Cuomo, Leg leaders say no state money spent on Israel trip (Updated)

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Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, Senate co-leader Dean Skelos Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, Senate co-leader Dean Skelos and other legislative leaders said Sunday, Aug. 10, 2014, that they will travel to Israel this week as part of a unity trip to support the country amid the latest violence in the Middle East. Photo Credit: Newsday / J. Conrad Williams Jr.

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(Updates with former relatives to travel with governor, comment by opponents)

ALBANY -- As they prepared to depart for Israel, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and legislative leaders said Tuesday that no state funds will be used for their trip to show support for the battle-torn country and New Yorkers living there.

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Meanwhile back in Albany, Cuomo took some criticism for the trip from a liberal party candidate for governor.

Cuomo spokesman Rich Azzopardi said Tuesday that the governor would pay for the trip from his campaign funds.

“The trip to Israel is an official government trip, however to spare any expense to taxpayers the campaign will be covering the cost for the governor and his staff,” Azzopardi said. “The delegation members are paying separately."

Spokesmen for Senate co-leader Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre) and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan) said the legislative leaders won’t use state funds for their travel.

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Azzopardi said Cuomo on Wednesday will meet with the Israeli president and with New Yorkers living in the country to hear about the tension and battle of the last months.

"Cuomo is not yet running for president,” said Green Party candidate Howie Hawkins, referring to talk among Cuomo’s supporters that he could seek the presidency in 2016.

Then Hawkins criticized the Democrat for leaving Albany on a high-profile trip amid a conflict that has hurt Cuomo's poll numbers. Cuomo has been accused in news reports of interfering with the Moreland Commission on corruption, although he said he considered the interaction necessary advice. The U.S. attorney’s office is investigating.

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 “As governor, he should be facing up to his interference with the Moreland Commission and block the cleaning up of corruption at the state Capitol,” Hawkins said. “This seems like just another bad attempt to change the topic.”

Cuomo aides said the trip was discussed for several weeks.

“I hope he has a good trip, and I look forward to engaging in a debate when he gets back,” said Zephyr Teachout, an opponent of Cuomo in the Democratic primary in September who the governor has so far refused to debate. On Monday, Teachout beat Cuomo’s attempt in court to knock her off the primary ballot, although Cuomo’s campaign is appealing the decision.

Republican candidate for governor Rob Astorino had no criticism of Cuomo's trip on Tuesday.

In addition to Cuomo and the legislative leaders, the New York delegation will include Mort Zuckerman, executive chairman of Boston Properties, publisher of the Daily News, and chairman and editor-in-chief of U.S. News and World Report, as well as members of the governor’s family: Kenneth Cole, CEO of Kenneth Cole Productions Inc.; Neil Cole, CEO, president and chairman of the Board of Iconix Brand Group Inc.; and Howard S. Maier, chairman emeritus of the Holocaust Memorial and Tolerance Center of Nassau County.

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