ALBANY, N.Y. (WTEN) — There are just a few days left until the general election. Our Capitol Correspondent Amal Tlaige took a closer look at some of the ethical dilemmas surrounding both candidates for Governor.
“So in Hochul’s case you could say that some of her contributors were quote, “transactional” they wanted something. It was a transaction, ‘I give you this, you give me that.’ And Zeldin’s relying on these independent expenditures which again are overwhelmingly from one person.” said John Kaehny, Executive Director of Reinvent Albany.
Governor Hochul has come under scrutiny for spending $637 million in taxpayer money to purchase COVID tests from a company called Digital Gadgets, whose founder and CEO is Charlie Tebele. He and his family donated $300,000 to the Governor’s re-election campaign, “Which unfortunately is legal, but creates the appearance of a conflict of interest and what’s called pay-to-play,” said Kaehny.
He also said the state ended up paying twice as much for COVID tests than what California paid for the exact same tests. Hochul has defended the purchase saying we were at the surge of the Omicron variant and California purchased theirs weeks later. “We’ve repeatedly called for a federal investigation of this given the federal funds at stake and the amount of money in the deal,” he said. When asked if he thought a federal investigation would proceed here’s what Kaehny said, “In this day and age it’s hard to know what’s … okay and what’s not okay to the feds.”
Now taking a look at Congressman Lee Zeldin, who has recently come under fire for possible improper coordination he’s had with political action committees. Reinvent Albany said Ronald Lauder, of Estee Lauder, donated $15.5 million to Zeldin’s campaign, about a third of total funds using independent expenditures. “Under the law, there is a thing called an independent expenditure and anyone can start one you just have to register with the state Board of Elections and say, ‘hey we’re taking money and we’re gonna use that money on ads either for or against a candidate,’” said Kaehny.
And there’s no cap on these expenditures. Kaehny says Zeldin has two independent expenditures that are significant in his race for Governor. Under the law, Zeldin is not allowed to have any communication with these individuals. “The issue is that these independent expenditures which again, people like me think are a joke and basically a giant loophole are a way so that a billionaire can give $15 million to someone running for Governor,” said Kaehny.
Capitol Correspondent, Amal Tlaige reached out to both Zeldin and Hochuls press people for a comment, but did not get a response. She also reached out to the states Commission on Ethics and Lobbying in Government to see if there are any investigations, but also did not hear back.