Representative Charlie Crist (D-FL) is calling on the Department of Justice to investigate Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’s vaccine distribution, accusing him of “playing politics” and favoring political allies and donors in selecting locations for coronavirus vaccine distribution sites.
In a letter addressed to Acting Attorney General Monty Wilkinson, Crist expressed concern that DeSantis is “establishing coronavirus vaccine distribution and administration sites in select locations to benefit politicly allies and donors, over the needs to higher risk communities and existing county waitlists.”
Citing reporters from the Orlando Sentinel and Tampa Bay Times, Crist said DeSantis is favoring select communities by setting up “pop-up” distribution sites in areas dominated by allies and big donors.
“In several cases, these sites seem to be targeted to wealthy communities with whom Governor DeSantis has clear political connections, allowing some to skip to the front of the line in countries with existing waitlists,” Crist wrote.
He used DeSantis’s February 17 announcement, noting that 3,000 vaccine doses would be “made available to the wealthy enclave of Lakewood Ranch in Manatee County.”
“Lakewood Ranch’s parent company is owned by one of the largest Republican donors in the country, including contributing over $900,000 to the Governor. The ZIP codes in question have the highest income levels and lowed COVID infection rates in the country,” he said.
Crist, a Republican-turned-Democrat, maintained that he wrote the letter out of concerns of equity and fairness before making his formal request for an investigation.
“I request that the Department of Justice determine if the Governor’s bluntly political vaccine distribution decisions, which do not seem to be in the public’s best interest, violate federal law and merit a full federal investigation,” Crist added:
Why is Governor DeSantis playing politics with vaccine distribution? His political allies & donors should not get to skip the line. Calling for full DOJ investigation. pic.twitter.com/OTjpkdD1o4
— Congressman Charlie Crist (@RepCharlieCrist) February 21, 2021
Florida has led the way in vaccine distribution, prioritizing senior citizens despite backlash from the establishment media, which accused DeSantis of “bucking” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommendations.
“Not everyone can go to a drive-through site, not everyone can go to the hospital. Some have family who can help them, not everyone has that all the time so we thought it was important to fill a niche,” he said at the time.
Florida has administered over 4.3 million doses of vaccines, or 20,426 per 100,000 people, per the CDC’s February 21 data. By comparison, New York has administered over 3.6 million doses, or 18,619 per 100,000.
Crist, who served as Florida’s governor from 2007-2011, has remained critical of DeSantis’s handling of vaccine distribution in the Sunshine State and hinted that he is contemplating challenging the incumbent governor.
“But if you ask me, have some people suggested that I should contemplate potentially running for Governor next year? Yes, they have. While it doesn’t get much of my attention in my brain right now, it is something that I would be open to,” Crist said, adding that he is “opening my brain to the idea a little bit more.”