No matter how hard New Yorkers want to keep former disgraced Governor Andrew Cuomo in our past, we are reminded of his deeds repeatedly, and not solely from his policies that current Governor, Kathy Hochul, endorses.
We are reminded again that New York is the Capital of a two-tiered system of ethics. When Andrew Cuomo was still in office, he was the media darling of the COVID-19 crisis. So much so that he even “wrote” a book about his “sterling” leadership. In 2020, after allegedly getting tacit approval from the joke organization known as the NYS Joint Commission of Ethics, (JCOPE), Cuomo was given a $5 million advance for its publication.
On his way out the door in November of 2021, JCOPE, scrambling to divorce itself from Cuomo’s various ethical issues, approved a resolution 12-1 to rescind its decision allowing Cuomo to write “American Crisis: Leadership Lessons from the COVID-19 Pandemic” while he was Governor and while New York was still battling the pandemic.
The resolution stated, as read by Commissioner McNamara,
“Contrary to the representations made on behalf of Gov. 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,”
That sounds like they did a good thing but after their initial blunder. As written earlier in this article, in 2020, Cuomo’s book deal was initially approved by a top JCOPE patsy and was never reviewed or approved by its commissioners. With this embarrassing revelation, JCOPE has recently hired an outside international law firm, Hogan Lovells, to investigate the circumstances surrounding the initial approval of Cuomo’s book.
Their report was scathing.
“The outgoing Joint Commission on Public Ethics acted as disgraced ex-Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s patsies by approving his controversial $5 million pandemic book deal without even a basic review of its terms, a blistering investigative report released Thursday found.
Instead, JCOPE officials allowed Cuomo and his team to dictate the terms of what information it would disclose and when about the book contract when it sought approval from the ethics agency.”
The crystal clear takeaway from JCOPE’s approval of Andrew Cuomo’s book request is that the Governor’s Office completely overpowered this pathetic ethics committee and they rolled over like a dead possum so Cuomo could get his way.
What I personally find even more egregious is that the 36-page report, funded by the New York State taxpayer compiled by Hogan Lovells has disappeared from the Joint Commission on Public Ethics’ website today. It had been briefly posted for only a few hours Thursday night. The excuse being bandied about by Governor Hochul is that JCOPE is being replaced by a new watchdog agency called the Commission on Ethics in Lobbying and Government, which would “explain” why the link to the Hogan Lovells report is not functioning on the JCOPE website.
Luckily, the entire Hogan Lovells report can be found here.
Highlights from the analysis:
“JCOPE Disregarded Potential Ethical Issues Arising From Governor Cuomo Contemporaneously Writing and Commercializing a Book About His Handling of the COVID-19 Pandemic…
Governor Cuomo is at fault for misleading JCOPE through the Executive Chamber’s July 10 Request on his behalf, which falsely suggested all work on the Book was prospective and mischaracterized the subject matter of the book as a continuation of his prior memoir. Nevertheless, JCOPE staff members were on notice as of July 10 that the Book would be focused, at least in part, on COVID-19. JCOPE should have recognized the potential ethical issues arising from the Governor entering a contract to publish a book about his leadership during the pandemic, including that the arrangement could create perverse financial incentives or the appearance of such incentives, and that there was a strong possibility the Governor would need to use state resources in order to complete the Book in time to be published in the fall.”
So, in the final analysis, JCOPE got caught shirking its duties to the residents of New York. They allowed an NYS Governor, who was responsible for the needless deaths of thousands of residents infected with COVID-19, to pull in an obscene amount of ill-gotten profit from a book that may have been written by Executive Office employees. Even with the act of trying to do damage control last year, JCOPE looked even more bungling and incompetent. It’s not a hard thing to imagine that the Hogan Lovells report was not taken down due to “website error”.
Although Governor Hochul has disbanded JCOPE and renamed it the Commission on Ethics in Lobbying and Government, I do not personally hold any hope that they will be even partially more diligent in their task. Governor Hochul’s newly minted order establishing this commission can be found here.
“The New York State Commission on Ethics and Lobbying in Government (“The Commission”) was established on July 8, 2022, by the Ethics Commission Reform Act of 2022.
The Commission was created to restore public trust in government by ensuring compliance with the State’s ethics and lobbying laws and regulations.”
It looks good on paper, but I won’t hold my breath expecting them to be any better than JCOPE.