Crist Calls on DOJ to Investigate DeSantis Vaccine Distribution Scheme

Washington, DC – U.S. Representative Charlie Crist (D-St. Petersburg) sent a letter to Acting Attorney General Monty Wilkinson calling on the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) to investigate concerns that Governor Ron DeSantis is establishing coronavirus vaccine distribution and administration sites to benefit political allies and donors, over the needs of higher risk communities and existing county waitlists. 

Congressman Crist’s letter comes following reporting that the Governor is prioritizing the distribution of vaccines to Republican-leaning communities, serving his deep-pocketed donors, while turning his back on communities with higher COVID infection and death rates.

Crist is calling on the DOJ to investigate if Governor DeSantis’ actions violate federal law and warrant a full federal investigation. 

“Time and time again, Governor DeSantis has proven he is not up to the task of leading our state out of this pandemic as he continues to play politics with the health and well-being of vulnerable Floridians,” said Rep. Crist. “So far, over 30,000 Floridians have died and at least 1.8 million more have gotten sick, with minority communities and seniors hit the hardest. Instead of prioritizing people most at risk, the Governor has chosen – during the worst pandemic in a century – to help out his friends and donors. That is why I’m calling on the Department of Justice to investigate.”

A pdf of the letter to Acting Attorney General Wilkinson can be found here, with the text appearing below.

                                                                    February 21, 2021

The Honorable Monty Wilkinson, Acting Attorney General
United States Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20530

Dear Acting Attorney General Wilkinson,

I write with concern about reports that Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is establishing coronavirus vaccine distribution and administration sites in select locations to benefit political allies and donors, over the needs of higher risk communities and existing county waitlists. 

As reported by multiple news outlets[1], the Governor is setting up “pop-up” vaccination sites to deliver doses to select communities.  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 counties with existing waitlists[2].  For example, on February 17th, Governor DeSantis made a surprise announcement that 3,000 new 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 lowest COVID infection rates in the county.

Defeating the COVID-19 pandemic must be our top priority.  Given the enormous latitude Governors have over vaccine distribution, it would be unconscionable for political corruption to trump both fairness and the best medical guidance.  These are literally life and death decisions.  While I am anxious for every Floridian, in every community, to get the vaccine as soon as possible, it should be done based on fairness, not political connection.  As a former Governor and Attorney General, these issues of equity and fairness matter deeply to me.  I request that the Department of Justice determine if the Governor’s blatantly 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. 

 

Sincerely,

 

Charlie Crist
UNITED STATES CONGRESSMAN



[1] Steven Lemongello and Richard Tribou.  “DeSantis defends his choice of wealthy senior community for pop-up vaccine site.”  Orlando Sentinel.  February 18, 2021. 

[2] Ryan Callihan and Jessica De Leon.  “Well-off Manatee residents get special vaccine access, courtesy of DeSantis.”  Tampa Bay Times.  February 17, 2021. 

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