Chris’s scandal may be more embarrassing, but Andrew’s latest problem may be more expensive.
In July 2020, then-New York Governor Cuomo, riding high in the public eye, asked the state ethics panel for permission to write a book about his leadership during the pandemic.
I must interject here that such books are virtually always unethical, often in multiple ways. I say “virtually” because there really may be some instance, buried deeply in the sands of time, when a book written while a popular elected official (or a First Lady) was in office and published with that official’s name as the author was really written by the official in his or her spare time, wasn’t just a government-funded campaign and propaganda tool, and also didn’t provide a way for supporters both individual and corporate to launder contributions. Maybe, but I doubt it.
For one thing, if an elected official spends any time at all writing a book during his or her work day, he or she is getting paid by taxpayers to do work that primarily benefits the official. Books are hard. Books take time. Trust me on this, I’ve co-written one, and would have five more (I have the titles and outlines!) out there if I could get out of my own way. But my time is my own: I don’t bill clients for writing this blog, and any time I spend writing a book is time I don’t get paid for. Governors, like Presidents, are paid to be on-duty every waking hour.
In Cuomo’s case, a staff member at the ethics commission reviewed the request and issued an authorization; no vote was taken. In other words, the book was rubber-stamped. Why? It was rubber-stamped because Cuomo was powerful in the state, has the instincts and ethics alarms of a Mafia Don, is infamously ruthless, the public thinks such books are hunky-dory because they don’t understand what they represent, and it wasn’t worth the risks to tick off the Governor.
In considering this, it is vital to realize that ethics commissions, ethics committees and ethics advisors related to the government, any government, are driven by politics at least as often as ethics and probably more depending on the body. This is New York. Res ipsa loquitur.
So was Cuomo’s book unethical? Of course it was. It was definitely more unethical in one respect than most such books: it was a big lie, indeed part of a cover-up. The book was a way for Cuomo to cash in on the national fame he acquired when New York became Wuhan Virus Central, but he had to do it quickly, because the Iceman Cometh: Cuomo’s policy of stashing sick seniors in nursing homes had killed thousands, and the bill would soon come due, as indeed it did.
What became a 320-page memoir was written exactly when Cuomo’s aides rewrote a key report from the state Health Department to hide the nursing home carnage. Now a State Assembly investigation is looking at whether there was any link between his administration’s undercounting of nursing home deaths and the whitewashing executed by Cumo’s book.
Andrew Cuomo is a pariah now you see, thanks to the same sexual harassment scandal that has derailed, one hopes forever, brother “Fredo’s” career. His power is gone, so the members of the ethics commission woke up one day shocked—shocked!—that Cuomo had promised them his book would be as pure as the driven snow, when in fact it was a money-making political prop like every other similar book. SHOCKED!
While governor, Cuomo refused for months to reveal how much he had been paid by Crown Books, his publisher. Then in May of this year,his financial disclosures showed Cuomo would earn more than $5 million from the book, which is titled “American Crisis: Leadership Lessons From the Covid-19 Pandemic.” He received $3.12 million last year from Crown and netted about $1.5 million after taxes. Cuomo donated $500,000 to charity, which is a standard ploy in the Politician Book Scam Manual. Looks good, keeps the metaphorical bloodhounds off the trail.
But you have to stay in power!
Now that Cuomo can’t hurt them, The Joint Commission on Public Ethics is accusing Cuomo of essentially obtaining its approval approval under false pretenses, like promising not to use state resources toward completion of the memoir. (As I said already, state resources are always used to write such books, and every member of the commission knew it when they gave Cuomo the green light.) “Contrary to the representations made on behalf of Governor Cuomo and not disclosed to the commission, state property, resources and personnel, including staff volunteers, were used in connection with the preparation, writing, editing and publication of the book,” stated a resolution approved by a 12-to-1 vote.
The commission was also suddenly sensitive to the fact that Cuomo’s request for the ethics commission’s approval came after the book was substantially finished, and that the full financial details of the deal and contract were not revealed at the time of the initial approval. Hilarious: whose fault was that? How hard was it to say, “Governor, we can’t possibly approve this book until we see the contract”?
Ooh, but that might have made Cuomo mad, and none of the members wanted to wake up with a horse’s head in their beds.
In a statement, Cuomo called the decision as “the height of hypocrisy” and “a political game.” He’s right about that.
Post Script: The book is a bomb, and Crown has canceled any promotion and any plans for a paperback version.