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Cuomo's book deal during pandemic was worth $5.12M

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo speaks during a press

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo speaks during a press briefing held in Radio City Music Hall on Monday. Credit: EPA / Justin Lane

ALBANY — Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo disclosed Monday that his book deal for writing about COVID-19 leadership was worth $5.12 million.

The governor, a third-term Democrat who has come under criticism for penning a memoir while the pandemic was continuing and deaths were surging in New York, previously had refused to say how much he was being paid by Crown Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House.

The governor revealed the figure as part of making available his 2020 income tax returns on Monday, the deadline for filing not only income taxes but also his financial disclosure form to a state ethics board.

The disclosure drew fire from critics on the political left and right, and comes as the governor is facing separate investigations about the book deals, his administration's handling of nursing homes during the pandemic and multiple allegations of sexual harassment leveled against him, including some by current and former administration staff.

According to documents provided by his office, Cuomo received $3.1 million in advance to write the book, "American Crisis: Leadership Lessons From the COVID-19 Pandemic." He will receive another $2 million over the next two years.

Of the $3.1 million already received, Cuomo netted $1.5 million after taxes and legal expenses, according to the documents. Of the net gain, Cuomo will donate $500,000 to the United Way to assist with pandemic relief and use the remaining $1 million for a trust fund for his three adult daughters, who "worked with the governor during this pandemic and did what he calls 'tireless and effective work for all New Yorkers'," Cuomo aide Rich Azzopardi said.

The book royalties were paid on top of the governor's $225,000 annual salary. He also earned another $428,000 in capital gains on investments, according to his tax documents.

All told, Cuomo's adjusted gross income for federal tax purposes was nearly $3.6 million in 2020. His tax liability was $1.23 million for an effective tax rate of about 37%.

When the book was released last year, Cuomo was soaring in popularity, his daily briefings later to earn him an Emmy Award.

Republican and Democratic critics have accused Cuomo of withholding data about COVID-19 deaths among nursing home patients at a time the book was being produced. The Working Families Party, a progressive party that has endorsed Cuomo three times, called the book self-promotional, saying the governor "rushed to pat himself on the back" in the midst of a once-a-century crisis.

Sen. Sue Serino, a Republican from Hyde Park, said, "A state leader profiting so brazenly off of one of New York’s greatest tragedies is an unprecedented new low. It demonstrates a complete lack of genuine empathy and compassion for all those who have been impacted, and only reaffirms that for Andrew Cuomo, politics and profit come before the well-being of the people of this state."

Federal officials are investigating the administration’s handling of COVID-19 and nursing homes. A State Assembly committee and Attorney General Letitia James are conducting separate investigations into whether the governor used state resources and personnel to help him produce the book — he was forbidden to do so, per guidance provided by a state ethics board. In the Assembly, the book deal is part of mutiple-front impeachment inquiry.

A Cuomo spokesman has said any state employees who assisted the governor did so in a "volunteer" capacity on their own time.

The publisher reportedly canceled plans for a paperback after The New York Times reported that senior Cuomo staffers edited nursing home data to tamp down the number of deaths attributed to COVID-19.

"We don’t know how much this book guided public health policy during the COVID pandemic," Assembly Minority Leader Will Barclay (R-Pulaski) said. "That will be a matter for investigators to determine. But we now know the governor had at least five million reasons to portray his ‘leadership’ in the best possible light."

Azzopardi fired back at critics: "This governor worked night and day to save lives and get this state out of this pandemic. Lord knows where they were."

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