ALBANY – Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo declined Wednesday to provide any details about the financial terms with his publisher for a book he has authored about the Covid-19 pandemic.
The Cuomo administration is also not making public an approval letter officials say the governor obtained from a state ethics agency pertaining to outside income he will receive from the book contract.
The administration was asked first thing Wednesday morning about whether approval or guidance was sought by the ethics agency; it said in the late afternoon that the governor's book plan was submitted to the ethics office and okayed.
“You’ll see it on my financial disclosure," Cuomo said in his answer during a media conference call Wednesday about the terms of his deal with Crown Publishing Group.
It could be a while before that information surfaces; the state’s Joint Commission on Public Ethics requires Cuomo, and thousands of other state officials, to file details about their finances – including sources of outside income – by May 15 each year.
During the Covid-19 pandemic, however, the deadline for those submissions was extended until Aug. 16 – the day before Cuomo announced the deal for his new book entitled “American Crisis: Leadership Lessons from The Covid-19 Pandemic.”
Cuomo filed his 2019 financial disclosure form on Aug. 16. It is uncertain when Cuomo signed his book deal, but he won't have to file another annual disclosure form with the ethics agency until next May. Cuomo does make his annual tax returns available for reporters to inspect, so some inkling of his book deal could become somewhat apparent next April, assuming there is no delay, like this year, in the federal tax filing deadline.
The state ethics agency also requires officials who expect to make more than $5,000 in outside income to have such dealings approved both by the agency for which they work as well as the Joint Commission on Public Ethics. The ethics agency, which OK'd a lucrative book deal Cuomo inked in 2012, is one over which Cuomo wields considerable authority.
Richard Azzopardi, a senior adviser to Cuomo, said Wednesday that the ethics agency's approval was sought and obtained. He said he could not immediately make the approval letter public.
Citing legal confidentiality provisions, a spokesman for the ethics agency said the office is not permitted to publicly release any such guidance about outside income dealings that it might give state officials. Cuomo, or other officials, however, are free to make public such guidance they receive from the ethics agency.
The book project by Cuomo has been getting slammed by some of his critics on the left and right, who question Cuomo personally profiting from a book about a virus that has killed 25,000 New Yorkers – more than any other state. They have also said Cuomo’s timing is off because the virus is still raging in many parts of the nation and world and there are fears of a second wave in New York State.
“My book is not about the history of Covid because it’s not over," Cuomo said Wednesday, pitching it more as a “halftime” assessment of where things stand with the virus.
He added: “My book is going to be about what we need to do as much, if not more, as what we've done."
The book was seeing brisk preorder sales at stores such as Barnes & Noble.
It was also getting glowing characterizations – from the publicity machine already geared up to promote the book.
“Governor Cuomo tells the riveting story of how he took charge in the fight against Covid-19 as New York became the epicenter of the pandemic, offering hard-won lessons in leadership and his vision for the path forward," the sales pitch states on the Barnes & Noble site.
The site adds how “Cuomo undertook the impossible," which he defined as how he “unified people to rise to the challenge” and how he was “relentless in his pursuit of scientific facts and data” in the face of “roadblocks presented by a president incapable of leadership and addicted to transactional politics."
On Tuesday, President Trump tweeted that Cuomo is a "horrible governor" and added that crime is "taking over" the state and that he "killed 11,000 people in nursing homes alone." Of Cuomo, he added: "Crooked & incompetent!"
The price of the new book is listed at $30; it is set for publication in mid-October.
The last Cuomo book, a 2014 memoir, brought the governor nearly $800,000, despite lackluster sales. Azzopardi noted that both book deals were okayed in advance by the state ethics agency.