State lawmakers should be going full-bore to recover the $5.1 million former Gov. Andrew Cuomo is making from the sale of his poorly received, premature brag book: “American Crisis: Leadership Lessons and the COVID-19 Pandemic.”
Cuomo certainly has a right to write a book about his experiences in office. He just doesn’t have a right to profit from his service while in office while using taxpayer resources.
When talking about recovering Cuomo’s profits, we rightly focus on his alleged use of government staff to research, write and edit the book.
But what about the time Cuomo himself devoted to writing the book and managing the steps to get it published — time for which taxpayers were paying him to address the covid crisis and the state’s many other problems?
The question then becomes how exactly to go about recouping the taxpayers’ investment, beyond tracking the former governor down at his sister’s house and asking him to write New York a check.
One question that federal and state investigators are exploring is the process by which Cuomo received state approval to enter into the book deal in the first place.
The state’s ineffective ethics commission, JCOPE, gave him permission. But did members follow proper procedure when doing so?
If it’s determined JCOPE did not to follow proper procedure, officials should move to revoke its approval.
Officials are also looking into the use of government staff in the creation of the book. Even if the original JCOPE approval turns out to be legal, that could negate the terms of the approval.
There also could be other complex legal impediments of which we’re not aware, that could make it difficult, if not impossible, for citizens to recover the governor’s compensation. They need to be fully explored so that this doesn’t devolve into an expensive court case.
And what happens if the state is able to recover the money? Where should it go?
Some, like Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara, have suggested the money be donated to “his victims and women’s rights organizations.” But there are many other “victims” of Cuomo’s actions, including the families of those who died in nursing homes due to his policies.
If taxpayer dollars were used to create the book, then taxpayers should be first in line to get a share of the profits to compensate them for what they paid out.
If the money is returned to the state’s general fund, lawmakers could then direct an equal sum to victims of covid, sexual harassment or other worthy causes.
What matters most here is that Cuomo shouldn’t get to profit from his public work while in office, and state officials need to aggressively work to recoup the money he made.