Governor Andrew Cuomo stands to make more than $5 million dollars for his pandemic-era memoir, American Crisis, which was announced just a few months into the pandemic, at the height of his popularity. The book was released in October 2020, right before the governor faced a slew of sexual harassment allegations, and it was reported that his senior staffers misrepresented how many nursing home residents had died of COVID-19.
State officials in the executive chamber released top line details of Cuomo’s 2020 tax returns Monday afternoon, revealing the book publisher Crown Publishing paid Cuomo $3,120,000 last year, with an additional $2 million to be paid out in 2021 and 2022, for a total of over $5 million. (Reports previously pinned the payout at $4 million.)
State officials said Cuomo donated $500,000 of those earnings to United Way’s COVID response and vaccination efforts and set aside more than a million dollars into a trust fund for his three daughters, who Cuomo claimed did “tireless and effective work for all New Yorkers.”
Cuomo reported earning $217,736 in his annual salary from the state, more than any other governor in the country earns. In total, he made $3,593,343 last year, which included $428,429 in capital gains earnings from investments. He paid $1.2 million in federal taxes for a federal tax rate of 37.33 percent.
The publisher, Crown, which is an offshoot of Random House Publishing, has not yet responded to a request for comment.
Ethics watchdogs have raised concerns about whether Cuomo’s book deal influenced how his administration handled COVID, namely in the months-long effort to hide the total number of nursing home deaths from the public. John Kaehny with the good government group Rethink Albany called the $5 million dollar payout “appalling.”
“It puts in black and white the question, ‘who was the governor working for during COVID? His book publisher or the public good?,” he said.
But Cuomo’s senior aide Richard Azzopardi dismissed those concerns.
“This governor worked night and day to save lives and get this state out of this pandemic,” he said. “Lord knows where they were.”
Read More: A Timeline Of Cuomo’s Colliding Scandals
Cuomo first spoke publicly about his book deal on July 10th; it was later reported that this was four days after the release of a health department report on nursing home deaths that his senior staffers had altered. Cuomo’s staff only released the state’s full death toll of nursing home residents in January, hours after a report from the New York Attorney General confirmed the undercount. Records now show that more than 15,000 New Yorkers who were residents of nursing homes, assisted-living facilities, and other adult homes died of COVID-19, about 50% higher than previously released tallies.
The terms of Cuomo’s book deal was shrouded in secrecy for nearly a year, as he refused to release details and did not answer direct questions about the deal at his briefings. He had received permission from the ethics commission, JCOPE, to write the book in between meetings of the commission’s board, meaning board members never voted on the subject, a move that infuriated some.
Cuomo’s staffers helped draft and edit the book, raising concerns about the use of state resources for Cuomo’s personal gain, though he has insisted staffers volunteered their time.
The terms of the book deal are now part of a potential criminal probe underway by New York State Attorney General Letitia James, which Cuomo and top staffers have dismissed as a political attack. Election-law watchdogs have also raised concerns that Cuomo promoted his book on his campaign’s social media and email accounts, a potential violation of state law.
James’s office is also investigating the allegations of sexual harassment against Cuomo, and several accussers have reportedly received suboenas in that investigation. Beyond these probes, Cuomo faces a federal probe into nursing home deaths, as well as a State Assembly inquiry that could be a precursor to an impeachment vote.
Cuomo’s most strident critics took the $5 million payout as further evidence Cuomo should resign.
“Today’s news is further confirmation of the insidious and ugly truth that Andrew Cuomo took millions of dollars from Crown Publishing to write a book in the middle of the pandemic, while families buried their loved ones,” said State Assemblymember Ron Kim, who has been calling for his resignation for months. “Every member of this administration who contributed to falsifying life and death data should be held criminally responsible for defrauding the public.”