NY state senators want to close loophole that lets pols like Cuomo use taxpayer money for legal fees

Some state senators want to stop New York pols such as ex-Gov. Andrew Cuomo from using any more taxpayer dollars for legal fees when facing lawsuits from their time in office.

The local senators included a provision in a budget proposal released last week and pushed by Sen. Mike Gianaris (D-Queens) that would close the loophole that has allowed politicians such as Cuomo and former Republican state Sen. Majority Leader Joe Bruno to rake in millions of dollars of reimbursements for their legal fees.

“There is no scenario where someone’s campaign should be reimbursed by taxpayers because [the politician is] paying for a legal defense,’ Gianaris told The Post on Monday.

The Dem said that while his bill has been floating around in Albany for a few years, finally getting it involved in state budget negotiations this time around may help move it forward.

Former state Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno was reimbursed more than $2.4 million dollars in legal fees stemming from bribery charges that were ultimately overturned in 2014, years after he left office. Frank Becerra Jr./The Journal News/USA TODAY NETWORK
Former state Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno was reimbursed more than $2.4 million dollars in legal fees stemming from bribery charges that were ultimately overturned in 2014, years after he left office. Frank Becerra Jr./The Journal News/USA TODAY NETWORK
Former Gov. Andrew Cuomo has received more than $500,000 toward legal fees so far. AP
Former Gov. Andrew Cuomo has received more than $500,000 toward legal fees so far. AP

“One of the reasons we included it in the budget was to start those discussions,” Gianaris said.

The issue has been raised a number of times in Albany since Bruno forced the state to cough up more than $2.4 million in 2014 after he was ultimately found not guilty of bribery charges. He had retired from the Senate about six years earlier.

Most of the cash paid out to Bruno went to his campaign account.

The same scenario is now playing out with Cuomo, who still faces several lawsuits in state and federal courts related to his handling of nursing homes during the pandemic, as well as sexual harassment charges – all of which he denies having been in involved in any wrong-doing.

“There’s no justification, no matter who’s taking advantage of that” New York loophole, says state Sen. Michael Gianaris (D-Queens). James Messerschmidt for NY Post
“There’s no justification, no matter who’s taking advantage of that” New York loophole, says state Sen. Michael Gianaris (D-Queens). James Messerschmidt for NY Post

Earlier this year, the state began paying out what could amount to millions of dollars in Cuomo legal expenses.

Cuomo’s campaign received $564,918 from Empire State taxpayers for his legal fees late last year, with more expected to come.

Gianaris said the precedent is wrong, no matter who the politician in question is.

“There’s no justification, no matter who’s taking advantage of that,” Gianaris said.