor answered. I won’t answer at this point.”
The state’s No. 3 elected official also failed to respond when reminded by the same reporter of her partisan attacks over the 2015 corruption conviction of Republican predecessor Dean Skelos, or address a recent allegation by Assembly Minority Leader William Barclay (R- Fulton), a Democratic lawmaker would “cover for one of their own.”
“I don’t have anything to enlighten you on right now,” Stewart-Cousins replied.
Heastie did not respond to a request for comment about a possible probe.
Hochul, who faces challenger Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Long Island) in the Nov. 8 election, has been on the defensive since it was announced in July that New Jersey-based Digital Gadgets pledged $637 million were paid to supply the state with 52 million COVID-19 test kits.
The consumer technology company is owned by Manhattan resident Charlie Tebele, who and his family have contributed around $330,000 to Hochul’s campaign.
Tebele’s no-bid contracts cost New York an average of $12.25 per kit, over 80% more than the $6.75 California paid for the exact same at-home rapid tests, according to the Albany Times Union, which reported the deal revealed first.
Earlier this week, the newspaper also revealed that just four days after Tebele hosted a fundraiser for her on November 22, Hochul had suspended competitive rules on buying supplies related to the pandemic.
Payments to his company began a month later, according to Times Union.
In her most public comments to date about the Digital Gadgets deal, Hochul insisted to reporters on July 20, “I wasn’t aware that this was a company that had backed me.”
“I’m not following that. My team has no idea,” she added.
Republican state leader Nick Langworthy, a upstate candidate for Congress, called the Democrats’ refusal to investigate Hochul “a prime example of the cozy, corrupt cabal we’re trying to dismantle by unbalancing Albany and… return the accountability”.
“The Democrats have all ignored each other’s corruption, and Hochul knows she doesn’t have to answer to the legislature or [Democratic Attorney General Letitia James]But we are urging voters fed up with corruption to take back their power and oust them this November,” he said.
US Rep. Nicole Malliotakis (R-Staten Island, Brooklyn), a former member of the state assembly, said Stewart cousins ”should care about their constituents being fleeced by our governor and being forced to sell twice as much for.” COVID testing to pay the state from one of their biggest campaign donors.”
“This is corruption and New Yorkers deserve answers and accountability,” she added.
Senate Minority Leader Rob Ortt (R-Lockport) accused Democrats in his chamber of “giving a pass to corruption within their own party.”
“If Senate Democrats want to be credible when it comes to restoring people’s trust in their government, they will stop complicity and immediately launch an investigation into these troubling allegations,” he said.
Former US Republican Senator Al D’Amato called the deal with Digital Gadgets “incredible” and said Hochul made her predecessor – former Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who resigned over sexual harassment allegations – “look like a choirboy”.
“New York spent twice as much as California. It’s criminal,” he said.
“She sold out for $300,000 in posts.”
U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-Glens Falls) predicted that “Stewart Cousin’s rejection of corrupt Kathy Hochul’s pay-for-play program is the reason Republicans will vote across New York State this November for the… Victory will hasten.”
“New Yorkers are fed up with the rampant corruption in Albany,” she said.
Meanwhile, John Kaehny, executive director of reform group Reinvent Albany, said he thinks it’s politically “prudent” for Stewart-Cousin’s mother to remain because “it’s a couple of months until the election and she doesn’t want to give the others a party.” to run.”
“There are still a lot of fundamental questions I would want to know if I were Senate leader: How did this come about? How were the talks with Tebele?” he said.
“She could also say that it’s up to the governor to come clean here and dispel these allegations.”
Kaehny also said his group “called for a federal investigation because the test kits were purchased with federal money” and because “the federal government is better equipped to investigate this thoroughly.”
When asked for comment, Hochul’s press secretary referred to a statement Tuesday in which he denied that Tebele’s donations had an impact on his contracts and said the governor “did not oversee the procurement process and was not present at the daily procurement decisions involved”.
“She simply directed her team to purchase as many available tests as possible to meet the tremendous need across the state, and they did just that to keep New Yorkers safe,” the statement said.
A James spokesman declined to comment.
https://nypost.com/2022/09/22/andrea-stewart-cousins-wont-address-637-million-hochul-pay-to-play-scandal/ Andrea Stewart-Cousins Won’t Address $637M Hochul Pay-to-Play Scandal