Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office this afternoon released a 2,200-word letter objecting to coverage of the governor’s relationship with a major lobbying group, repeatedly denying the group has any influence over him or his positions.
The letter — released under a Freedom of Information Law request — was sent to The New York Times following the newspaper’s reporting on $2 million in donations made by gambling interests to the Committee to Save New York, a group that spent $12 million on mostly pro-Cuomo advertisements in 2011 but has refused to release the names of its donors. The Times referenced the letter in its follow-up reporting, but it had not been released in full by the Cuomo administration.
The gambling donations came as Cuomo began a significant public push for the legalization of up to seven non-Indian casinos across the state.
The letter, written by Cuomo Communications Director Richard Bamberger and special counsel Jeremy Creelan, lays out the governor’s case. They argue that coordination between lobbying groups and elected officials is legal and at times necessary, but dispute any claims that the Committee to Save New York has influenced Cuomo’s positions on gambling or any other issue.
“CSNY has not influenced the Governor’s positions because his identical positions existed prior to CSNY’s formation,” the letter reads. “The Governor laid out his vision for a fiscally responsible state government in his campaign — a property tax cap, a 2% cap on growth in state spending, no new taxes, and a budget without gimmicks or one-shots — long before CSNY appeared or supported those positions in their advocacy.”
The two aides did offer praise for the lobbying group, and contend that saying it spends more than any other lobbying entity is “not true.”
“Unlike CSNY, the largest unions in NYS spend millions of dollars directly supporting candidates through political contributions and run ads. CSNY only ran TV ads,” Bamberger and Creelan wrote. “CSNY made no political contributions; in fact, in 2011 the combined total of political campaign and lobbying expenditures for the public employee unions well exceeded CSNY’s entire lobbying expenses.”
Later, they defended the Committee to Save New York’s spending:
“To malign, distort, or intimidate CSNY supporters or cast suspicion on their efforts is wrong on the facts, law and effect,” they wrote. “To report CSNY’s lobbying efforts without reporting the context, history and totality is misleading.”
Here’s the full letter: