Cuomo Set to Receive $5.1 Million From Pandemic Book Deal 1

Details of the agreement were released as investigators examine whether the New York governor used state resources to write the leadership memoir.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo was expected to earn more than $5 million from his book about leading New York during the coronavirus pandemic, according to figures released by his office on Monday, as investigators continued to look into his use of state resources to write and promote the book.

The governor received the bulk of the money last year, $3.12 million, and under the contract, he is set to be paid another $2 million in installments over the next two years, state officials said.

The windfall book deal, which dwarfed the governor’s salary of $225,000, was reached last year after Mr. Cuomo rose to national prominence for televised news briefings during the pandemic’s uncertain early phase, when New York was the nation’s epicenter.

But the disclosure of the details on Monday arrived as Mr. Cuomo and his administration found themselves in a very different place: mired in multiple overlapping investigations into accusations of sexual harassment by the governor, his handling of nursing home death data and his use of government resources for work on the book.

Across the publishing world, the revelation of Mr. Cuomo’s payment elicited shock: The amount appeared to be a staggering sum to pay to a politician who already had a meager sales record for his previous book, a memoir that sold just a few thousand print copies.

While former presidents have garnered multimillion-dollar advances — Bill Clinton sold his autobiography to Knopf for about $15 million, while Barack and Michelle Obama received some $65 million from Penguin Random House for their books — Mr. Cuomo’s book deal appeared far larger than those for other well-known elected officials.

Senator Elizabeth Warren, a Massachusetts Democrat who ran for president in 2020, has written three books in recent years, receiving total advance payments worth nearly $3.5 million since 2013. That includes a $250,000 payment last year for her recently released book. Senator Ted Cruz reported a book deal in 2020 on his financial disclosure that included an advance of $400,000, to be paid in three installments, along with other terms.

Richard Azzopardi, a spokesman for the governor, said that Mr. Cuomo had netted about $1.5 million from the book last year, after expenses and taxes.

The governor donated a third of that — $500,000 — to the United Way of New York State for its statewide Covid relief and vaccination efforts and placed the remainder in a trust for his three daughters, Mr. Azzopardi said in a statement.

The governor had been required to file a financial disclosure with a state commission by Monday, but his release of tax records and the detailed accounting of his payments related to the book went beyond the state’s requirements. Mr. Cuomo has routinely allowed reporters to review his tax records each year.

Hours before the release of the figures, Mr. Cuomo made a series of major pandemic-related announcements, including the end of most mask mandates in the state for vaccinated New Yorkers, the loosening of capacity restrictions on businesses, and the return of the New York City Marathon and the Tribeca Film Festival.

In total, with money from the book as well as salary and investments, the governor reported nearly $3.7 million in total income last year, according to his tax records.

The book, “American Crisis: Leadership Lessons From the Covid-19 Pandemic,” proved a lucrative endeavor for the governor, but since its publication in October, it has become a minefield for him and his publisher, Crown.

The publisher canceled promotion and any plans for a paperback version in March, after The New York Times reported that Mr. Cuomo’s most senior aides had rewritten a state Health Department report on nursing home fatalities to hide the number of actual deaths, just as Mr. Cuomo was starting to write his book. The handling of that data is currently the subject of a federal investigation.

The governor’s office has denied changing or altering the data on nursing home deaths.

After The Times reported that aides to the governor had assisted in the writing and promotion of the book, the state attorney general, Letitia James, opened an investigation into Mr. Cuomo’s use of state resources on the project. The Times reported at the time that the deal had been worth at least $4 million.

The governor received permission to work on his book from the state’s Joint Commission on Public Ethics, which is tasked with enforcing New York’s public officers law. The commission required that Mr. Cuomo not use state resources, such as staff time, to work on the book project. The governor has denied any wrongdoing and has said that any staff members who worked on the book did so voluntarily.

Mr. Cuomo recorded $118,000 in expenses related to his work on the book, according to a letter from a partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers, the accounting firm, which reviewed the finances of his book contract. The expenses included “legal and editing fees,” according to the letter, released by Mr. Cuomo’s aides.

Crown’s announcement that it would not release the paperback edition raised the question of whether the publisher, a division of Penguin Random House, would pay out the governor’s full advance.

That question could not be answered by the release of the tax returns, which included only payments Mr. Cuomo received during 2020.

“As a matter of longstanding policy, PRH does not comment on contractual or financial arrangements with any third parties, including authors,” said David Drake, the president of Crown, referring to Penguin Random House.

Even before Mr. Cuomo became enmeshed in multiple scandals, his book was a commercial disappointment, particularly for a title that had garnered such an astronomical advance. Publishers competed for the book in an auction, which drove up the price, according to publishing industry executives who spoke under the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss private negotiations.

Sales for “American Crisis” have been anemic, with just around 50,000 hardcover copies sold, according to NPD BookScan — not nearly enough for Crown to recover its investment.

“There’s no question that they lost their shirts and that Cuomo was the beneficiary of what can only be characterized as a bad commercial decision,” said Mike Shatzkin, the founder and chief executive of Idea Logical, a publishing consultancy.

Beyond the financial losses for Crown, the book has turned into another political and legal headache for the governor.

Mr. Cuomo’s work pitching and then writing his pandemic book coincided with a period last spring and summer in which his most senior aides withheld data on the total number of nursing home residents who had died in the pandemic, despite efforts by the Health Department to release the figures.

Some of those same aides helped Mr. Cuomo on his book. Melissa DeRosa, the governor’s top adviser, sat in on video meetings with publishers and helped the governor with early drafts last June. During the same period, she and other aides intervened to remove the pandemic’s death toll from a report on nursing homes.

Other staffers also worked on the book, both in fact-checking its contents and in performing mundane tasks such as taking dictation or making copies.

Last summer, top aides to Mr. Cuomo gathered at the governor’s mansion with the editors to read from the manuscript, a memoir of the pandemic’s first months.

The aides, who had been directly involved in the pandemic response, took turns reading passages and commenting on facts in the work, according to two people with knowledge of the gathering, which began on a Friday and stretched into the weekend. The governor also read aloud from the work.

Shane Goldmacher contributed reporting.