When it comes to campaign pay-to-play sleaze, no one does it better than Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
A Post analysis of Cuomo’s campaign filings reveals that individuals tied to Somos Healthcare Providers, a firm that received five emergency COVID contracts from the state Health Department totaling $62 million, have been top Cuomo donors over the past six months.
State Board of Elections filings show that Somos executives and doctors in the Somos network gave more than $200,000 to Cuomo’s re-election campaign (just before the July 15 filing deadline) — roughly 10 percent of the $2.3 million it raised in the first half of the year.
Somos co-founder Henry Muñoz III is a big Democratic donor who served as finance chairman for the Democratic National Committee under President Barack Obama. He and Somos COO Lidia Virgil gave a total of $74,700.
State comptroller records show the company won five contracts to administer COVID tests and vaccines at pop-up sites, including Yankee Stadium and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, the first business Somos had ever done with the state.
“Looks like pay to play,” said John Kaehny, head of Reinvent Albany, a good-government watchdog that’s been pushing for a ban on state vendors contributing to campaigns.
This news comes on the heels of a Wall Street Journal report of major Cuomo donors abandoning him amid the state and federal probes of sexual-harassment allegations and the care-home-death coverup. That $2.3 million is Cuomo’s second-smallest fundraising haul of his decade-plus as governor. Perhaps a governor weakened by scandal just can’t muscle donors the way he used to?
Notably, Jeff Gural, a real-estate developer and casino operator who had given a total of $175,000 to Cuomo’s campaigns, told the Journal that he stopped giving because he doesn’t like the way Cuomo handles business and has felt threatened into donating in the past. He claimed that Cuomo has sought to punish him “because I said something he didn’t like to the press,” Gural told Capital Tonight’s Susan Arbetter, also alleging that Team Cuomo rigged a 2011 gaming license auction.
This much is unmistakable: Individuals doing business with the state (or wanting to) have always numbered among the donors to the gov’s campaigns. Some donors wound up going to prison along with Cuomo’s longtime right-hand man, Joe Percoco, in the Buffalo Billion pay-to-play scandals.
If it sometimes seems like this governor is just buried in scandal, maybe it’s because the avalanche has been building for a long time.