There are now four ongoing investigations into Gov. Cuomo. The latest addition is an investigation by New York’s attorney general into the production of Gov. Cuomo’s pandemic book. As Ed pointed out earlier this month, the governor got a lot of help on his manuscript from people in his office, some of whom were asked to proofread and give notes and others of whom were asked to type up the thoughts he had dictated into a personal recorder. All of these people were on the state’s payroll which raises questions about the extent to which taxpayers paid to produce the book.
Cuomo’s office had an answer ready for that that question. Allegedly all of the work done on his book was done on a volunteer basis, meaning no government resources were put into the creation of a book clearly designed to personally enrich the governor. But is that true? Last week there were already some whispers that the work wasn’t entirely voluntary:
Several current and former Cuomo staffers, or people speaking on their behalf, disputed that their work on “American Crisis” last year was truly voluntary. Instead, they told the Times Union the work was expected within the culture of Cuomo’s office, and that book-related assignments were made in the context of normal, daily duties.
One former staffer, who was among those asked to perform tasks related to Cuomo’s book, said there was a “clear expectation that we would do political work to help with his campaign and run the governor’s personal errands in the Executive Chamber.”
“It was not optional,” said the former staffer, who spoke on condition of not being identified. “It was considered a part of your job. Everyone knew that you did what was asked of you and opting-out was never really an option.”
If opting out of these assignments wasn’t an option then the governor misused public resources. That’s what the attorney general is now going to investigate:
The investigation was opened after Letitia James, the attorney general, received a formal referral letter from the state comptroller, Thomas P. DiNapoli, saying that a criminal investigation was warranted.
The new line of scrutiny seemed to exacerbate the widening rift among New York’s leading Democrats, as Mr. Cuomo’s office pushed back forcefully on Monday, describing the inquiry as a politically motivated attack — by members of the governor’s own party.
The governor’s office suggested that Ms. James and Mr. DiNapoli, both Democrats, had acted to sabotage his political future in favor of their own.
“We have officially jumped the shark — the idea there was criminality involved here is patently absurd on its face and is just the furthering of a political pile-on,” Richard Azzopardi, a senior adviser to Mr. Cuomo, said.
Things are pretty bad when the governor’s people are suggesting he’s the victim of a plot by…fellow Democrats. As Jazz pointed out yesterday, Cuomo’s favorability numbers continue to sink but a slim majority (51%) still thinks he should not resign. Maybe New Yorkers have bought into Cuomo’s demand that the investigation be allowed to reach a conclusion before they make up their minds or maybe Democrats are remembering how much they regret the resignation of Sen. Al Franken. Whatever the case, it seems Cuomo still had time on his side.
Then again, maybe this new investigation will be the last straw. We’ve all seen Democrats choose to ignore sexual misbehavior by their party’s leaders for decades, so that’s nothing new. But misuse of government resources is more clear cut. It’s less like Clintonian sleaze and more like standard political corruption. Maybe the governor’s ongoing benefit of the doubt from New Yorkers is finally about to wear off.