Former Gov. Andrew Cuomo ordered to relinquish reported $5.1M in book proceeds

Cuomo's attorney called the action "unconstitutional" and vowed to challenge it.

December 14, 2021, 4:47 PM

An ethics commission has ordered former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo to turn over a reported $5.1 million in proceeds from his pandemic leadership book to the New York State Attorney General's Office.

The state's Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE), gave Cuomo 30 days to comply with Tuesday's order, which comes a month after the panel voted 12-1 to revoke its prior approval of the lucrative book deal for "American Crisis: Leadership Lessons from the COVID-19 Pandemic."

The attorney general's office will decide where the money goes -- whether to the state, the book's publisher, Crown Publishing Group, or some other entity.

A Cuomo attorney called the action "unconstitutional" and vowed to challenge it in court.

PHOTO: New York Governor Andrew Cuomo holds press briefing and makes announcement to combat COVID-19 Delta variant, Aug. 2, 2021, in New York.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo holds press briefing and makes announcement to combat COVID-19 Delta variant, Aug. 2, 2021, in New York.
Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images

"JCOPE's actions today are unconstitutional, exceed its own authority and appear to be driven by political interests rather than the facts and the law," attorney Jim McGuire said in a statement. "Should they seek to enforce this action, we'll see them in court."

The ethics board previously found that Cuomo misrepresented the subject of the bestselling book, and how far along he was in writing it, in his request for approval, as well as withheld his book contract from the commission, according to a resolution from JCOPE.

PHOTO: Andrew Cuomo's book "American Crisis," 2020.
Andrew Cuomo's book "American Crisis," 2020.
The Crown Publishing Group

Cuomo was paid a $3.1 million advance to write the book, which was released in October 2020, and was set to make another $2 million over the next two years, the Associated Press reported in May. Cuomo donated $500,000 of his book profits to the United Way of New York State and was putting the rest into a trust for his three daughters, according to the AP.

The order is the latest setback for Cuomo, who resigned in August following a months-long investigation by State Attorney General Letitia James that accused him of sexually harassing 11 women, including current and former state employees. Cuomo has denied all allegations of sexual misconduct or harassment.

Cuomo is scheduled to appear in court early next year for a sex crime case brought forth by the Albany County Sheriff's Office.

In continued fallout from the attorney general's investigation, Cuomo's brother, Chris Cuomo, was fired by CNN earlier this month for the role he played in defense of the former governor amid the sexual harassment charges. Custom House, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers, also scrapped plans to publish the former CNN host's pandemic book, "Deep Denial," according to the AP.

ABC News' Mark Crudele contributed to this report.

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