Iowa awarded millions of dollars in PPE contracts to a company that sells T-shirts and yard signs to Republican candidates

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The state of Iowa awarded contracts worth millions of dollars for personal protective equipment (PPE) to a Des Moines company best known for providing campaign signs to Republican candidates, the Associated Press’s Ryan J. Foley reported on Saturday.

“In three contracts worth $7.2 million, the state agreed to purchase 1 million isolation gowns and 100,000 clear plastic goggles through Competitive Edge Inc., a Des Moines business that has never sold either,” Foley wrote. “The company supplies promotional items like T-shirts, and has long been a go-to vendor for Republican campaigns buying yard and barn signs.”

The company’s owner, David Greenspon, told Foley state agencies had contacted him because his company imports campaign items from China and he has business connections in that country. Greenspon said he is overseeing production of the isolation gowns and plastic googles at three factories in China.

“Greenspon is charging the state $6.96 per gown and $2.59 for each pair of goggles,” Foley reported. “He said neither item will be medical grade.”

Gov. Reynolds suspended the state’s normal open bidding process for goods and services needed to address the COVID-19 pandemic on March 9, so the Competitive Edge contracts were awarded without going through the process.

“We were lucky enough to get some business. I am happy about that. I like to be busy,” Greenspon told Foley. “It’s been a tough few months but we didn’t close through any of it. Maybe that was fortuitous. When somebody from the state called, we were here.”

Greenspon said the gowns and goggles will be delivered to Iowa over the next month.

The state was facing a sometimes severe shortage of PPE in March and April, but at her press conference on Friday, Gov. Reynolds said the state’s supply was now “in good shape.”

According to the governor, this weekend will be “the first time we won’t be delivering PPEs to counties across the state.” Until now, National Guard members have been used to deliver PPE from the state stockpile to counties on weekends.

“I’m pleased to report that the requests for PPEs have significantly decreased and the state stockpile is in good shape,” Reynolds said. “We’re starting to get a lot of the orders that we placed in March, and so our stockpile is in a good place right now.”

The most significant COVID-19-related contract awarded without following the state’s opening process is the $26 million contract Gov. Reynolds gave to Nomi Health for Test Iowa. A spokesperson for the governor has confirmed she never considered any other companies before awarding the contract.

During a teleconference of the Iowa Legislative Council on Wednesday, Rep. Sharon Steckman, D-Mason City, asked House Speaker Pat Grassley, R-New Hartford, if the Government Oversight Committee will be convened to review Test Iowa’s performance.

“The week of May 11th, Test Iowa processed 3,100 tests for the entire week,” Steckman said. “We were promised 3,000 a day, and it’s been three weeks, and we’re not even getting close to that goal.”

She added, “It’s $26 million of taxpayers’ money. Whether it’s federal or state, someone should be watching over that money.”

Grassley said he had not spoken to the chair of the Government Oversight Committee about it.

On Sunday, the Iowa Department of Public Health reported another 323 Iowans have tested positive for COVID-19, including four residents of Johnson County and four of Linn County. The state has now had 14,651 confirmed cases of the virus.

IDPH also reported outbreaks of COVID-19 at two more long-term care facilities on Sunday. That brings the total number of such outbreaks reported by the department to 37.

Five more Iowans have died from the virus, according to IDPH. The state’s official COVID-19 death toll now stands at 351.

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