Former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo was ordered by the state’s ethics commission to return millions of dollars paid to him by a publisher to write a book about his response to the coronavirus pandemic, during which time the disgraced Democrat was busy endangering senior citizens’ lives, sexually harassing women, and using state personnel and resources to pen his tall tales.
Cuomo’s lawyer immediately called the action unconstitutional and promised a fight. According to multiple media reports, Cuomo was directed to turn over proceeds from “American Crisis: Leadership Lessons from the COVID-19 Pandemic” within 30 days under a resolution approved 12-1 by the Joint Commission on Public Ethics.
The order came a month after the commission voted to revoke Cuomo’s ethics approval as he entered into the $5.1 million book deal. Cuomo acknowledged that state employees helped with tasks such as manuscript editing. However, he claims that those employees were doing so voluntarily.
Cuomo’s camp instantly challenged the commission’s authority, preparing the ground for a lengthy legal battle.
“JCOPE’s actions today are unconstitutional, exceed its own authority, and appear to be driven by political interests rather than the facts and the law,” Cuomo attorney Jim McGuire said in a prepared statement. “Should they seek to enforce this action, we’ll see them in court.”
A spokesperson for the attorney general’s office, which would enforce the order, said they are reviewing the commission’s vote “and determining how best to move forward.”
Efforts to claw back the funds may be complicated, in part because Cuomo has already given $1.5 million to a charity and a trust for his three daughters.
Cuomo revealed in May that he was paid a $3.1 million advance to write the book and that he would be paid another $2 million over the next two years under the publishing contract. Cuomo spokesman Richard Azzopardi said at the time that after taxes and expenses, Cuomo made $1.5 million on the book last year, with $500,000 of the profits going to the United Way of New York State. The rest was placed in a trust for his daughters.
Cuomo and Crown spokespeople did not respond to emails asking if Cuomo had received additional funds for the book beyond the initial $3.1 million.
A separate state Assembly investigation, released last month, found evidence that Cuomo, who resigned in August under the threat of impeachment, had his staff dedicate significant time to the project.
Investigators spoke with junior and senior staff members who said they were asked to perform book tasks during their workdays, such as transcribing dictations, printing and delivering documents, and attending meetings with agents and publishers. According to the legislative report, one senior state official sent and received 1,000 emails about the book.