Last night, the Cuomo administration finally released documents to The Buffalo News regarding Governor Andrew Cuomo’s book American Crisis: Leadership Lessons from the Covid-19 Pandemic. Buffalo News reports that they requested the documents in August 2020; the administration had blamed multiple delays on COVID-19 and the fact that many Cuomo staffers were working from home, making it difficult to find the documents.
Conveniently, the documents were found and forwarded to Buffalo News just ninety minutes before the release of an explosive New York Times story that revealed the value of Cuomo’s book deal (a whopping $4 million) and that Cuomo heavily leaned on his office (both aides and junior staffers) for manuscript help, possibly violating state laws. Melissa DeRosa, Cuomo’s top aide, was collaborating with Cuomo on the book at the same time she helped craft the July 6 memo issued by the Department of Health, which severely misled the public in regard to the COVID-19 death toll in nursing homes. If you think that’s suspicious, you’re right.
The documents the Cuomo administration released to Buffalo News indicated Martin Levine, deputy general counsel at the Joint Commission on Public Ethics, approved Cuomo’s book on July 7 in a response to Judith Mogul, special counsel to Cuomo. The request was not approved by the JCOPE board; instead, it was approved by JCOPE staff. (Interestingly, Mogul, in seeking permission for American Crisis, cited the precedent of Cuomo’s 2014 memoir, All Things Popular, being approved by JCOPE; and that book deal was approved by the top staffer at JCOPE, a long-time Cuomo aide. Yikes!)
These documents don’t prove Cuomo’s actions were legal. One of JCOPE’s requirements for approval of the book deal: “The subject matter must be sufficiently unrelated to the governor’s official activities so that authorship or the advice or material provided in the book cannot be viewed as part of the governor’s job.” The documents also didn’t reveal exactly how much Cuomo was paid or is due in royalties for the book deal.
The conveniently timed release of these documents feels like a rush to control the narrative at a time when Cuomo’s is rapidly spiraling out. The Assembly Judiciary Committee has expanded the scope of their Cuomo impeachment probe to include questions about the memoir; this comes after multiple accusations of sexual harassment from former employees, the aforementioned nursing home scandal, and news that COVID testing sites were told to prioritize Cuomo’s friends. American Crisis indeed.