Back before Andrew Cuomo resigned in disgrace as the Governor of New York, one of the many legal issues dogging him was an order from the Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE) to return the $5 million dollar publisher’s advance he received for his hilariously titled (in retrospect) book, “American Crisis: Leadership Lessons from the COVID-19 Pandemic.” Cuomo refused, saying that everyone needed to hold off and wait for the release of a final report from State Attorney General Letitia James. JCOPE appeared to back off, partly because the original order called for the DA to determine out to enforce the order and reclaim the money, something James declined to do. But on Friday, the ethics watchdog issued a new order, once again calling on Cuomo to return the money and assigning someone else to figure out how to enforce it. (NY Post)
New York’s state ethics watchdog issued a new order Friday to try to force disgraced ex-Gov. Andrew Cuomo to return the $5 million in book profits he allegedly made on the back of taxpayers amid the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Joint Commission on Public Ethics resolution directly demands that Cuomo return the profits to his publisher Penguin/ Random House.
An original order JCOPE approved back in December tasked Attorney General Letitia James’ office with enforcement, including how to collect the money from Cuomo.
As I’ve written here in the past, no matter how icky you find the entire subject of Andrew Cuomo to be (and there are plenty of reasons to feel that way), I’m still not entirely convinced that they can make him cough up the book advance money or where the money should go if the state manages the feat. That was money that he earned outside of his taxpayer-funded gubernatorial salary which was put up by the publisher. They made the deal with him and went on to market and sell the book as planned, so why would they even deserve to get the money back? I suppose you could give the money to charity, but who would decide which charities should benefit from the windfall? Also, Cuomo was required to get JCOPE to approve the book deal by state law and they gave him that approval. I’m not sure how they can retroactively withdraw the approval after the deal was made and demand that he return the cash.
And even if we accept the JCOPE investigation’s findings that Cuomo improperly used staff time and resources to work on the book (and they found plenty of evidence to show that he did), that’s something that should have been punished under the normal rules of order through legislative hearings and charges of violations of ethics laws. None of that makes the reality of the book deal or the payment Cuomo received simply disappear.
Cuomo’s response to the new demand clearly shows that he has no intention of complying. His spokesman, Richard Azzopardi, called the event, “Another day, another display of incompetence by J-Joke’s kangaroo court.” He then threatened to take them to “real court.”
If nothing else, this will be one more bad headline that Cuomo didn’t need as he mounts his unbelievable attempt at a comeback. He’s making all of the moves you would expect from someone setting up a primary challenge to take back his old office. And we’re talking about a guy who needs a constant police escort to stop him from copping a feel on even more women. It would all be almost hilarious if it weren’t such a total embarrassment for the state of New York.