Florida officials call for FBI to investigate governor Ron DeSantis ‘for linking vaccines to donations’

Shweta Sharma
·2 min read
<p>An elite private community in Key Largo received vaccines back in January, long before other Floridians</p> (Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

An elite private community in Key Largo received vaccines back in January, long before other Floridians

(Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

Florida’s top Democratic officials have called for federal investigations into Governor Ron DeSantis for allegedly prioritising vaccine doses to wealthy donors in exchange for political favours.

The Republican governor is coming in for scrutiny after reports alleged that almost all communities belonging to Mr DeSantis’s high-value donors received their jabs from mobile clinics by mid-January, while vaccinations have been much harder to come by for lower-income neighbourhoods.

State agriculture commissioner Nikki Fried and state Democratic Senate leader Gary Farmer called on the FBI to investigate what they called the potential wrongdoing by the government.

“If this isn’t public corruption, I don’t know what is,” Ms Fried said at a news conference. “I will not stand by and let our vaccines be used as political gain and to go to be auctioned by the highest bidders while so many of our Floridians are suffering.”

They demanded an investigation into whether $3.9m of donations made to the governor’s political action committee were linked to vaccination distribution in what they say appeared to be a “pay to play” scheme.

On Thursday, senator Gary Farmer slammed what he described as the governor’s “vaccine auction” and wrote a letter to US attorney general Monty Wilkinson.

“The prioritisation of the wealthy and affluent for vaccinations is morally reprehensible in its own right, but the exchange of hard-to-get vaccines for political contributions is nothing short of criminal,” he said.

Representative Charlie Crist has also raised concerns over the vaccine distribution in Florida and wrote a letter in February to the acting attorney general to investigate the governor allegedly favouring “political allies and donors” over higher-risk communities.

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Mr DeSantis has strongly denied the allegations and said the vaccine drive was administered by “a South Florida hospital” and not his office. His office also issued a statement, calling the allegations a "manufactured narrative with political motivations".

“That was not a site that we were involved in in the Keys,’’Mr DeSantis said at a news conference on Thursday in Crystal River.

On Wednesday, the Miami Herald reported that the “ultra-exclusive” Ocean Reef Club community in the Florida Keys, which accounts for dozens of Mr DeSantis’s donors, had 1,200 people vaccinated by mid-January while many Floridians struggled to get their jabs.

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