Andrew Cuomo Still Has $18 Million in Campaign Donations

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Posted: Aug 28, 2021 3:30 PM
Andrew Cuomo Still Has $18 Million in Campaign Donations

Source: AP Photo/Seth Wenig

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is now gone from office, though he still left a path of destruction in his wake, as described by Guy in his Thursday piece of "Andrew Cuomo's Final Indignities" on Thursday. A Friday edition of POLITICO Playbook had the scoop on more, with original emphasis:

CUOMO PLOTS HIS REVENGE — As governor of New York, ANDREW CUOMO was notorious among the Albany press corps for using the media as a tool to inspire fear and sow mayhem. He’d speak to reporters on background as a “senior administration official,” and use that anonymity to defend himself. He’d plant unsavory stories about political opponents. He’d get his aides to carry out his dirty work.

It’s an approach Cuomo plans to continue in life after office.       

What enables the former governor further is that Cuomo has $18 million leftover from what would have been his 2022 re-election campaign. 

Playbook reminds readers though that "revenge is Cuomo's hallmark." It cites Hank Sheinkopf, a political consultant who has worked both for and against Cuomo. "What is a man to do with $18 million, a lot of enemies and a desire for revenge?" he asked. "This is not a guy who forgets. The only question is when he tries to get even, and whether it’s upfront or behind the scenes." 

It's pointed out that there "are very few restrictions," on how Cuomo can spend his money, with Playbook listing examples such as hiring people who can help spin situations for him, pay his legal expenses, come up with a non-profit, do polling, as well as support or attack candidates. 

Phil Singer, a Democratic strategist who worked on Cuomo's 2010 and 2014 gubernatorial campaigns called the money "politically radioactive," speaking about other candidates who may benefit from Cuomo's cash. "Any politician who wants to benefit from it would have to be publicly reluctant to do so — even if they are privately excited about the cash infusion that it would provide," he said.

As John Campbell reported for USA Today earlier in the week, "Outgoing NY Gov. Andrew Cuomo won't run for office again, top aide says." That aide is Melissa DeRosa, who resigned earlier this month, as Reagan reported.

Rich Azzopardi, a spokesman for Cuomo, is also cited in Nick Reisman's piece for Spectrum News 1, when it comes to reiterating how Cuomo doesn't plan to run for office.

"As we already said, Governor Cuomo has no interest in running again, but that doesn’t mean we’re going to allow for deliberate misstatements about our administration to stand," Azzopardi said. "That being said it’s fascinating to know how much real estate we’re still taking up in people’s heads."

Azzopardi is also referenced in Playbook: 

Playbook has learned that RICH AZZOPARDI — Cuomo’s longtime spokesperson and senior adviser — is the former governor’s first big hire using the $18 million in leftover campaign cash the governor had amassed for his now-defunct reelection campaign — and which he now plans to use to mount a campaign of retribution against his perceived political enemies, including now-Gov. KATHY HOCHUL.

An update to Playbook included a statement from Azzopardi addressing his side of how he's acted with regards to Hochul. "I was trying to be helpful and aid in a transition and they seemed receptive. To spin this as somehow duplicitous is crazy. I wish them luck.”

That being said, Friday's Playbook still has people worried Cuomo will indeed actually run for office again. State Sen. Gustavo Rivera, a fellow Democrat who represents neighborhoods in the Bronx, pointed out Cuomo's "last two weeks in office [were] about trying to see if he could survive politically" and shared "What I am worried about is him making a comeback — period."

Perhaps the most obvious option of what to do with the money, is not included in the list above, which is to return it.

Local news coverage reports that State Sen. Liz Krueger, a fellow Democrat who represents Manhattan, has made such a suggestion. 

As Carl Campanile and Bernadette Hogan reported for The New York Post: 

Anticipating that Cuomo won’t relinquish the pile of cash so easily, State Sen. Liz Krueger (D-Manhattan) said donors should contact Cuomo’s campaign and ask for refunds.

“I urge all donors to Andrew Cuomo’s 2022 campaign to request refunds of their contributions. I also urge Mr. Cuomo to close his account and return all contributions voluntarily,” Krueger, chairwoman of the Senate Finance Committee said Friday.

“I suspect he will not, but should he refuse to do this, it is important for those who have supported the former governor in the past to understand that their money will now be used to lie about and attack his perceived enemies.

"Other former governors closed down their accounts shortly after leaving office," they also reported, including those who resigned over scandals of their own. 

Yet it doesn't seem entirely likely that Cuomo will return the money. "It would be the ethical thing to do for Cuomo to close the campaign account. But if Cuomo was ethical he might still be governor," John Kaehny, executive director of Reinvent Albany, is quoted as saying.