Ontario Independent

Tuesday, January 18, 2022

AG puts a halt to the effort to seize Cuomo’s book profits

Key takeaways:

  • As per the state attorney general’s office, the ethics commission needs to do more work if it wants to seize millions of dollars earned by former Gov. 

In a letter Thursday, the state attorney general’s office stated that the ethics commission has more work to do if it wants to seize millions of dollars earned by former Gov. Andrew Cuomo writing a book about the COVID-19 pandemic.

Cuomo was given 30 days by the Joint Commission on Public Ethics to turn over all money he received from a publisher for his book “American Crisis: Leadership Lessons from the COVID-19 Pandemic.”

Cuomo was found to have improperly gotten help from state employees to write and promote the book by the commission, which has regulatory oversight over lobbyists and government officials. As a result, he was forced to forfeit his earnings, totaling $5.1 million.

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In a letter to the commission on Thursday, the attorney general’s office said that more steps needed to be taken before it would get involved in trying to collect the money.

JCOPE would be required to submit an investigative report detailing which laws had been broken and the amounts and penalties it was seeking.

Any referral to the attorney general’s office should include “a record of the administrative process, and also the statutory authority for the decision, the amount of the imposed fines and penalties, and a determination concerning the appropriate amount of disgorgement attributable to the violation of law,” according to the letter.

The committee would also have to document any communications it had with Cuomo or his lawyers about the order and show that it had tried everything it could to collect the debt.

AG puts a halt to the attempt to seize Cuomo's book profits
AG puts a halt to the attempt to seize Cuomo’s book profits. image from WPMI

“It is thus premature to ask the OAG to begin collection efforts before a demand for payment is made to Mr. Cuomo or his counsel, and he has had an opportunity to address the demand,” the attorney general’s general counsel, Larry Schimmel, wrote in the letter.

Jim McGuire, Cuomo’s lawyer, who previously called the commission’s attempt to seize the book profits illegal, said the letter was yet another sign that JCOPE was acting illegally.

“JCOPE’s actions blatantly exceeded its statutory authority and violated fundamental constitutional rights,” McGuire said. “It’s unsurprising that the lawlessness of JCOPE’s latest illegal action is being recognized as such.”

Crown Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House, released “American Crisis” in October 2020. Cuomo resigned months later after allegations that he sexually harassed at least 11 women.

The commission’s staff approved Cuomo’s book deal in July 2020 after his lawyer stated that he would not use any state personnel or resources to produce the book and would write it “entirely on his own time.”

According to an investigation commissioned by the state Assembly, the book was prepared, written, edited, and published using state resources and personnel.

According to Cuomo’s spokespeople, any state employees who worked on the book did so independently, not during working hours.

Source: CTV News

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