Gov. Cuomo set to earn $5 million from pandemic leadership book

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is the author of "American Crisis: Leadership Lessons From the COVID-19 Pandemic" (Crown Publishing Group). (Images from Governor's Press Office and Crown/Penguin Random House)

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo disclosed Monday that he was paid a $3.1 million advance to write his COVID-19 leadership book last year and under his publishing contract will make another $2 million on the memoir over the next two years.

The Democrat had, for months, declined to say how much money he made from writing "American Crisis: Leadership Lessons From the COVID-19 Pandemic."

The disclosure of his big payday was made on the day his mandatory financial disclosures were due to a state ethics agency.

A spokesperson for Cuomo said the governor donated $500,000 of his profits from the book to the United Way of New York State.

The book was published in October by Crown Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House, just as New York was seeing a deadly resurgence in infections.

At the time, Cuomo was criticized for penning a book touting his performance on the virus while the crisis was ongoing.

Since then, he's come under heavier criticism over the involvement of some of his staff in preparing the book for publication.

In April, the state's comptroller, Thomas DiNapoli, authorized New York Attorney General Letitia James to investigate the role that some of Cuomo's aides played in "drafting, editing sale and promotion" of the book.

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Cuomo spokesperson Richard Azzopardi has repeatedly said that state employees who helped with the book did so on their own time in a "volunteer" capacity.

Azzopardi said Monday that after taxes and expenses, Cuomo had netted $1.5 million on the book last year.

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The Democrat has also been criticized by some over his administration's decision to withhold data on COVID-19 deaths among nursing home patients for several months during the period when the book was being finalized and sold.

Critics say the administration was purposely obscuring the true death toll to mute criticism that Cuomo hadn't done enough to protect nursing home residents. The governor and the state's health commissioner have said the numbers were withheld because the state had trouble verifying them.

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The state's ethics commission approved Cuomo's request to write the book last summer, but only if he followed several conditions, including making sure it was written on his own time and not using state property, personnel or other resources for "activities associated with the book."

The governor was also barred from advertising, promoting or endorsing his book when performing his state duties.

John Kaehny, executive director of pro-transparency group Reinvent Albany, has called for Cuomo to release his full contract with the book publisher so the public knows about potential royalties and whether Cuomo will receive additional compensation if more copies of his book are sold.