Thu. Sep 23rd, 2021

Richard Luscombe reports for the Guardian from Miami:

Florida’s governor Ron DeSantis could face a federal inquiry into whether he diverted Covid-19 vaccines to wealthy supporters in return for campaign donations.

Gary Farmer, the leading Democrat in the Florida senate, wrote on Thursday to the acting US attorney general Monty Wilkinson, asking him to look into the “troubling” reports.

“Over the course of the past few months there have been several well documented reports of exclusive vaccination sites that limited access to paying members of private clubs and residents of affluent gated communities,” Farmer wrote.

“In a number of cases the establishment of these vaccine sites have been preceded with or followed by substantial contributions to a political committee controlled by governor Ron DeSantis.”

The latest claim, Farmer noted, came from a Miami Herald report on Wednesday asserting that more than 1,200 residents, aged 65 or older, of the exclusive Ocean Reef Club, a private gated community on Key Largo, had been vaccinated by mid-January.

At the time, the Herald said, the rest of the state was still struggling to secure an allocation. Only a month before, state records show, 17 Ocean Reef residents donated at least $5,000 to a political action committee supporting DeSantis’s 2022 re-election campaign. And one, the former Illinois governor Bruce Rauner, cut a $250,000 check to DeSantis’s PAC in February after the vaccines were administered.

The newspaper further claimed that DeSantis has been using the state’s vaccine initiative to “steer pop-up vaccination sites to select communities,” often affluent, disproportionately white areas.

“Governor DeSantis’s clear vaccine priority for wealthy individuals appears to be intimately tied to political payments, an extremely troubling ‘pay to play’ scheme if the allegations are borne out,” Farmer wrote.

He asked Wilkinson’s office to “conduct a full and thorough investigation into any potential wrong-doing on the part of Governor DeSantis.”

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