Gov. Ron DeSantis Makes COVID-19 Distribution Deal With Publix After Company Donates $100,000 To His PAC
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) announced on Sunday that his state will be partnering with Publix supermarkets to distribute COVID-19 vaccines. Weeks before the governor’s announcement, Publix donated $100,000 to DeSantis’ Political Action Committee (PAC). Both DeSantis and Publix have denied wrongdoing in the situation.
Campaign finance reports obtained by 60 Minutes show that weeks before Florida Governor Ron DeSantis announced a partnership with Publix grocery stores to distribute the vaccine in its pharmacies, Publix donated $100,000 to his PAC. https://t.co/bS3ZBeET1W pic.twitter.com/BSUlpVbXSP
— 60 Minutes (@60Minutes) April 4, 2021
A Publix spokesperson quickly responded to allegations of currying the governor’s favor. “The irresponsible suggestion that there was a connection between campaign contributions made to Governor DeSantis and our willingness to join other pharmacies in support of the state’s vaccine distribution efforts is absolutely false and offensive,” the company said in a statement, noting that their pharmacies have administered more than 1.5 million vaccine doses.
Rep. Charlie Crist (D-Florida), who formerly served as Florida governor as a Republican, has asked the Justice Department to investigate if DeSantis broke federal law by favoring two wealthy zip codes in his state for vaccine rollout. Crist has since asked that Publix’s donation and DeSantis’ choice to partner with the company be investigated as well.
Florida State Rep. Omari Hardy (D) also condemned the conflict of interest between a private company like Publix profiting off of vaccine rollout. “Before, I could call the public health director. She would answer my calls. But now if I want to get my constituents information about how to get this vaccine I have to call a lobbyist from Publix? That makes no sense,” Hardy told 60 Minutes. “They’re not accountable to the public.”
DeSantis has since called the scandal a “fake narrative” in an Orlando press conference.
“The criticism is that it’s pay-to-play, governor,” said 60 Minutes reporter Sharyn Alfonsi.
“And it’s wrong. It’s wrong. It’s a fake narrative,” said DeSantis. “I just disabused you of the narrative. And you don’t care about the facts. Because, obviously, I laid it out for you in a way that is irrefutable.”
Moments before, DeSantis claimed that Palm Beach residents preferred the Publix distribution plan. Alfonsi then explained, a sentiment mirrored by several Florida activists, that the Publix nearest to them was 30 miles away and that the same is true for many Floridians. DeSantis then said, “No, no. You’re wrong.”