Cuomo enterprise allies, donors quiet after sexual harassment report
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo speaks from the One World Trade Center Tower as he makes an announcement in New York City on June 15, 2021.
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Business allies and major funders of New York Governor Andrew Cuomo did not rush to his defense after the Attorney General’s Office released a report on several alleged sexual harassment cases.
CNBC reached out to many of the governor’s top donors and corporate partners after the New York attorney general Letitia James published a 165-page report by independent investigators that found that at least 11 women had been sexually molested by Cuomo and that his office was an intimidating environment.
Almost all of the funders, allies and advisers contacted refused to comment on the allegations made against the governor. Nor did they comment on whether they would continue to associate with him as the leader of the Democratic Party, such as Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, also a New Yorker, who asked him to resign.
A longtime Cuomo consultant didn’t think the support would take much longer. “I think it’s all crumbling,” said the advisor of the governor’s support in the business world. This person declined attribution due to the private nature of the conversations the person had.
The governor is seeking a fourth term. Cuomo’s re-election campaign raised more than $ 2 million from some New York business leaders in the first half of 2021, despite all the controversy surrounding him.
While Cuomo continues to deny many of the allegations, a potential drop in funding and support from some of the state’s wealthiest financiers could ruin his re-election opportunities.
Many of these donors have ties with party leaders, including Henry Munoz, former chairman of the Democratic National Committee on Finance, who donated $ 25,000 to Cuomo in late January. In 2020 it was announced that Munoz would join the presidential campaign of then-candidate Joe Biden. A DNC spokesperson and Munoz did not return requests for comments.
Biden is expected to comment on the report against Cuomo on Tuesday after White House press secretary Jen Psaki described the allegations as “hideous.”
“I don’t know anyone could have watched [James’ press conference] this morning and didn’t find the allegations horrific – I know I definitely did, “said Psaki.
A Wall Street executive who recently had a private phone call with Cuomo and business leaders to lift the New York state and county tax withholding cap told CNBC in a text message that the report was “not great.” However, that person said “yes” when asked if the person would continue to support Cuomo following James’ report.
This person did not explain why and declined to be identified to avoid retaliation.
Barry Diller, founder of media giant IAC, donated more than $ 22,000 to Cuomo’s re-election campaign in January. When asked for comment, an IAC spokeswoman told CNBC that Diller was “unable to participate in the story.”
Dennis Mehiel, a longtime New York businessman who has been close to Cuomo and President Joe Biden for years, said hours prior to the release of this story Tuesday that he “hadn’t seen” the report and would review it and then respond. CNBC hasn’t heard from Mehiel. Mehiel contributed $ 12,500 to Cuomo’s campaign in June.
Susanne Durst, wife of real estate titan Douglas Durst, gave Cuomo $ 10,000 in June. When asked whether Durst would continue to support Cuomo, a spokesman replied: “We are not discussing political donations.”
Others told CNBC they were too busy to talk about the governor and didn’t return any follow-up requests for comments.
John Catsimatidis, a billionaire and founder of the Gristedes grocery chain, previously told CNBC that he would wait to see what the investigation would lead to before making his decision on Cuomo. He told ET around noon on Tuesday that he was having lunch and calling back after that. When CNBC published this story, Catismatidis had not responded to requests for comment. He contributed $ 25,000 to Cuomo’s campaign in June.
The same goes for an executive on a New York professional sports team who has also known and worked with the governor for more than a decade. This person said he wanted to see the report first and was in meetings, but would call back later.
This executive did not call back.