Out of the office, Cuomo uses the power of the campaign account


During his decade as governor of New York City, Andrew Cuomo wielded almost unchallenged power in the halls of the State Capitol.

Now a private citizen, Cuomo no longer has the attributes of office. But he still retains an $ 18 million prize pool from his days as a prodigious fundraiser. He is using the money to pay lawyers and former advisers as part of a public and private defense effort amid a cascade of ongoing criminal and civil investigations at the local, state and federal levels.

The campaign device was also used this week to promote and endorse an editorial by a supporter and lawyer who worked for the late Governor Mario Cuomo who called the process that led to Cuomo’s resignation last month a “coup.” of State “. . “

Cuomo, who resigned on Aug. 24, said in July that he spent $ 285,000 on campaign donations. It is likely that more money has been spent since then. This week, Spectrum 1 News reported that Gov. Kathy Hochul’s office blocked the use of public funds to pay lawyers for former Cuomo administration officials.

While the use of campaign funds to pay attorney fees is common, Cuomo’s use of campaign money to respond to the myriad of inquiries and wage a public battle and continues in the court of public opinion is unusual, said Blair Horner of New York Public Interest. Research group.

“It’s a crazy system. The electoral board should weigh in,” Horner said. “They should reject these expenses and the legislature should set the law so that campaign contributions cannot be used for nothing, just to campaign.”

A state election spokesperson said Thursday afternoon that no advisory opinion had been issued by the board of directors on how Cuomo was using campaign money. No request for an advisory opinion from the Cuomo campaign was made either.

“We follow all applicable laws and standards,” said Rich Azzopardi, spokesperson for the former governor.

Cuomo resigned days after the publication of a report revealing that he had sexually harassed 11 women. The report, released by Attorney General Letitia James’s office, was the culmination of a months-long independent investigation into a cascade of allegations in Cuomo by several women.

But Cuomo continues to be the subject of multiple investigations, including one led by the office of Albany County Sheriff Craig Apple over allegations he groped a woman in the governor’s mansion. The U.S. Attorney’s Office has also launched a criminal investigation into the state’s tabulation of nursing home deaths and the whereabouts of those residents.

James’s office is also studying Cuomo’s use of government resources to write a book on the COVID-19 pandemic. Since the spring, the Assembly Judiciary Committee has been conducting an investigation with the help of an outside law firm that has sparked multiple controversies that Cuomo has faced this year. A report is expected next week.

John Kaehny, executive director of the good governance organization Reinvent Albany, said ethics oversight bodies in state government had long-standing concerns about the use of the money from the campaign for legal fees. The state limits former public servants’ campaign money for things like parties or luxuries like cars and boats.

“They fear that this ex-governor who is dishonored and turns into this $ 18 million madman who cuts and burns the entire political firmament of New York State,” Kaehny said.

In the past few days, Cuomo’s allies have sought to question the fairness of the report, questioning whether state lawmakers received preferential COVID-19 testing when supplies were scarce, as Cuomo allegedly would. made for his family.

Cuomo spokesperson Azzopardi also released a statement from Glavin that highlighted the use of government aids to help campaign for lawmakers, making an indirect comparison to the book’s controversy in connection with a response to the Assembly’s inquiry.

The legislative report could detail the ways in which administration officials broke the laws, according to lawmakers on the Judicial Committee.

The report could also corroborate investigations into allegations of sexual harassment as well as nursing home data reports, Kaehny said.

“It’s also important to Kathy Hochul because she is pushing for a more ethical and normal government than the mad bullying we saw under Cuomo,” he said.

The Cuomo campaign’s social media presence, meanwhile, was also put to good use. Wednesday evening, the countryside Promoted Twitter Account an editorial by lawyer David Pikus, who had worked on Mario Cuomo’s campaign as a volunteer. The entire opinion piece was then sent to supporters in an email by the campaign.

The editorial in large part delved into many talking points Cuomo and his allies have made publicly: hitting “cancel” culture and blaming “socialist” lawmakers for turning allegations of sexual harassment into a weapon.

But Pikus’ editorial also went further, accusing Albany lawmakers of carrying out a “coup” against Cuomo.

Governor Kathy Hochul, who was elected alongside Cuomo in 2014 and 2018 as lieutenant governor, has ignored the opinion as noise.

“Don’t affect me,” she said. “People will say whatever they want, they can guess what they want. I just won’t be distracted by the chatter that’s here now, it could escalate.”

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