Apparently outraged by Gov. Andrew Cuomo getting paid $5.1 million to publish his coronavirus memoir amid the pandemic, a powerful New York elected official has introduced a measure that would limit the outside income of state elected officials.
The proposed law, drafted by Senate Finance Committee Chairman Liz Krueger (D-Manhattan), would limit outside income earned by statewide office holders and legislators to 15 percent of their public salary.
Cuomo’s book contract is the subject of multiple investigations over claims he used government resources to help publish it and that he undercounted coronavirus nursing home deaths to help sell it. Nursing home advocates have called the $5 million advance “blood money” made off the backs of loved ones who died from COVID.
And Krueger cited the Cuomo book scandal, as well as pay-to-play corruption involving other legislators, to impose a limit on outside income.
“Over the past several decades, the public’s trust in their elected officials has steadily eroded as scandal after scandal has rocked Albany. There have been several criminal investigations related to legislative leaders using their title as legislative leader, and partner at a law firm to earn additional outside income,” Kreuger said.
Krueger was likely referring to disgraced former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and ex-Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, who both were employed by law firms before convicted and sentenced in separate pay-to-play corruption scams.
Kruger added, “Recently, a statewide elected officer received more than $4 million in advance payments from a publishing company for writing a book about the Coronavirus pandemic in New York. While there are ongoing investigations into this and several other matters, this bill would address both above instances by removing the appearance of public corruption in state government by restricting the outside income of state legislators and statewide elected officers.”
Cuomo is paid $225,000, the highest salary of any governor in the country.
Legislators in the Senate and Assembly currently make $110,000.
Attorney General Letitia James and the state Assembly Judiciary Committee are investigating allegations that Cuomo used state workers to help prepare and promote his memoir, “American Crisis: Leadership Lessons from the COVID-19 Pandemic.”
Meanwhile, a federal probe into Cuomo’s handling of nursing homes amid the pandemic has apparently expanded to include his book deal, based on questions that state Senate Health Committee Chairman Gustavo Rivera (D-Bronx) told The Post he was asked by investigators in May.
The Krueger bill is modeled after the federal law limiting outside income that can be earned by members of Congress.
The measure would exempt certain income from the 15 percent cap — including pensions and benefits earned from prior employment, military or National Guard service, or passive income from certain investment activities or family-owned businesses.
Krueger, who recently introduced the bill, will look for a member of the Assembly to carry it in the lower-house.
The Legislature adjourned for the summer, so the legislation likely won’t be considered until next year — when all statewide officers and legislators are up for re-election.
Cuomo’s office had no immediate comment. He has denied any wrongdoing over his handling of the pandemic.
Before the pandemic hit and the publishing of his COVID “leadership” memoir “American Crisis: Leadership Lessons from the COVID Pandemic,” Cuomo advocated for limits on outside income to avoid conflicts of interest, as a condition for legislators getting a pay hike. But the courts blocked limits on outside income recommended by a state pay commission.
“You have to pay them a salary that allows them to live and not be a martyr. I also agree that there should be a ban on outside income; I’ve said that for many, many years. And the commission found their way to that, so I think that’s good news,” Cuomo said in 2018.
A year later, he said, “Worst-case scenario, the legislature could pass the bill saying we will ban outside income ourselves. They could say we will ban outside income if the commission holdings are upheld. So that’s all it comes down to is the outside ban, which the legislature has already agreed to the outside ban because they took the raise, right?”
Republican lawmakers previously proposed legislation to ban elected officials from profiting off books they publish following outrage over Cuomo’s book contract, though the bill did not address overall limits on outside income.
The Democrats control both houses of the legislature, so support from Krueger’s Democratic colleagues is needed pass any bill to curb limits on outside income.