We Can Only Wonder? Could New York Claw-Back Cuomo’s 5 Million Book Advance

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We really want to believe in this story. It makes so much sense and we would be overjoyed if it actually happened. The New York state legislature has clearly had enough of him and we could see them successfully pulling this one off if it came down to it. The state’s public ethics panel is looking into his $5 million book advance and they are prepared to seize it if they can prove that he used state resources to write it. Fox News has more:

“Disgraced former Gov. Andrew Cuomo could be forced to return the royalties gained from his $5.1 million book deal if it’s determined that he violated New York law, the top official sitting on the state’s ethics agency told lawmakers in Albany on Wednesday.

State Sen. Dan Stec (R-Queensbury) grilled Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE) executive director Judge Sanford Berland during a state Senate Ethics Committee hearing as to whether or not the panel was empowered to claw back profits gained from Cuomo’s pandemic-era memoir, “American Crisis: Leadership Lessons and the COVID-19 Pandemic.”

“If the financial gain is significantly more than any fines or penalties [that] can be invoked, there’s an obvious encouragement for the behavior… if I get a $5,000 fine for a $5 million book deal — that’s not much of a deterrent. So I guess my question is, again, hypothetically, if financial gain is significant, is there a mechanism for JCOPE to claw back beyond just a standard fine or penalty, but the actual gain itself?” probed Stec.

Berland replied that the statute does provide “for a penalty that includes recoupment of the compensation or benefits received by the individual.”

Is JCOPE going to take this type of action at this point? First, they are going to have to establish that Cuomo was responsible for using state resources. That should not be too difficult. Legal action could be initiated here but we are willing to bet that it would take a while. At this point, the state may dig in their heels and go right head.

Cuomo has left a trail of embarrassment in his wake, so the state is not going to be as inclined to look the other way on his malfeasance as they once were. There is some crucial context missing from the Fox News report, too. JCOPE has been useless when it comes to dealing with statewide corruption. In fact, JCOPE may be disbanded, in favor of a newer body that is actually willing to tackle these problems. Per the Daily Star:

“At a hearing Wednesday organized by Sen. Alessandra Biaggi, D-the Bronx, lawmakers scrutinized the record of the Joint Commission on Public Integrity, which monitors lobbying activity and investigates complaints of ethical lapses and sexual harassment.

“It is no secret to any of us here that Albany has a long history riddled with corruption and abuses of power, and it has long been subject to scrutiny for its failure to implement an effective ethical oversight regime,” Biaggi said.

JCOPE would be scrapped under a constitutional amendment plan advanced by Sen. Liz Krueger, D-Manhattan, and a new entity would then be set up that, at least in theory, would not be subject to the level of political interference that sullied JCOPE’s reputation. That process could take a few years, at least.”

This is JCOPE’s big chance. They can finally prove that they are worth saving. If they are able to successfully raid the former governor’s personal account, this goes a long way towards establishing their level of usefulness. We are not about to get our hopes up all that high but it is good to see them taking these types of steps.

If only they had taken the Cuomo corruption more seriously when he was actually in office! We are willing to bet that they wish they had a time machine at this point. JCOPE’s got the perfect opportunity in front of them and we hope that they decide to take the hero’s route.

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