Former New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has been ordered to turn over the proceeds from his pandemic book deal – an estimated $5.1 million – to the state Attorney General’s office within the next 30 days, following a probe by a state ethics panel.
The profits from Cuomo’s ‘American Crisis: Leadership Lessons from the COVID-19 Pandemic’ came into question in October when the Empire State’s Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE) announced that it was conducting an internal inquiry that was reassessing its initial approval of Cuomo’s 2020 book.
The ethics agency commission voted 12-1 on Tuesday to order the ousted governor to fork over his memoir’s profits to the state Attorney General’s office after multiple investigations found Cuomo used state resources to produce and promote the tell-all book.
‘Gov. Cuomo is not legally entitled to retain compensation… for any form of outside activity related to the book,’ commissioner David McNamara, a Senate Republican appointee, said.
The ruling puts state Attorney General Letitia James in the hot seat, after her office’s investigative report into a slew of sexual harassment allegations leveled against the then-governor by several current and former staffers, forced the disgraced Democrat to resign over the summer.
Now, James is poised to determine how to redistribute the book’s profits – whether it be to the state, the publisher or some other body. The situation is further complicated by the fact that Cuomo has already placed $1 million of the book’s proceeds in a trust for his three daughters and donated another $500,000 to charity.
The ruling comes as the latest blow to the Cuomo family, following newscaster Chris Cuomo’s highly publicized firing from his $6million-a-year CNN gig earlier this month for helping his brother Andrew battle sexual harassment allegations.
Moments before the decision on Tuesday, an attorney for Cuomo announced that his office would be mounting a legal challenge to the panel’s order for his client to return the proceeds from the self-penned book.
Cuomo had touted himself as a hero in regards to his handling of the pandemic despite being embroiled in a scandal over New York’s nursing home deaths to COVID – a number that his administration misrepresented, according to reports.
After analyzing the methods Cuomo used to prepare the tell-all, the ethics agency voted to revoke its prior approval of the book – which allowed the governor to earn outside income from its sales while in office, concluding that Cuomo violated pledges to not use state resources or government staffers during its preparation.
Tuesday’s resolution, drafted by McNamara, states that Cuomo now ‘lacked the legal authority to engage in outside activity and receive compensation in regard to the book’ after JCOPE rescinded its initial approval last month.
‘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,’ the panel’s resolution states.
Crown Publishing had offered the former governor more than $5 million for the manuscript – a risk at the time considering Cuomo’s previous memoir sold fewer than 4,000 hardcover copies. But the then-governor was receiving ample attention from the media over his handling of the pandemic and touted himself as a hero.
Tax records show he received the bulk of his advance, $3.12 million, in 2020 and was expected to receive an additional $2 million in installments over two years. Crown has since stopped promoting the book following the New York nursing home and sexual harassment scandals. It had also canceled plans for a paperback edition.
In April, the former governor said he put $1 million of the proceeds from the book into a trust fund for his three daughters and donated $500,000 to non-profit fundraising affiliate United Way, Spectrum reported. It’s so far unknown how Cuomo is going to give back such funds.