Charleston, WV – There may be accountability after all – and BabyDog could be in trouble.
CBS News is reporting that West Virginia Governor Jim Justice’s records have been requested by the federal government in regard to COVID giveaways.
“Some states used taxpayer money to fund vaccine lotteries during the COVID-19 pandemic in an effort to encourage vaccinations,” the news site reported earlier today.
“In West Virginia, which had one of the country’s largest sweepstakes, anyone who got the COVID shot could register for cash and prizes.
“Now, there’s scrutiny over costs of the lottery — and if it actually worked,” the story continues.
“CBS News has learned federal investigators subpoenaed Gov. Jim Justice’s office about the sweepstakes.”
According to CBS, the governor’s staff has said that the investigation centers on car dealers that supplied trucks that were given to lottery winners and questions about how much they cost taxpayers.
Those are issues raised by some state media while Justice and his pet BabyDog were traveling the state delivering the winnings.
The Governor and his staff were vague in answering questions about the lotteries raised by local reporters.
CBS said Grace Fowler, “a medical worker aiming to aid her community during the coronavirus pandemic, received what she thought was a wonderful surprise — a brand-new truck — after entering the Do it for Babydog vaccine lottery. She was among hundreds of winners of the sweepstakes, which was run by Justice and named after his pet dog.”
The lottery offered more than $20 million in prizes, which was more than larger states like neighboring Ohio and Maryland gave combined. West Virginia offered scholarships, vacations, cash and vehicles.
“Only after Fowler brought home her prize did she learn the value may have been inflated, and along with it, her tax bill, which was more than $20,000,” the article said.
“It blew my mind,” Fowler told CBS. “So I said, the next time someone says, ‘You win,’ I’m going to say, ‘Keep it.’”
CBS noted that Justice is running for the United
States Senate and quoted Republican State Auditor JB McCuskey, who reviewed spending for the lottery, as saying it was “hastily executed and rushed taxpayer money out the door to private businesses.”
Justice is term-limited from seeking another term as governor in 2024. McCuskey is one of eight candidates who have announced plans to run for governor.
“Another political rival, Republican State Sen. Eric Tarr, questioned the effectiveness of the vaccine lottery in driving up vaccination rates,” CBS reported.
“You would expect to see a little bump if it was something that was going to be an effective plan,” Tarr said.
A study released in 2021 concluded that state-led vaccines did nothing to sway unvaccinated individuals to get inoculated against COVID, the report said.
Justice declined an interview request from CBS News, but his staff said they responded to federal investigators with records when they were subpoenaed.
“Upon realizing the tax implications, Fowler made the decision to sell her truck,” CBS said. “The governor’s office acknowledged that Fowler was not the only winner compelled to sell their prize.”
The car dealer that supplied Fowler’s truck did not respond to CBS News’ request for comment. However, documents show the dealer claimed the truck was equipped with additional features that increased its value.
Originally, some critics questioned whether the selection and purchase of prizes such as trucks followed state purchasing guidelines.
Others asked if state lottery rules were followed in selecting winners.
This is a developing story that will be updated as events occur.