Cuomo Reaps $1 Million at NYC Fundraiser Under Scandal’s Cloud

Governor Andrew Cuomo raised more than $1 million during a $10,000-per-person fundraiser at New York City’s Rockefeller Center Tuesday night, the most high-profile in-person campaign event he’s held since multiple sexual-harassment accusations surfaced earlier this year and lawmakers called for his ouster.

Cuomo, who has denied the claims and refused to step down, has yet to confirm plans to run for a fourth term in 2022. But a July 15 campaign finance disclosure deadline -- and Tuesday’s haul from the high-dollar soiree at 75 Rockefeller Plaza -- will reveal to what extent donors still support the Democratic governor. The disclosure, one of two required annually in an off-cycle year will show how much money he raised amid political turmoil that has sparked federal and state investigations into his conduct.

Invitations to the event, called a “Summer Reception,” were sent out at the beginning of the month but many of the attendees weren’t told of the location until this week. Outside the event, protesters lined up, some waving signs about the sexual harassment allegations, others demanding higher wages for restaurant workers.

Among the arriving guests walking past them were Ken Sunshine, founder of the Sunshine Sachs public relations firm, and Jeff Blau, who runs the real estate developer Related Cos., whose projects include the Hudson Yards on Manhattan’s West Side.

Cuomo raised more than $1 million at the fundraiser, according to a person familiar with the money raised who was not authorized to speak publicly on the matter. The gathering drew more than 170 people, including Cuomo’s mother and other family members, according to people in attendance at the event but not authorized to speak publicly. Democratic county officials, union leaders and other attendees nibbled on watermelon with feta, cheese cubes, figs and other finger foods.

During a 20-minute speech after which he didn’t take any questions, Cuomo detailed his last year fighting Covid and thanked essential workers for their work during the pandemic. The governor also mentioned his bid to repeal the cap on SALT and reign in gun violence, which he said disproportionately impacts people of color, according to attendees.

“I know not everyone would feel comfortable giving to him but you know what? He, to me, was a tremendous leader during Covid and I haven’t forgotten that,” said Adam Eidinger, the social action director at a natural soap company, who attended the fundraiser.

Scott Rechler, the chairman and chief executive officer of RXR Realty, which manages 75 Rockefeller Plaza, said in an earlier interview on Tuesday that “I support the governor and I will continue to support him.”

Rechler gave $15,000 to Cuomo in the second quarter of 2019. Todd Rechler, his brother and RXR’s chief construction and development officer, gave $50,000 in the first quarter of 2020.

Cuomo’s campaign fundraiser comes two weeks after the governor lifted New York’s coronavirus pandemic mandates and announced the state had reached its threshold of 70% of adults receiving at least one vaccine dose. The state has gone from the U.S. epicenter of the virus to having a seven-day average Covid positivity rate of 0.39%.

“It has been a long, long road,” Cuomo said at a June 15 press briefing. “Life is no longer about survival; life is about living.”

Cuomo is also hosting a far-less expensive, $25 per person virtual fundraiser next Tuesday over Zoom. His office referred a request for comment to his campaign. Ryan Belcher, a campaign official, and Gita Tiku, the campaign’s finance director, didn’t respond to requests for comment.

New York Democratic Party Chair Jay Jacobs, who does not fundraise for Cuomo specifically but raises money for the party, said donors have told him they would continue to give to the governor in hopes he will run for re-election.

“Overwhelmingly the people who have supported in the past are still with the governor. They think he’s done a great job. They appreciate his stabilizing force in the state government,” Jacobs said.

Jacobs didn’t attend the Manhattan fundraiser on Tuesday because it was the opening week for a camp he runs in the Catskills. Tom Garry, the counsel and law chair for the state party and vice chairman of the Nassau County Democrats, attended instead.

Cuomo’s last campaign disclosure in January showed he had raised more than $4 million in the last six months of 2020, as a second wave of coronavirus hit the state. The report showed he had $16.8 million on hand, in part thanks to donors including Alphabet Inc.’s former CEO, Eric Schmidt, and real estate developers Aby Rosen and Robert Speyer.

The January disclosure though was released before many of the sexual-harassment allegations from current and former aides were lodged against the governor. He also faces state and federal investigations into claims his administration covered up Covid-19 nursing-home deaths, provided relatives with virus testing before it was widely available, mishandled construction of the Mario Cuomo Bridge across the Hudson River and misused public resources while writing a $5 million book on leadership.

Cuomo denies all the claims.

“Donors have stuck by Cuomo for the same reason people continue to support him in the polls: Allegations are just that -- allegations,” Jacobs said. “They need to be taken seriously and respected, but they are not necessarily the end of the story. The governor has every right to have his view heard.”

On Wednesday, Assemblyman Charles Lavine who is overseeing an impeachment probe into the governor said the panel will begin using subpoenas to gather facts and interview targets.

Before the allegations surfaced, Cuomo had said he would run for re-election but has since declined to comment on his plans. In a poll released last month by Siena College, 37% of respondents said they would vote for him if he ran for a fourth term. His father, Mario, served three terms before being defeated in 1994.

The New York Republican Party is already fielding at least five potential primary candidates who pitched themselves on Monday to party bosses, including U.S. Representative Lee Zeldin and Andrew Giuliani, the son of former New York City Mayor and Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani.

In an email to supporters on Monday, Zeldin said it was time for New Yorkers to turn against “a corrupt and weak Andrew Cuomo, who chose dangerous policies, book deals and self-serving politics over the people of our state.”

Jacobs, though, said he wouldn’t count Cuomo out.

“Assuming that there is no bombshell coming out of the investigations and assuming that he actually decides to run, I think he will do well,” he said. “I would put my money on him winning the primary and the general.”

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