Andrew Cuomo ordered to return around $5M in profits from pandemic book, here’s why

NY State Commission orders disgraced ex-Gov to turn over proceeds to the AG's office within 30 days, amounts to over $5 million


                            Andrew Cuomo ordered to return around $5M in profits from pandemic book, here’s why
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo gives his a press briefing about the coronavirus crisis on April 17, 2020 in Albany, New York. (Matthew Cavanaugh/Getty Images)

Despite having retired from public life, ex-New York Governor Andrew Cuomo continually finds himself in the spotlight. In early December, he was back in the news after the firing of his brother Chris Cuomo from CNN. Then on December 14, it emerged that the New York State Commission wanted Cuomo to turn over all the proceeds from his pandemic time book 'American Crisis: Leadership Lessons from the COVID-19 Pandemic'.

Before the sexual harassment allegations derailed his Governorship, Cuomo was widely praised for his handling of the pandemic in its early days. In fact, he even received an Emmy Award for his Covid-19 briefings, before scandal after scandal emerged. First, in March, it was revealed he had his friends and family tested on priority. Then, he was accused of covering up the actual death toll at NY nursing homes, which eventually snowballed into the harassment controversy and led to his ousting. 

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But before he left office in disgrace, Cuomo also penned a memoir about his efforts to combat Covid-19, with New York facing the worst of the crisis during wave 1. However, it has now emerged that he violated state ethics codes to do so, and the state isn't happy. They've asked for all the money back, but as usual, Cuomo intends to put up a fight.

The cover of Andrew Cuomo's 'American Crisis' book which is at the center of the new scandal. (Barnes & Noble via Twitter)

 

Why was Cuomo ordered to turn over cash?

According to New York's Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCPE), when Cuomo first announced he was writing the book, he promised to do so on his own time and dime. However, after it was released in October 2020, it emerged Cuomo had broken that promise. Reportedly, he used government staffers and state resources, including having his own staff members participate in a fact-checking session at the Albany governor's mansion. 

It's unclear when this happened, but on learning about it, the ethics committee voted to revoke its approval of the project. They furthermore alleged that the subject of the book was supposed to be about his life in politics, not "related to his job responsibilities" as it turned out to be. He also told the committee he would be authoring the book "in the near future", when in fact it was "completed or substantially completed prior to the issuance of the Conditional Approval Letter."

Since it appears he broke his promises, and violated the ethics committee's approval, the JCPE wants Cuomo to cough up. "It is ordered that by no later than 30 days from the date of this resolution, Gov. Cuomo pay over to the attorney general of the State of New York an amount equal to the compensation paid to him for his outside activities related to the book," their order reads.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo takes questions from reproters during a press conference at the Javits Center in Manhattan on May 11, 2021 in New York City. (Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images)

 

'We'll see them in court'

It's unclear how much exactly Crown Publishing Group paid Cuomo for the book, but his financial disclosure forms reveal the deal to be worth $5.1 million. It's unclear what options the JCPE has to recoup the money, and even if they can. Reportedly, Cuomo has donated $500,000 to the United Way and put another $1 million into a trust for his daughters from the money he received. He reportedly received a $3.12 million advance in 2020, with the remaining $2 million to come in installments over two years.

Cuomo's attorney Jim McGuire responded by telling The New York Times, "JCOPE’s actions today are unconstitutional, exceed its own authority, and appear to be driven by political interests rather than the facts and the law. Should they seek to enforce this action, we'll see them in court." 

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