Feb 23, 2021 - News

Florida lawmaker asks Justice Department to investigate DeSantis over vaccine site

Collage picture with Rep. Charlie Crist on the left and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on the right

U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist, left. Photo: Octavio Jones/Getty Images. Right, Gov. Ron DeSantis. Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Rep. Charlie Crist (D-Fl.) asked the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate whether Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) violated federal law when he opened a pop-up vaccine distribution site available exclusively to residents in two of Manatee County's wealthiest zip codes.

Why it matters: The former governor sent a letter to acting U.S. Attorney General Monty Wilkinson on Sunday, complaining that DeSantis is selectively creating vaccine distribution sites "to benefit political allies and donors, over the needs of higher risk communities and existing county waitlists."

  • Background: Charges of favoritism were widespread last week after the Bradenton Herald reported that a county commissioner worked secretly with DeSantis' office to make 3,000 vaccinations available to residents in the wealthy, mostly-white neighborhood of Lakewood Ranch.
  • The developer of Lakewood Ranch donated to DeSantis' political campaign.

What they're saying: The writer Stephen King, a Sarasota resident, blasted the governor, tweeting: "It seems possible — likely, even — that Ron DeSantis provided rich, Republican-leaning communities like Lakewood Ranch with priority vaccinations for political gain."

Flashback: DeSantis defended his decision during a press conference at the start of the three-day distribution event last week.

  • "If Manatee County doesn’t like us doing this, then we are totally fine putting this in counties that want it," DeSantis said.

But, but, but: "Given the enormous latitude governors have over vaccine distribution," Crist wrote in his letter, "it would be unconscionable for political corruption to trump both fairness and the best medical guidance. These are literally life and death decisions."

  • Crist's office told Axios on Monday that the congressman has not heard back from Wilkinson.

This story first appeared in the Axios Tampa Bay newsletter, designed to help readers get smarter, faster on the most consequential news unfolding in their own backyard.


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