Friends Like These: McSally Associate Under Investigation for Pandemic Profiteering


By Camaron Stevenson, Alicia Barrón

May 7, 2020

The longtime Republican fundraiser is under investigation for failing to fulfill contracts for in-demand medical equipment.

The U.S. Department of Justice announced a criminal investigation into a medical supply company owned by former consultant to Sen. Martha McSally after it failed to deliver personal protective equipment it was under contract to provide.

The company, founded by McSally associate Mike Gulu, was created in March, and boasted access to coronavirus testing kits, N95 respirator masks, and other medical supplies in high demand.

The company was awarded several contracts, but failed to fulfil its end of the bargain. In March, California wired nearly half a billion dollars to Blue Flame Medical for 100 million masks, but canceled the deal and got its money back later that day, CalMatters reported on Wednesday.

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan announced Wednesday that he had canceled an emergency $12.5 million state contract for personal protective equipment with Blue Flame Medical. Hogan said he directed Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh to investigate for “failure to perform and for potential misrepresentation.”

Michael Ricci, a spokesman for Hogan, also confirmed Wednesday that Maryland has received subpoenas from federal prosecutors relating to the canceled contract. 

Gulu, who emailed Republican clients in early March about his decision to start a new company, had been working with McSally’s campaign since at least 2016. Over the past four years, McSally paid Gulu more than $600,000 for his work as a consultant.

The connection comes the same week McSally came under fire for using a former political aide in her campaign ads while failing to disclose the relationship.

“Martha McSally will fight tirelessly to make sure people with pre-existing conditions are insured,” former aide Kristen Douglas said in the ad. “She’s fighting for what’s right when it comes to preexisting conditions, and making sure everybody has access to health care.”

Douglas also said in the ad that her “path collided” with McSally after battling cancer. However, the ad did not disclose that Douglas was McSally’s campaign manager on her 2014 House race, McSally’s deputy chief of staff from 2015 to 2017, and that she worked as a consultant for McSally’s failed 2018 Senate campaign.

In total, Douglas was paid $381,000 by McSally since 2014. The decision to omit the relationship mirrors similar lapses in transparency from McSally, notably in regard to her record on health care.

In an April 2 teletown hall with constituents, McSally falsely claimed, “I fully support people with preexisting conditions, ensuring that they cannot be denied health insurance.”

She made a similar claim during a November 2019 teletown hall, telling constituents, “I support making sure everybody that has a preexisting condition can get access to health insurance and they are not denied by insurance companies.”

Yet when she has had the chance to vote in Congress, McSally has consistently opted to take away health care protections for people with preexisting conditions.

RELATED: McSally Can’t Make up Her Mind on Health Care

As a House member in 2017, McSally joined her Republican colleagues to vote for a GOP-backed bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act and strip away protections for people with preexisting conditions. She rallied her colleagues to vote for the bill, telling them to get “this fucking thing done.”

After being appointed to the Senate, McSally backed an effort by the Trump administration to allow more people to buy so-called “junk” insurance policies. The AARP opposed the expansion because the plans “can ignore many of the ACA rules, [and] their expanded availability could hurt Americans between 50 and 64 years old who need comprehensive coverage, including those with preexisting conditions.”

McSally’s rocky history with health care has also been a source of criticism throughout the coronavirus pandemic.

Last week, McSally was on Fox Business talking about a path forward for safely reopening Arizona. She said on the program, “What is happening in a rural county in southern Arizona is not the same as New York City, but we have been hard hit. I think sometimes the media, the mainstream media, talks about this like it is an on-off switch. It is more like a dimmer.” 

Sen. McSally shared the clip, along with a transcript, in a press release on her official Senate website with the headline: “McSally: Arizona Taking Gradual Steps to Safely Reopen.”

The Arizona GOP senator reportedly said during a town hall last week that the number of tests conducted in Arizona was increasing although the official count begged to differ.

Gov. Ducey did announce a testing blitz, but that didn’t start until May 2, and is still underway.

RELATED: Where Does Arizona Stand on Contact Tracing? In Short, We Don’t Know.

When asked about the lack of available testing by a member of the community, The American Independent reports Sally replied: “We’re ramping up testing every single day. It is being managed at the state level with the federal partnerships. I’m not going to speak on behalf of Gov. Ducey, but I know part of their way forward in our coordination with them is ramping up testing for frontline healthcare workers.”

Dr. Mario Ramirez, former acting director of the Office of Pandemic and Emerging Threats, told the Arizona Republic that’s not enough.

While state officials have avoided making risky deals with organizations like Blue Flame Medical, uncertainty surrounding how the state will use data surrounding the spread of the coronavirus has left experts worried a misstep could bring another spike in infections. This, in turn, would put added stress on the state’s health care system.

While researchers promoted leaving the state on lockdown until the end of May, Ducey began a slow reopening of the state earlier this week. Barber shops and salons have been given the green light to open on Friday, and restaurants will be able to offer dine-in services as early as Monday.

The Associated Press and the American Independent contributed to this report.

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  • Camaron Stevenson

    Camaron is the Founding Editor and Chief Political Correspondent for The Copper Courier, and has worked as a journalist in Phoenix for over a decade. He also teaches multimedia journalism at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University.

  • Alicia Barrón
CATEGORIES: Uncategorized


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