Cuomo Raises $2.5 Million as Sex-Harassment Probe Progresses

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s campaign raised $2.5 million in the first six months of 2021 despite a series of scandals ranging from multiple sexual harassment allegations to claims the three-term Democrat misused public funds to write a $5 million leadership book.

New fundraising totals released by the campaign on Thursday reveal the extent to which donors still support the governor, who is up for re-election next year. Cuomo’s war chest now stands at $18.5 million, up from $16.8 million in cash on hand in January, when his last campaign financial disclosures were released.

The $2.5 million haul compares to $2 million raised during the same period a year ago. Cuomo had raised $4 million in the second half of 2020, when New York was the epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic and his daily briefings bolstered his popularity.

But Cuomo’s approval ratings dropped significantly following a report by Attorney General Letitia James accusing his administration of undercounting nursing home deaths. That was followed by multiple harassment claims by current and former female aides and calls for his resignation by dozens of lawmakers. James’s office subsequently began an investigation into the sex-harassment claims.

Investigators working for the attorney general’s office are expected to interview Cuomo in the sex-harassment probe on Saturday, according to a person familiar with the matter who wasn’t able to speak publicly about the investigation. Cuomo spokesman Rich Azzopardi declined to comment on the scheduled interview, which was reported earlier by the New York Times, and accused James of a politically-motivated leak. James’s office declined to comment.

Additional state and federal inquiries are looking into accusations Cuomo misused state funds for personal gain and that he provided relatives with virus testing before it was widely available. He has denied all claims.

Cuomo hasn’t publicly affirmed his pre-scandal declaration that he would run for a fourth term as New York’s governor, a feat that eluded his father, Governor Mario Cuomo. But he has begun raising money and reaching out to supporters.

Cuomo’s top donors in the second half of 2020, included former Alphabet Inc. Chief Executive Officer Eric Schmidt and hedge fund manager Larry Robbins. Both donated $69,700 in July 2020. Other five-figure donations came from real estate executives Aby Rosen, Todd Rechler, Robert Speyer, Scott Malkin, Larry Silverstein, Jeff Blau, and hedge fund managers Paul Tudor Jones and Steve Cohen.

As allegations of misconduct against Cuomo mounted, many of his donors stuck with him. Rosen donated $20,000 in late June. Rechler gave $9,600 that month. Lisa Blau, the wife of Jeff Blau, gave $25,000. Cuomo also got big donations from real estate mogul Richard LeFrak, who gave $33,300, and Red Apple Group founder John Catsimatidis, who chipped in $25,000.

The disclosure, one of two required annually in an off-cycle year, reflects what supporters have said privately for months: Despite the allegations against him, donors will stick by the governor as long as the inquiries doesn’t reveal any incriminating information. Some of his biggest donors have yet to contribute in 2021, though they’ll have plenty of opportunities to open their checkbooks in the months to come.

Donors have stuck by Cuomo for the same reason people continue to support him in the polls: Allegations are just that -- allegations,” Jay Jacobs, chairman of New York Democratic Party, had said last month. “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.”

In June, Cuomo held a $10,000-per-head event at Manhattan’s Rockefeller Center that netted him more than $1 million. Days later he held a smaller $25-per-person virtual event.

A July Siena College poll found most New York voters would like someone besides Cuomo to run for governor in 2022. While 35% of registered voters would re-elect him, 56% would like to see a different candidate.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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