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Under Investigation, Cuomo Fundraising Slows But He Still Has $18M

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, left, and Rep. Lee

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, left, and Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley).   Credit: N. Scott Trimble/Syracuse Post-Standard via AP; Newsday/John Paraskevas

ALBANY – Amid multiple investigations, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s fundraising numbers over the last six months didn’t match their usual heights.

The Democrat raised $2.5 million, well below his historical norms, but has $18.5 million in the bank for a potential run for a fourth term in office.

He also spent a significant amount of campaign contributions -- $284,000 – to pay a law firm representing him in an ongoing sexual harassment investigation.

The governor’s campaign committee reported the fundraising and expenditures as part of the state’ semiannual reporting requirements.

Meanwhile, Republicans running for governor have boosted their fundraising operations during Cuomo’s political troubles.

Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley), who has wrapped up dozens of GOP endorsements, raised about $3.5 million in contributions and transferred another $380,000 in cash from his congressional campaign account to his gubernatorial. All told, it amounted to $4 million raised by Zeldin; after expenditures, he now has $3 million on hand.

Rob Astorino, the former Westchester County executive and the 2014 GOP gubernatorial candidate, raised $744,000 and has $1 million on hand.

Andrew Giuliani, another GOP candidate and son of former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, reported raising $409,000 and having $368,000 on hand.

If Cuomo eventually doesn’t run again, other high-profile Democrats have been raising campaign funds.

Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul raised $525,000 and has $1.7 million in her campaign account. Attorney General Letitia James raised $1 million and has $1.6 million on hand. Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli raised $401,000 and has $1.2 million on hand.

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone raised even more -- $1.1 million – and has $1 million on hand.

Cuomo has been a prolific fundraiser, accumulating more than $100 million in contributions since 2010. But with $2.5 million, this reporting period marks one of his lowest totals – just surpassing the $2 million he raised during the first six months of 2020, a period covering the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

This time, he’s raising money while facing multiple investigations. Separate probes by Attorney General Letitia James, the state Assembly and the U.S. Justice Department are looking at, among other things, multiple accusations of sexual harassment, the administration’s handling of nursing homes and nursing home deaths amid the pandemic, the governor’s $5.1 million book deal and reports that Cuomo family members were given COVID-19 tests on a priority basis at a time tests weren’t widely available to the public.

Marist College pollster Lee Miringoff said there are "multiple interpretations" of Cuomo’s numbers not being up to usual standards.

"One, there’s cloud hanging over his head," Miringoff said. "Two, they (the Cuomo campaign) haven’t put their full effort into it yet. And third is maybe he’s a little tapped out" after raising tens of millions of dollars over the years.

"It's not horrible. It's not great. But it keeps you going and there are bigger factors tthan this that will determine his future," Miringoff said of Cuomo's fundraising total.

Zeldin, considered the Republican frontrunner, touted that, with $4 million, he far outraised Cuomo so far in 2021.

"Over the last 3 months, together, we have built a groundswell of grassroots support from every corner of our state, filled with New Yorkers who believe we have what it takes to Fire Andrew Cuomo in 2022," Zeldin said in an email to supporters.

Albeit at a slower pace, Zeldin also continued to raise money for his congressional campaign account. Records show he raised $128,008 in the last three months.

Asked about the simultaneous fundraising, Katie Vincentz, a Zeldin spokeswoman, said in an email: "He's all in on running for governor."

Astorino, who contends he’s the most "electable" Republican in a statewide contest, said his $1 million in the bank should quiet those who believe other Republicans should clear the way for Zeldin.

"If there was any doubt with the (Republican county) chairs and the public, that should end that, that we are ready and we are prepared," Astorino told reporters at the state Capitol on Friday. "Nobody should doubt that we are in this to the end."

Bellone, in a statement, said raising more than $1 million shows strong support for his record during his 10 years in office. It also puts him on a par with other Democrats who could emerge if Cuomo doesn’t run for reelection.

With Tom Brune

State & Region