Former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has used state funds for a book for which he was paid $5.1 million, according to a law firm report.
New York’s soon-to-be-defunct ethics committee, the Joint Commission on Public Ethics, voted Thursday to release the report. It had requested the law firm’s investigation to learn more about how the book trade was approved and the role played by the commission itself.
The report states that the ethics committee failed to assert itself as a watchdog against the governor and should have sought more information from Cuomo’s office.
Cuomo had already written 70,000 words of a projected 80,000-word book before submitting a 2020 application to the Joint Commission on Public Ethics for the book’s approval.
That meant Cuomo was writing and publishing the book at a time when it interfered with his responsibilities as governor leading the state’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the report said.
In December, the commission ordered Cuomo to hand over money from his book, American Crisis: Leadership Lessons from the COVID-19 Pandemic. Cuomo has filed a lawsuit accusing the commission of violating his rights and showing bias against him.
The commission is being dissolved by Gov. Kathy Hochul, like Cuomo, a Democrat, over concerns about its transparency and independence. The Commission is exempt from the Freedom of Information Act and the Open Meetings Act and consists of 11 members appointed by the Governor.
Cuomo spokesman Richard Azzopardi said in a statement that the report provided a degree of justification by confirming that the governor’s office provided everything needed by the commission for approval.
“There’s something poetic about the fact that this flimsy stunt — penned by the very law firm representing JCOPE in our lawsuit — is the final act of this incompetent, biased, bill-settling dinosaur of a bureaucracy,” he said.
Meanwhile, the attorney general’s office continues to investigate whether Cuomo broke the law by assisting members of his staff to write and market his book on pandemic leadership. Attorney General Letitia James’ office said on Friday that the investigation, which began in April 2021, is still ongoing.
Former special counsel in the governor’s office, Judith Mogul, said in a memo detailing their interactions that no government resources were used to write the book and that all staff who assisted the former governor with the book said so in their free time did the ethics committee.
The report said the book raised several ethical questions, noting that Cuomo “abused the power and authority of his office to seek, market, and promote tremendous personal gain.”
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