New York Governor Andrew Cuomo speaks during a press conference ahead of the opening of a Covid-19 mass vaccination site in the New York borough of Queens on February 24, 2021.
Seth Little | AFP | Getty Images
Andrew Cuomo’s top funders pause and reassess their support for the New York governor who was accused of sexual harassment by two former aides, according to two people directly involved in the fundraising process.
Some of these people refused, fearing retaliation from the governor, who will be the subject of an independent state investigation. Cuomo is running for a fourth term in next year’s elections.
“Nobody gives him anything now. Everything is on hold,” said a finance manager.
Others expressed confusion about the crisis Cuomo is facing.
“I think people who like him and have been with him for a long time are scratching their heads asking how he got himself into that position,” said Bernard Schwartz, a New York businessman who has supported Cuomo for years, on Monday opposite CNBC.
“If he does not present himself fully and openly and honestly, he does not deserve a fourth term, although I like him very much,” said Schwartz, who has donated $ 70,000 for Cuomo’s campaign since 2019. Schwartz said he planned to call Cuomo in the coming days.
Cuomo is a moderate democrat who has built a huge and powerful network of donors. As of July, his campaign has raised over $ 4 million, government records show. His campaign started the new year with a war chest of over $ 16 million.
The fundraiser and donors are the latest group to push Cuomo back after the allegations became public. Federal and state Democratic lawmakers, including the administration of President Joe Biden, have supported an independent investigation into the claims made against Cuomo.
New York Attorney General Letitia James’s office will select an independent outside attorney to conduct the investigation. A Cuomo press representative did not respond to CNBC’s request for comment.
Former Cuomo adviser Charlotte Bennett, 25, accused the governor of asking questions about her personal life, such as whether she was monogamous in relationships and whether she was “with an older man”.
The 63-year-old Cuomo admitted that he had conversations with aides who “were misunderstood as undesirable flirtation”. He has denied ever touching or suggesting anyone inappropriately.
Another former adjutant, Lindsey Boylan, 36, has accused Cuomo of kissing her without consent, among other things. He has denied their claims.
The relationships Cuomo has built with his financial network were evident in the early stages of the presidential primaries when he signaled his donors to support Biden.
John Catsimatidis, founder of the New York-based supermarket chain Gristedes, is another donor who weighed on the controversy. Catsimatidis, who is expected to run for a second Republican run for Mayor of New York, didn’t rule out walking away from Cuomo.
“Let’s see what the investigation shows,” Catsimatidis told CNBC on Monday. Catsimatidis gave Cuomo’s campaign $ 10,000 in 2018, records show.
Several Wall Street executives close to Cuomo donors and trustees told CNBC, on condition of anonymity, that fund-raising efforts have either been interrupted or will be reassessed in the wake of the allegations.
“They’re more of a wait and see. When this is over, they don’t want to get on the wrong side of the governor,” said one person. “So you’re in a wait and see mode, which means you’re not writing a check now, but you’re not ready to cut it off completely either.”
A longtime Cuomo employee who has regularly contributed to his campaigns told CNBC that the sexual harassment allegations could force New York voters to seek another leader for their state. Cuomo has been implicated in other scandals, including the state’s underreporting of nursing home deaths from Covid-19.
Meanwhile, companies that funded Cuomo’s most recent inauguration in 2018, and in some cases supported him throughout the past year, are silent on the allegations.
AT&T, Comcast, the United Health Group, Ernst and Young, Citigroup, JPMorgan, and Bank of America are among the major companies that have contributed to Cuomo’s political work. JPMorgan and Citi officials declined to comment. The other companies did not respond to requests for comment. Comcast is the parent company of NBCUniversal, which is owned by CNBC.
After the deadly January 6 riot on Capitol Hill, these companies decided to either pause contributions to Republican and Democratic lawmakers, stop donations to lawmakers who questioned election results, and their general policies regarding campaign contributions to lawmakers on both sides of the government to review gear, or to suspend its political donations altogether.
Veteran Democratic political strategist Hank Sheinkopf stated that most corporations will not push Cuomo back, at least not yet, as many are headquartered in New York and do much of their business in the state.
“Many of these companies are based in New York and have interests in New York. They will likely stand with the governor because it is in their best interest to do so,” Sheinkopf said.