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Targeting Cuomo, New York Republicans Seek To Ban Book Sales By Statewide Elected Officials

Assemblyman Kevin M. Byrne, R-Mahopac, left, speaks during a news conference outside the Assembly Chamber the state Capitol on Monday, Jan. 28, 2019.
Hans Pennink
Associated Press
Assemblyman Kevin M. Byrne, R-Mahopac, left, speaks during a news conference outside the Assembly Chamber the state Capitol on Monday, Jan. 28, 2019.

Republicans in the state Legislature are seeking to ban statewide elected officials in New York from publishing books while they’re in office after it was revealed this week that Gov. Andrew Cuomo is set to earn $5.1 million from his memoir on the pandemic.

They’re hoping to approve legislation that would prevent statewide elected officials and those appointed by the governor from generating income through any published work.

Assemblymember Kevin Byrne, a Republican from the Hudson Valley who sponsors the bill, said the legislation would prevent situations in which an official’s book could influence their decisions on state policy.

“This is really an ethics reform bill,” Byrne said. “It’s about combating corruption.”

Richard Azzopardi, a senior adviser to Cuomo, called the legislation a “political press stunt” in a statement.

“Self-serving nakedly political press stunts are nothing new for these Republican politicians,” Azzopardi said.

Cuomo has been accused of choosing to withhold data on the true number of COVID-19 deaths at nursing homes last year to prevent sales of his pandemic-related memoir, “American Crisis,” from tanking amid the news.

It was revealed this week that Cuomo is set to earn a total of $5.1 million dollars before taxes and expenses through a contract on the book, which was released last October.

The Cuomo administration chose not to publicly disclose the number of nursing home residents who died at hospitals until early this year, instead lumping those cases in with the total death toll outside nursing homes.

That changed in late January, when it was revealed that thousands more nursing home residents died from the virus than what was previously reported by the state.

Cuomo has denied that his book influenced any decisions made by his administration during the pandemic, saying the timing of his memoir was purely coincidental, and that his office wanted to vet the nursing home date before it was released.

Early in the pandemic, the state didn’t consider the data received from nursing homes to be reliable, and wanted to review it before it was disclosed to the public, Cuomo has said.

But Sen. George Borrello, a Republican from Western New York who sponsors the bill, said those questions could be avoided in the future if statewide elected officials don’t have the option to generate income from something they’ve published.

“We can't have statewide elected officials about their experience while it’s still happening,” Borrello said.

A handful of Republicans have signed onto the bill in both the Senate and Assembly, but it won’t move without support from Democrats, who control both chambers.

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