Cuomo has $ 18 million in campaign funds. What can he do with it?
Even after his resignation goes into effect in less than two weeks, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo will still control the largest pool of campaign money in New York City politics, a $ 18 million war chest apparently in preparation for a fourth term was amassed in the next year.
That prospect now seems distant: Mr Cuomo, who was accused of sexually molesting nearly a dozen women, announced Tuesday that he would resign as he faced impeachment threats and a series of calls to resign.
But his huge stash of campaign money – most of the money a departing New York politician has withheld recently – gives him a number of options, including the chance to make a possible comeback or play a role in the state’s political life, by looking at. donates other candidates.
Mr. Cuomo is far from being the first top elected official in New York to leave office abruptly. What is remarkable, and has caught the attention of Albany political circles, is the amount of money that is still available to him. It is more than ten times as much as Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul, who will take his place, has on her campaign account.
When Eliot Spitzer resigned as governor in a prostitution scandal in 2008, he had last shown $ 2.9 million in the bank. Eric Schneiderman, the former attorney general, had about $ 8.5 million in his campaign account when he resigned in 2018 after several women accused him of assaulting them.
After each official left their post, their campaigns turned to donors and offered to refund contributions. The Schneiderman campaign did so in emails to major donors who had donated large sums in the months prior to his resignation, according to one person involved in the action, and eventually returned nearly $ 1.7 million.
The Spitzer campaign did so in a broader sense, emailing each donor and offering to refund as much of their contributions as possible, a senior campaign official said. The supporters felt they had been betrayed and the refunds were a means to make amends for those who believed in Mr. Spitzer. By the next submission period, his campaign had returned about half of the remaining campaign funds.
Mr. Cuomo raised more than $ 2 million that year, including during a $ 10,000 a plate event in late June – while the Attorney General’s investigation was ongoing – that attracted longtime supporters and union leaders.
A person familiar with the governor’s campaign said there had not been many requests for refunds. The campaign finance director did not respond to requests for comment on refunds or how Mr Cuomo was going to use his remaining funds.
State campaign finance rules limit how Mr Cuomo can spend the money, campaign finance experts said. He won’t be able to use the money to pay for himself, buy a new car, or rent a house, for example, if he leaves the governor’s mansion later this month.
Nor can he use the funds to run for federal office or in New York City, where campaign funding rules are stricter. When Mr. Spitzer attempted a political comeback in 2013 and ran for the New York auditor, he was dependent on the family’s money. (He lost.)
Mr. Cuomo is allowed to donate to nonprofits as long as the groups are registered in New York and he has no affiliations with them.
He can also make political donations to candidates or to state and local party organizations and has the means to do so in many races. Such contributions can be a way to empower like-minded candidates and are usually welcomed, especially in close races. But candidates might be wary of accepting money from Mr Cuomo.
And he is free to spend the money on anything that could be construed as campaign-related. There may be room for interpretation in this, said campaign finance lawyers. He could spend it on rehabilitating his image or even traveling, as long as the activities could in some way be linked to his previous government service or a future campaign for state office.
“The law is not accurate when it comes to the use of surplus campaign funds,” said Kenneth A. Gross, an expert on campaign finance law. “How they can be used depends on the facts.”
What is clear is that Mr Cuomo could use the campaign funds to conduct polls or run political ads and test the waters for a comeback.
People evicted from Albany as a result of scandals or criminal investigations have often reached out to their campaign funds to cover legal fees, though campaign finance lawyers said the practice was limited.
The road to governor Cuomo’s resignation
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Controversy over Covid-19 in the nursing home. The Cuomo administration is also under fire for undercounting the number of Covid-19 deaths in nursing homes in the first half of 2020, a scandal that worsened after a Times investigation found Aiders rewritten a health department report to hide the actual number.
Efforts to disguise the death toll. Interviews and unearthed documents in April revealed aid workers repeatedly overriding state health officials in publishing the true death toll in nursing homes for months. Several senior health officials have resigned in response to the governor’s general handling of the pandemic, including the introduction of the vaccine.
Will Cuomo continue to be charged? The State Assembly initiated impeachment proceedings in March. But after Mr. Cuomo announced his resignation, it was unclear whether the congregation would go ahead with its impeachment process. If Mr Cuomo were tried and convicted, he could be refused entry into state office.
Mr. Schneiderman, for example, had ongoing legal troubles and was paying law firms from his campaign account, including $ 200,000 paid in the last filing. From his campaign account, he has also made large donations to nonprofit groups, including those focused on gender equality and immigrant rights.
Mr Cuomo has already used his campaign money to defend himself against legal threats and in court: Rita Glavin, his personal attorney, who spoke before his resignation speech and appeared regularly on television in his defense, received $ 285,000 for her law firm, according to the latest Submission of the Cuomo campaign, which lasts until the beginning of July. She has most likely received additional payments; New registrations are not due until the beginning of next year.
More open is the question of whether Mr Cuomo could use this money to pay lawyers to represent other members of his government or to reach settlements with the women who accused him of harassment – and in one case of fumbling around, or to defend himself against possible criminal charges related to his personal conduct, said campaign finance experts.
“The law is very complicated about things that shouldn’t be that complicated,” said Laurence D. Laufer, a campaign finance attorney. “The law really allows a wide use of campaign funds for legal costs related to campaigning or public office or party position.”
Even if he were expelled from his future office after impeachment – an unresolved issue in Albany – he would not lose access to the funds: he could continue to make political or charitable donations, campaign finance lawyers said.
And nothing asks 63-year-old Mr Cuomo to spend the campaign money quickly. He is free to wait as long as he likes. The only deadline is death: after a candidate dies, their campaign funds must be distributed within a set deadline, campaign finance lawyers said.
“You can donate candidates, you can donate to charities or political parties,” said Jerry H. Goldfeder, a campaign finance attorney. “But mostly they hold on to it.”