Disgraced Cuomo under pressure to refund millions in campaign donations

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A state senator who heads the powerful budget-writing committee is demanding that disgraced ex-Gov. Andrew Cuomo close his campaign account and return $18 million in donations by contributors to his aborted re-election bid.

Anticipating that Cuomo won’t relinquish the pile of cash so easily, State Sen. Liz Krueger (D-Manhattan) said donors should contact Cuomo’s campaign and ask for refunds.

“I urge all donors to Andrew Cuomo’s 2022 campaign to request refunds of their contributions. I also urge Mr. Cuomo to close his account and return all contributions voluntarily,” Krueger, chairwoman of the Senate Finance Committee said Friday.

“I suspect he will not, but should he refuse to do this, it is important for those who have supported the former governor in the past to understand that their money will now be used to lie about and attack his perceived enemies.

Cuomo resigned effective Monday after a devastating investigative report released by state Attorney General Letitia James concluded he sexually harassed 11 women, including current and former staffers and even a state trooper. Gov. Kathy Hochul, replaced him.

“By rescinding their support, these donors can stand with the victims of the former governor’s harassment and with the family members of those who died of COVID in nursing homes but had to wait months to learn the truth,” Krueger said.

Former Gov. Andrew Cuomo currently has $18 million in campaign funding.
AP Photo/Seth Wenig

Government watchdogs agree that Cuomo should close the campaign account and not cause any more mischief — including using funds to settle scores with critics or opponents.

“It would be the ethical thing to do for Cuomo to close the campaign account. But if Cuomo was ethical he might still be governor,” said John Kaehny, executive director of Reinvent Albany.

Other former governors closed down their accounts shortly after leaving office.

Ex-Gov. George Pataki closed down his campaign account after transferring more than $1 million to the state Republican Party and then shifted the rest to a not-for-profit group, the George E. Pataki Leadership and Learning Center, said Pataki adviser Rob Cole.

Cole said it took about a year to tie up loose ends and close the account.

Senate Finance Committee Chair Liz Krueger, D-New York, questions New York City Schools Chancellor Richard A. Carranza, during a joint legislative budget hearing on elementary and secondary education Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2020, in Albany, N.Y.
State Sen. Liz Krueger asks donors to get their money back from Andrew Cuomo before he uses it to “attack his perceived enemies”.
Hans Pennink

Former Gov. Eliot Spitzer, who resigned in a hook scandal in 2008, closed his campaign account three years later.

Spitzer turned over much of the remaining $182,305 to his alma maters, with $25,000 going to Harvard Law School, $50,000 to Harvard College and $25,000 to Horace Mann School.

Sptizer’s lieutenant governor and successor, David Paterson, who completed his term as governor, also closed his account when he decided not to seek re-election.

Former state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, who resigned after being accused of abusing four women, returned more than $1 million to donors after he left office.

New York’s porous campaign law bars candidates from using donations for personal benefit. But those like Cuomo who’ve fallen from grace can use leftover campaign funds to plot a potential comeback.

The law allows spending on legal bills for criminal and civil investigations, polling, dinners or hiring staff to advance their political interests — including supporting or opposing other candidates.

Cuomo has used campaign funds to pay his legal bills for the sexual harassment investigations lodged against him, accusations he has denied.

Former New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer
Former Gov. Eliot Spitzer donated his campaign account to his alma maters.
Brigette Stelzer

One hefty Cuomo donor turned critic, Jeff Gural, told The Post Friday “I would love to” get a refund. He declined to elaborate.

Gural is a real estate magnate who also owns racehorses and an upstate casino. He gave the Cuomo campaign $50,000 during the current election cycle and $130,000 during the course of his political career.

But another longtime Cuomo donor, billionaire mogul John Catsimatidis, said he would not ask for his money back.

Catsimatidis, whose business portfolio includes real estate, oil, Gristedes supermarket chain and 77 WABC radio, contributed $25,000 to Cuomo’s re-election campaign and $179,000 since 2002.

“You don’t kick someone when he’s down. I’m a tough businessman with a heart,” Catsimatidis said.

Hedge fund honcho and Mets owner Steve Cohen donated $67,063 to Cuomo. Cohen, through a rep at his Point 72 company, declined comment.

Cuomo’s other largest donors include billionaire Walmart heiress Alice Walton — who has put her philanthropy behind charter schools. She gave $69,700 to Cuomo this election cycle and $133,800.

New York Businessman John Catsimatidis
Billionaire John Catsimatidis donated $25,000 to Andrew Cuomo’s re-election campaign.
AP Photo/Kathy Willens

Former Google executive and techie maven Eric Schmidt kicked in $69,600 and billionaire investor Kenneth Fisher gave $62,500.

Real estate titan Dan Tishman and his wife, Sheryl, donated a combined $139,400 to Cuomo for the 2022 election cycle. The Tishmans, through a spokesperson, declined comment.

Cuomo spokesman Richard Azzopardi responded, “As we already said, Gov. Cuomo has no interest in running again, but that doesn’t mean we’re going to allow for deliberate misstatements about our administration to stand.

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