New York AG Issues Subpoena to Ethics Agency in Cuomo Book Deal Investigation

New York Attorney General Letitia James has issued at least one subpoena in connection with an inquiry into the potential use of public funds to promote former Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s book. According to the Times Union, James filed the subpoena to the state Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE) for data on the book, “American Crisis: Leadership Lessons from the COVID-19 Pandemic” as part of her inquiry into the former governor’s suspected misuse of state resources.

Several Cuomo aides reportedly contributed to the book’s creation, including editing it. Lower-level state employees were tasked with mundane project chores. Some employees said that their assignments were not voluntary but rather a part of their regular job obligations. Last year, at least two junior workers assigned to book-related activities were paid significant overtime, but Cuomo’s administration claimed the overtime was linked to government work.

Following a March 31 complaint from watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), Attorney General James received a referral from New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli to investigate whether Governor Cuomo used public resources to help develop and promote his book. Cuomo is expected to make over $5 million from the book and maintains that his staff volunteered to help with the project. However, his office has acknowledged that some “incidental” use of public resources may have been.

CREW claims that “Cuomo for New York appears to have converted campaign funds to personal use by promoting sales of Governor Cuomo’s book through emails and social media posts. A campaign’s mailing list is an asset that has value — those lists are regularly sold or rented. By using its mailing list to promote sales of the book, Cuomo for New York used campaign funds for Governor Cuomo’s personal benefit.”

As the JCOPE is faced with a subpoena from the AG, it considers whether to go forward with an investigation of ex-Gov. Andrew Cuomo, lawmakers, and watchdog groups have called for Governor Hochul to fill at least two seats on the ethics board left vacant by Cuomo appointees, ex-chair Camille Varlack and Commissioner Daniel Horwitz. Commissioner James Dering is also expected to step down in October.

In July, the JCOPE launched an investigation into Cuomo after his advisor, Larry Schwartz, allegedly called a group of Democratic county executives to ask if they would call for the then-governor to resign as he battled multiple scandals. Some of the leaders complained that Schwartz’s calls were “loyalty tests” and that access to vaccines would depend upon their response. Cuomo’s lawyer, Beth Garvey, said that Schwartz’s intentions were misrepresented for headlines. Schwartz has denied connecting vaccination availability to political support for Cuomo.

In his final months as governor, Cuomo was accused of wrongdoing, including accusations that he instructed health authorities to provide his inner circle privileged access to Covid-19 testing and suppressed the state’s coronavirus death toll in nursing homes, among others other allegations. He continues to deny all charges of misconduct.

While allegations of sexual harassment ultimately brought down Cuomo, he, along with several other Democrat governors, have still managed to avoid consequences for their poor handling of the pandemic regarding nursing homes.


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