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Questions over Cuomo ads

Viewers wanted to know who is paying for the ads, and is it legal?

BUFFALO, N.Y. — Former New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has launched a television ad campaign aimed at restoring his tarnished image.

Cuomo, whom an Attorney General's investigation determined to be a serial sexual harasser of women, and who faced several other scandals resigned from office in August 2021.

The 30-second ad, entitled Politics vs. The Law, began running on Monday in television markets across the state including in Buffalo on WGRZ-TV.

According to the New York Times, the $369,000 ad buy is being funded through Cuomo's massive campaign war chest.

Under the current New York Election Law, it is legal for Cuomo, though no longer in office and while not an announced candidate for anything, to use his estimated $16 million campaign coffers to pay for these ads and more.

In fact, he can use it for pretty much anything except for personal expenses, the definition of which is open for interpretation, if it can be even loosely tied to his past service or a future campaign.  

"New York law is more swiss cheese than it is law," said Blair Horner, Executive Director of the New York Public Interest Research Group.

"I mean, most people think of campaign contributions would be used for things like...campaigning," Horner said.

Just over a year ago our news partners at Investigative Post reported on this same topic, noting the amounts that several elected officials locally had left in their campaign coffers even though they'd left office in some cases well over a decade ago.

Often funds are donated to charities, to political parties, or to other candidates running for office.

However, the IP story also noted how in the case of a couple who became lobbyists, money from their old campaign funds could be donated to current lawmakers to curry favor for the causes they now lobby for.

There have been bills in Albany seeking to more clearly establish and even restrict what leftover campaign cash can be used for. The most recent, introduced in 2021, noted in its message of necessity that:

- "Campaign donors have a reasonable expectation that their contributions will be used for the candidate's election efforts and the execution of his or her duties."

- "Current New York law allowing candidates to spend campaign funds for "any lawful purpose," is among the laxest in the nation."

- "While spending campaign funds for personal use is technically prohibited, the lack of any definition for what constitutes a personal use renders the provision meaningless."

However, that bill and similar ones proffered over the past several years have never made it out of committee.

"New York has a ways to go to tighten its laws, but lawmakers haven't had an appetite to do it," Horner said.


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