Ex-Gov. Andrew Cuomo ordered to give up millions in pandemic book earnings

In the wake of the New York's ethics commission's vote last month to rescind its approval of former Gov. Andrew Cuomo lucrative deal to write a book about his leadership during the pandemic, the panel on Tuesday ordered the disgraced politician to forfeit his earnings, which is in the millions of dollars. But a lawyer for Cuomo vowed to fight the order. 

Cuomo's book American Crisis: Leadership Lessons from the COVID-19 Pandemic was published in October 2020. His contract with the publisher is worth about $5.1 million, according to reports.

The staff of the New York ethics commission granted approval of Cuomo's deal in July 2020, when his special counsel Judith Mogul told the commission that Cuomo would not use any state personnel or resources to produce his book and that he would write it "entirely on his own time."

But Cuomo later acknowledged that state employees helped with tasks including editing the manuscript. But he claimed that those workers were "volunteering."

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Attorney Jim McGuire, who represents Cuomo, slammed the panel, which is formally known as the Joint Commission on Public Ethics, or JCOPE.

"JCOPE's actions today are unconstitutional, exceed its own authority and appear to be driven by political interests rather than the facts and the law," McGuire said in a statement. "Should they seek to enforce this action, we’ll see them in court."

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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)

"I think the former governor's chances of being able to keep the money is an uphill legal battle," Doug Burns, a former federal prosecutor, told FOX 5 NY. "The governor's going to have a very tough case if it's shown that he used state resources after representing that he didn't."

Burns added that the book publisher might feel entitled to the advance it paid Cuomo and might also end up in court.

"If he did something improper with respect to the book, it violates the book contract," Burns said. "That will at least be their claim in court."

The Attorney General's Office said it is working to determine how to best move forward.

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Cuomo resigned in August amid multiple scandals, most significantly the multiple accusations of sexual harassment and other inappropriate behavior such as sexually suggestive statements, unwanted advances, inappropriate touching, and more. Most of the women worked for Cuomo either in his administration as governor or in his time as President Bill Clinton's housing secretary. 

For months, Cuomo had resisted calls to resign and said he did "nothing wrong." He criticized an investigation by the office of Attorney General Letitia James that found that Cuomo sexually harassed several current and former state employees, many of whom were young women.

With FOX 5 NY's Linda Schmidt and The Associated Press.