WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — A former Florida governor and current congressman is calling on the Department of Justice to investigate vaccine distribution under Gov. Ron DeSantis.
In a letter posted to Twitter, U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist, D-Fla., accused DeSantis of favoring political allies and donors when it comes to deciding where the state should open vaccination distribution sites.
"His political allies and donors should not get to skip the line," Crist said in a tweet Sunday.
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
Crist reference a pop-up site in Manatee County, which is controversial because it's only open to residents living in two particular wealthy ZIP codes and includes a land development owned by a Republican who donated nearly a million dollars to DeSantis.
"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," wrote Crist. "For example, on February 17, 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."
According to census data, the two ZIP codes have median household incomes 75 to 85% higher than the county average. Those ZIP codes also only make up about 8% of Manatee County's overall 30,557 confirmed coronavirus cases.
DeSantis said he was trying to get the vaccine to a high concentration of seniors, but in a county full of seniors, he never explained why the doses were limited to just that group.
"It wasn't a choice about ZIP codes. It was a choice about, where's a high concentration of seniors where you could have communities provide the ability for them to go on," DeSantis said. "It wasn't choosing one ZIP code over another."
DeSantis fired back at criticisms of his vaccine distribution plan, earning further backlash after he threatened to divert vaccines away from communities that have criticized him.
"If Manatee County doesn't like us doing this, then we are totally fine with putting this in counties that want it. And we're totally happy to do that," DeSantis said. "So anyone that is saying that, let us know. If you want us to send it to Sarasota next time, or Charlotte, or Pasco, or wherever, let us know. We're happy to do it."
The governor is also under scrutiny for selecting Publix to be distribute vaccines following a $100,000 donation the company made to DeSantis' reelection PAC.