On Wednesday, The New York Times reported that New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, used office staff to work on his memoir, American Crisis: Leadership Lessons from the COVID-19 Pandemic—which garnered a $4 million dollar book deal—in potential violation of ethics rules.
The Albany Times Union reports that when the governor had communicated plans to earn outside income from publishing a book, Judith Mogul, Cuomo's special counsel, had advised him that no "state property, personnel or other resources may be utilized" according to New York's long-standing ethics rules, which he had agreed to. Still, top aides like Melissa DeRosa (whose name might ring a bell if you've followed some of the many Cuomo scandals from earlier this year) were heavily involved in editing and pitching the book, and more junior aides were involved in typing notes for the governor and transcribing things he said, since he voice-dictated many parts of the book. The New York Times also reports that "a top aide to the governor, Stephanie Benton, twice asked assistants to print portions of the draft of the book, and deliver them to Mr. Cuomo at the Executive Mansion in Albany, where he lives."
Cuomo spokesman Rich Azzopardi told the Times Union that the Cuomo staffers who worked on the governor's memoir had volunteered their own time to do so, adding that there is "nothing in law or regulation that speaks to a ban on state workers volunteering for a for-profit venture — this simply is not legally a 'thing.'" (Cuomo's office did not respond to Reason's request for comment by time of publication.)
But those heading up the Cuomo impeachment investigation have decided to look into this further to discern whether state resources were improperly used for the governor to line his own pockets.
The governor has had waves of scandal washing over him in quick succession for the last few months; most recently, Cuomo got roundly lambasted when news surfaced that he had secured special treatment for his own family members and other well-connected VIPs during the early days of the pandemic. There's the most famous scandal—the March 25, 2020, directive which required nursing homes to admit or re-admit COVID-19 patients regardless of whether they'd tested negative for the virus—and the way the administration subsequently hid the true nursing home death count, which was about 40 percent higher than they had claimed. There's the much more underground scandal, that the governor issued an April 10 directive, in parallel to the March 25 one, which similarly prohibited residential facilities for adults with intellectual disabilities from turning away COVID-positive patients. There are the sexual harassment scandals that have emerged in recent weeks as nine women have come forward with allegations of inappropriate behavior, ranging from unwanted sexual comments all the way to groping and kissing. And, of course, the vaccine scandal where medical providers in the state were forced to throw away precious vaccine doses due to the threat of $1 million fines being levied if providers allowed anyone to hop the state-mandated vaccination line.
This guy is unsinkable. But then again, we're talking about someone who had both the extraordinary gall and terrifyingly large ego to write a book on just how great of a pandemic leader he was and make a fat advance off of it, while his state-employee "volunteers" scurried around to do his book bidding.
Maybe the real American Crisis is the fact that, though we tally up the manifold transgressions (maybe even crimes) of Andrew Cuomo, corrupt and inept leaders like him get to remain in office—and sell some books while they're at it.
Start your day with Reason. Get a daily brief of the most important stories and trends every weekday morning when you subscribe to Reason Roundup.