Ex-GOP fundraiser now selling coveted COVID-19 supplies has ties to two Pa. lawmakers | Monday Morning Coffee

House Homeland Security Oversight and Management Efficiency Subcommittee Chairman Rep. Scott Perry makes opening remarks during a hearing on "critical canine contributions to the DHS mission’" in Washington, D.C., May 18, 2017. U.S. Customs and Border Protection Photo by Glenn Fawcett

Good Monday Morning, Fellow Seekers.
A top Republican fundraiser with ties to two Pennsylvania lawmakers has attracted attention in political circles for suddenly shuttering his firm and instead opening a new business that sells such hard-to-get medical supplies as N95 masks and coveted personal protective equipment.

The operative, Mike Gula, sent an “email to his clients on Thursday [March 26] abruptly announcing that he would no longer be working for them. The reason: He saw an opportunity to capitalize on the coronavirus response,” Politico reported on March 27.

The new company, Blue Flame Medical LLCbills itself on its website as “the largest global network of COVID-19 medical suppliers providing healthcare logistics and hard to find medical supplies to beat the outbreak. Only the highest quality product delivered with the fastest service.”

When Politico asked Gula how he’d managed to procure such stocks when hospitals are trying frantically to find them, Gula told a reporter, “I have relationships with a lot of people.”

Gula’s partner, veteran GOP consultant John Thomas, similarly declined to comment, saying “it’s just relationship-based. I can’t say anything else.”

As Politico reports, before shuttering his business, Gula raised money for an array of lawmakers, including U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., whose current term expires in 2022.

In 2019, Gula was paid $29,236 by U.S. Rep. Scott Perry’s, R-10th District, re-election campaign, according to Federal Election Commission records. Gula’s firm was paid $27,875 by Toomey’s re-election campaign last year, FEC records show.

Sen. Pat Toomey. (Gage Skidmore/Flickr)

Results for the first quarter of 2020 were not available because campaigns have not yet filed their Q1 reports with the FEC. Those forms have to be filed with the FEC by April 15.

Gula told Politico that he decided to close his business and start selling medical supplies “because nobody was doing it. Because the president and the vice president were asking people to help.”

According to PoliticoGula also operates two more firms: “Prime Advocacy, which organizes Washington fly-ins for industry groups and others, and AMP, which he started last month to provide services for PACs.”

Gula told Politico he started the new business because he wanted to get out of campaign work.

Thomas told Politico that the new firm had already sold supplies to Georgia and other states. He added that police departments are “almost begging for supplies,” he said, according to Politico.

“I don’t want to overstate, but we probably represent the largest global supply chain for COVID-19 supplies right now,” Thomas told Politico. “We are getting ready to fill 100 million-unit mask orders.”

With the U.S. Justice Department setting up a new task force to look for incidents of price gougingThomas told Politico that he and Gula are “incredibly sensitive to gouging,” he said.

In a text message, a spokesman for Perry’s campaign said the York County lawmaker’s re-election effort was “notified of Mr. Gula’s decision at the same time that he apparently notified all of his clients. Mr. Gula’s term as a consultant ended with his notification to the campaign.”

The Pennsylvania Capitol building. (Capital-Star photo by Sarah Anne Hughes)

Our Stuff.
Capital-Star Washington Bureau Chief Robin Bravender leads our coverage this morning with an up-close look at the health threat that COVID-19 poses to the federal prison system and what steps are being taken to mitigate it.

Over the weekend, Staff Reporters Elizabeth Hardison and Stephen Caruso brought you the details on an emerging plan to ease the threat in Pennsylvania’s state prison system.

Associate Editor Cassie Miller runs down the latest in public sentiment on climate change in this week’s edition of The Numbers Racket.

On Sunday, Erie Correspondent Hannah McDonald brought you her interview with Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati, R-Jefferson, who has questions about the math behind a long-sought plan to bring a new community college to Erie County.

On our Commentary Page this morning, Tara Murtha of the Women’s Law Project has a few thoughts on a new movie depicting a Pennsylvania’s teen’s difficult quest to get an abortion.

En la Estrella-CapitalLos ingresos fiscales de Pensilvania bajaron en marzo, mientras que los funcionarios se preparan para un golpe mayor en el futuro por el COVID-19, por Stephen Caruso. Y activistas de inmigración piden a Wolf que libere a los detenidos del centro de ICE en el condado de Berks, por Michala Butler.

Elsewhere.
The Inquirer
 looks at the varying ways Gov. Tom Wolf, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo are handling the pandemic.
The state Supreme Court has rejected a request for the bulk release of county jail inmates, Pittsburgh City Paper reports.
Churches are ‘reeling’ as the COVID-19 outbreak hits Sunday collection plates, the AP reports (via the Morning Call).

Here’s your #Harrisburg Instagram of the Day:

The Wolf administration says ‘play alone’ parks can stay openWHYY-FM reports.
The PA Post looks at how grocery workers are handling the pandemic by spending the night at one central Pennsylvania store.
Homeless shelters nationwide are running out of supplies, money, and staffStateline.org reports.
The ever sensitive U.S. Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., has compared his home state’s homeless population, which is vulnerable to COVID-19, to the ‘zombie apocalypse,’ Talking Points Memo reports.

What Goes On
The House
and Senate both gavel in at 1 p.m. today. The Senate Appropriations Committee meets at the call of the chair.In the House, the Appropriations and State Government committees meet at the call of the chair.
Time TBD: Daily COVID-19 briefing.

You Say It’s Your Birthday Dept.
Super-ultra mega wicked best wishes go out this morning to Capital-Star Staff Reporter Stephen Caruso, who completes another voyage around the sun. Congratulations, sir.

Heavy Rotation.
Here’s an absolute pop classic from The Records. It’s Starry Eyes.’

Monday’s Gratuitous Hockey Link.
A trio of NHL players: New York Rangers’ Artemi PanarinSergei Bobrovsky of the Florida Panthers and Semyon Varlamov, along with his New York Islanders teammates have helped arrange the purchase of N95 masks for health care workers in their respective markets.

And now you’re up to date.