Cuomo’s harassment investigation prompts a call to change New York’s election funding regulations

Albany, NY-Some legislators want to change New York’s campaign finance rules after Governor Andrew Cuomo uses a $ 285,000 political contribution to pay his leading lawyer in investigating sexual harassment and misconduct. thinking about.

According to aggregates held by the New York Public Interest Research Group, New York politicians have spent millions of dollars in election funds in recent years to pay lawyers defending them from allegations of fraud. The list includes former Speaker of Parliament Sheldon Silver, former Legislature leader Dinskeros, former Legislature leader Joseph Bruno, and former New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.

This type of election funding is allowed under certain conditions, but many still find it unpleasant.

John Kaehny, Executive Director of the Reinvent Albany Ethics Oversight Group, said: “Protecting yourself in a criminal case is not the same as running a campaign, it’s pretty obvious.”

So far, such feelings haven’t changed. Proposals banning the Campaign Committee from covering legal costs associated with alleged illegal activity have not been made since 2013.

Many taxpayers are rebelled against one option to get the government to accept the bill of the civil servant under investigation.

Related | Governor Cuomo says people are “shocked” by the facts of sexual harassment allegations

“The use of election funds in place of taxpayer dollars for this purpose has been established for decades,” Cuomo spokesman Rich Azzopardi said in a statement. rice field.

The New York Attorney General is investigating allegations that Cuomo has sexually harassed several state officials. Parliamentary Commission is investigating whether there is a reason for impeachment. Federal authorities are investigating whether the government has manipulated data on COVID-19 deaths in nursing home patients.

Democrat Kuomo has denied cheating and has not been charged with crime.

The idea that election candidates should be allowed to use election funds to pay for legal defenses is based on the reality that elected civil servants occasionally face false proceedings and politically motivated investigations. I am.

But Manhattan Democratic Senator Brad Hoylman, who sponsors a bill calling for change, says politicians facing serious allegations related to personal misconduct pay legal costs at their own expense. Said it should be.

“I think it’s a bait-and-switch when it’s used for defense in large-scale investigations and trials in search of campaign support,” he added, adding that the state shouldn’t pay Cuomo’s bill. rice field. also. “When it involves illegal activity and serious accusations, I think it’s right to be ashamed that taxpayers shouldn’t pay those attorneys’ fees.”

Cuomo could afford to pay the lawyer himself. He will be paid more than $ 5 million for a book about coronavirus pandemic leadership.

Former President Donald Trump’s campaign and the Republican National Committee have spent unprecedented millions of dollars on attorneys’ fees associated with numerous investigations, including an investigation into Russia’s election interference by former Special Advisor Robert Mueller. ..

The Trump campaign also paid for associate lawyers involved in proceedings and investigations. The RNC also covered the tabs of some of Trump’s second impeachment lawyers. Several legal defense funds have also been established, including what is called the Patriot Legal Expenses Fund, which allows donors to submit bills for former Aide Trump.

Former Democratic President Bill Clinton was founded primarily apart from his campaign, but still relies on a legal defense fund funded by political supporters to investigate his behavior with women. I paid a bill related to a perjury allegation.

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Some say that such a fund promotes transparency, while others say it is just another way for donors to gain influence.

New York limits the legal costs covered by the campaign. Political contributions cannot be used for purely personal matters that have nothing to do with campaigns or public office.

“You can’t pay a lawyer to close your house,” said Jerry Goldfeder, a longtime New York state election lawyer who worked in the state attorney general’s office when Cuomo was the Attorney General. It’s a good example of what you can’t do. ” He refused to comment on the details of Cuomo’s spending.

A few years ago, Cuomo spent $ 400,000 to fund an election for his representative lawyer in a federal investigation into the closure of the state’s anti-corruption commission. The inquiry was closed without any indictment.

At the federal level, the Federal Election Commission allows candidates to pay statutory costs with election funds, but not on issues where there is no cost unless the person is a candidate or a public official.

What is considered prohibited personal use may be ambiguous.

“Frankly, in the case of Cuomo, if it’s a clear allegation of sexual harassment, New York law would seem a bit too broad,” former FEC commissioner Anne Ravel said in an interview. “Despite the fact that he was able to engage in it for his position because it is a purely personal act.”

In the private sector, businesses may pay executive lawyers accused of sexual harassment. Or, depending on the situation, it may be rejected.

The state has also collected some legal costs related to Kuomo’s investigation and has so far paid $ 760,000 to a Manhattan law firm in a federal investigation related to nursing homes.


Associated Press writer Jill Corbin contributed this report from Washington.

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Cuomo’s harassment investigation prompts a call to change New York’s election funding regulations

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