Ethics Committee Votes To Strip Andrew Cuomo Of $5.1 Million In Memoir Proceeds
The New York State Joint Commission on Public Ethics decided on Tuesday that former Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo must forfeit the $5.1 million that he profited from his memoir, American Crisis: Leadership Lessons from the Covid-19 Pandemic. He has 30 days to comply with the order, or the state attorney general will pursue forfeiture measures against him.
In the span of four months, the once-revered governor suffered a major fall from grace. He was accused of groping an aide in the Executive Mansion, as well as of underreporting the deaths of Covid-19 in nursing homes. He resigned from office and remains in legal battles over the allegations.
The state ethics board revoked Cuomo’s book deal last month. On Tuesday, it voted 12-1 to strip Cuomo of the proceeds from the book.
Commissioner Richard Braun, who voted in favor of the measure, defended it as the logical consequence of their earlier decision. He said, “It would be inequitable for us to revoke the approval for the governor’s book deal and for him to still keep the funds.”
The lone dissenter, William Fisher, appointed by Cuomo, argued that the measure is unprecedented, and that the board lacked sufficient legal authority for the demand.
The ethics board made its decision after arguing that Cuomo had received his book authorization under false pretenses. In the application for the book’s approval, his lawyer had promised that “no state property, personnel or other resources may be utilized for activities associated with the book.” However, the ethics committee argues that he violated this promise because he received help from executive staff. According to a report by investigators, one aide sent or received over 300 emails, and another aide sent or received more than 1,000 messages.
Cuomo has denied using government resources inappropriately. His team has suggested that the volunteer assistance on his book is virtually identical to the volunteer work of legislative staffers on political campaigns.
The former governor plans to challenge the order. Jim McGuire, one of his lawyers, said in a statement, “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. Should they seek to enforce this action, we’ll see them in court.”
Various aspects of enforcing the resolution remain unclear. The office of the state attorney general will need to decide who would receive the money, whether it would be seized by the state or whether it would return to the book publisher, Crown.
The issue is further complicated by the fact that Cuomo has already donated $500,000 of the proceeds to charity, United Way of New York State, which combats the Covid-19 pandemic. He also placed $1 million into a trust for his three children.