Is the Love Gov trying to set a world record for number of concurrent scandals? The New York Times reported last night that Andrew Cuomo got paid $4 million for his auto-hagiography, American Crisis, but the scandal involved how the book got produced. The governor put his staff to work in editing the book — staff paid by New York taxpayers to do it gratis, in another example of Cuomo’s conversion of public resources for private gain.
And of course, while they edited and researched Cuomo’s book, they also edited state health department reports to cover up nursing-home deaths:
The book, “American Crisis: Leadership Lessons from the Covid-19 Pandemic,” was a dramatic retelling of the battle against the virus in a state where nearly 50,000 people have died. It would garner Mr. Cuomo a fleeting spot on the best-seller list.
Emails and an early draft of Mr. Cuomo’s book obtained by The New York Times indicate that the governor was writing it as early as mid-June, relying on a cadre of trusted aides and junior staffers for everything from full-scale edits to minor clerical work, potentially running afoul of state laws prohibiting use of public resources for personal gain.
One aide to the governor, speaking on the condition of anonymity for fear of retaliation, said that she and others were also asked to assist in typing or transferring notes for Mr. Cuomo’s book, which he composed in part by dictating into a cellphone.
“Sorry lady can u print this too and put in a binder,” Ms. Benton wrote to another female staffer on July 5, a Sunday. “And drop at mansion.”
Ms. DeRosa, the highest nonelected official in Mr. Cuomo’s office, was particularly involved with the development of the book, and was present during some online pitch meetings with Mr. Cuomo. The July 5 request, in fact, was to print a 224-page draft entitled “MDR edits” — a reference to Ms. DeRosa, who had sent the draft to Ms. Benton on July 4, according to the emails.
The NYT also hints that the advance might itself be a bit scandalous. The publisher, Crown, declined to comment on how they came up with that figure, but the Times points out that Cuomo’s previous book only sold 4,000 copies in hardcover. It’s curious, but it’s tough to see how that would be a vector for yet another line of corruption — although given Cuomo’s recently revealed and myriad levels of sliminess, one can understand why the thought would occur. It’s much more likely that Crown saw Cuomo becoming a media darling, thanks to the national media’s narrative-building around Cuomo as the national anti-Trump, and thought they could cash in on it. All publishers use this celebrity strategy, so it’s not unusual, even if the amount here might be curious. At least for a while, it seemed that the investment might pay off too, but Cuomo blew it in more ways than one. (Full disclosure: my book was also published by Crown.)
The new scandal described by the NYT is the same type as the most recent scandal — conversion of public resources for private use. The state of New York has a specific law against what Cuomo allegedly did here, which the NYT notes, but it would be an ethical violation even if the statute didn’t exist. Put simply, Cuomo stole resources in the form of public-employee time for the purpose of earning the $4 million advance from Crown for his book. It’s very similar to allegations that Cuomo stole resources from the state’s pandemic effort to benefit his brother Chris, other family members, friends, and allies. If all these allegations are true, then Cuomo clearly thinks that the assets placed at his disposal as a public servant are for his own personal benefit rather than provided by taxpayers for their benefit. (And one can even extrapolate that to Cuomo’s allegedly predatory behavior among the public employees who worked for him.)
Any one of these scandals would be grounds for booting Cuomo out of office. Having all of them unfold at once almost makes one wonder what else Cuomo might be hiding, and even perhaps grudgingly hopes he sticks around juuuuuust long enough to make sure all of his abuses come to light.