Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo will host a fund-raiser for the first time since overlapping scandals engulfed his administration and prompted calls for his resignation — the latest indication that he is gearing up to run for re-election.
The fund-raiser, which will take place on June 29 at an undisclosed location in New York City, was advertised as a “summer reception” in a campaign email to supporters, who will need to fork over $10,000 per person, or $15,000 for two people, to attend.
The mere act of holding a high-dollar, in-person fund-raiser after the end of the legislative session inflamed Mr. Cuomo’s critics, even as it underscored his everything-is-normal strategy in the face of several federal and state investigations into his personal conduct and the actions of his administration.
The fund-raiser comes as Mr. Cuomo’s poll numbers have stabilized in recent months and he has dedicated most of his time to shoring up public support. Mr. Cuomo, a third-term Democrat, has a sizable $16.8 million cash on hand, according to campaign filings from January, and he appears intent on adding to it before the next filing in July.
Still, few donors or lobbyists who were invited to the event were interested in discussing their plans publicly on Wednesday. Of eight invitees, only two said they planned to go. But none doubted that the governor, a prolific fund-raiser, would be able to attract enough takers for the event to raise its expected amount. (Similar events in the past — one asked couples to pay $25,000 — have aimed to raise $500,000, according to a person familiar with the governor’s fund-raising efforts.)
“The pitch is, ‘I’m governor and I’m governing, head down, straightforward,’” said one person who received an invitation and requested anonymity to discuss it. The person did not plan to attend the fund-raiser.
While Mr. Cuomo could use campaign contributions to mount a bid for a fourth term in 2022, he could also, in theory, use the money to pay for legal expenses related to the inquiries he is confronting, should he choose to hire his own lawyer, as some state officials have done.
He has ignored the calls to resign that accompanied the investigations into sexual harassment claims from several women, his administration’s handling of nursing home deaths during the pandemic and his $5.1 million deal to write a memoir about the coronavirus outbreak.
At a news conference on Wednesday, Mr. Cuomo said that he has not hired private counsel to represent him in the investigations, relying instead on outside lawyers paid for by the state, and that he had no plans “at this time” to use campaign funds for personal legal expenses.
When Mayor Bill de Blasio faced state and federal inquiries into his campaign fund-raising activities during his first term, he used city funds to pay for the bulk of the legal fees. But he announced that he would personally pay a portion of the fees, about $300,000 that pertained to his “nongovernmental work.” (Mr. de Blasio has yet to settle that debt.)
Last week, the state comptroller office approved a $2.5 million contract for Morvillo Abramowitz Grand Iason & Anello, a Manhattan law firm, to represent the administration in a federal investigation, overseen by the Eastern District of New York, into nursing home deaths and questions related to the publication of governor’s book, “American Crisis.”
The firm is also handling state and federal inquiries into the preferential access to coronavirus testing afforded to Mr. Cuomo’s family and other influential people, according to a partner there, Elkan Abramowitz.
“The executive chamber has retained counsel, and that is a state expense,” Mr. Cuomo said on Wednesday. “It has been in every investigation, so that’s where we are now.”
As the inquiries have multiplied, so has state spending on legal representation for Mr. Cuomo and his aides. In the case of Mr. Abramowitz’s firm alone, the state went from a $1.5 million in initial precontract paperwork in March to the approved $2.5 million just over two months later.
And there are several other firms representing Mr. Cuomo, his aides and other state officials.
A separate request for the state to contract with Mitra Hormozi, a lawyer with Walden Macht & Haran LLP, which is representing the executive chamber on an investigation overseen by the state attorney general into the sexual harassment claims, is under review, according to the state comptroller office.
Another contract for Paul J. Fishman, a partner at Arnold & Porter, a firm which is also representing the governor’s office on the sexual harassment accusations, has not been submitted to the comptroller office.
Mr. Cuomo is being represented individually by another attorney, Rita Glavin, who started her own firm this year.
“We are in the process of finalizing these contracts subject to approval by the comptroller’s office,” Richard Azzopardi, a senior adviser to Mr. Cuomo, said in a statement. “We are abiding by all applicable rules and standards, and in matters like this it is not uncommon for legal representation to begin while the contracts are simultaneously being drafted for submission and approval. Doing it the other way could potentially leave the chamber and its employees without representation.”
Mr. Cuomo could take on private counsel of his own apart from the lawyers being paid for by the state. Were he to do so, he could use campaign funds to pay for that representation.
However the governor plans to spend the money, the June 29 fund-raiser would be the first test of his ability to gather contributions, something Mr. Cuomo has been effective at throughout his tenure.
Even as most fund-raisers were canceled or went virtual during the pandemic, Mr. Cuomo raised more than $4 million during the latter half of 2020 and the first two weeks of 2021, during which the state confronted the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic and he promoted his pandemic memoir.
His top-dollar contributors, who gave up to $69,700 each during that time period, included Larry Robbins, a hedge fund manager; Eric Schmidt, the billionaire former chief executive of Google; Frank McCourt, the businessman and former owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers; and Robert Hale, a co-owner of the Boston Celtics.
Real estate developers Gary Barnett, Daniel Brodsky, Jeffrey Gural, Harrison LeFrak and Larry Silverstein each gave $20,000 or more, while the billionaire leaders of the Estée Lauder Companies, Leonard A. Lauder and William Lauder, collectively contributed $82,000.
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