Cuomo advisers used campaign aide to dig up dirt on accuser
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and Melissa DeRosa
Andrew Harnik | PA
The closest advisers to former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo used a campaign financial aide to search for potentially damaging information about Lindsey Boylan, who accused him of sexual harassment, according to files released by the Office of the New York attorney general.
Melissa DeRosa, who was the governor’s main assistant, told investigators about efforts to find the information and potentially tell a negative story about Boylan during an investigation into Cuomo’s alleged sexual harassment of former aides and associates .
DeRosa told investigators she believed Boylan was working with other prominent New York politicians to bring down Cuomo. She also said at the time that Cuomo’s team didn’t end up trying to plant the story they aimed to set up on Boylan. Richard Azzopardi, Cuomo’s chief spokesperson, has also been sent and received emails about the effort, according to the exhibits.
Cuomo has denied any wrongdoing. He resigned in August after state attorney general Letitia James released a damning report detailing his offices’ findings on Cuomo’s behavior.
Azzopardi and an attorney for DeRosa did not respond to emails seeking comment. Boylan did not return a request for comment prior to publication.
During DeRosa’s interview with state investigators earlier this year, she explained that she was trying to acquire a list of donors who supported Boylan when she ran for president of the borough of Manhattan. Azzopardi told investigators they were also looking for vendors who worked with Boylan’s campaign for Congress.
Boylan, who previously worked in the Cuomo administration, accused the former governor of harassing her Last year. She ended up losing in a Democratic primary for the president of the Manhattan borough. When she ran for Congress in the 2020 election cycle, she lost in a primary to Rep. Jerry Nadler, DN.Y.
A Cuomo’s campaign finance director sent DeRosa and Azzopardi an email about Boylan’s donors in January, according to records released by James’ office. DeRosa and Azzopardi received a list of Boylan vendors in February. The attorney general withheld the name of the campaign finance director who sent the emails to Cuomo’s advisers.
“Let me know if we should dig something,” Cuomo’s campaign aide wrote to DeRosa and Azzopardi in February, while including a list of more than two dozen campaign vendors who once worked for Boylan.
Cuomo’s team was trying to link Boylan’s campaign finance records to possible political motivation to harm the then governor, DeRosa told investigators. The lists of suppliers and donors have been publicly listed.
DeRosa told investigators that Cuomo’s team had extracted campaign funding information about Boylan, State Senator Alessandra Biaggi, the Progressive Working Families Party and New York City public lawyer Jumaane Williams, who is running for governor himself in next year’s race. Biaggi, who previously worked in Cuomo’s office, said the governor oversaw a toxic workplace. She previously told CNBC that she was a witness in the Attorney General’s investigation.
“And you can see in this case I asked Alessandra Biaggi, Boylan, WFP [Working Families Party] and Jumaane Williams because I think they all work together, âDeRosa told investigators, according to a transcript.
“Working together in what way? Asked an investigator.
“To take down the governor,” DeRosa replied.
Susan Lerner, executive director of state campaign finance watchdog, Common Cause / New York, criticized the efforts on Cuomo’s behalf.
“This type of behavior is not illegal, it’s just shameful,” Lerner said after viewing documents released by the attorney general’s office late last month.
Lindsey Boylan attends the 9th Annual Elly Awards hosted by the Women’s Forum of New York on June 17, 2019 in New York City.
Mike Coppola | Getty Images
The attorney general’s office blocked donor names provided to Cuomo’s advisers by the campaign assistant. But CNBC compared the redacted list included in exhibits in documents released by the attorney general with the public disclosure record of former Boylan supporters who supported her during her run for the Manhattan Borough of President.
The names of donors presented to the Cuomo team in January include Bradley Tusk, CEO of Tusk Strategies, and a member of the Allen family, who founded the investment firm Allen & Company.
After reviewing the files, DeRosa initially thought that there might be a campaign funding violation embedded in donor files. She was ultimately dissuaded by Azzopardi and another Cuomo advisor that such a violation did not exist, according to the transcripts. Still, DeRosa noted to investigators, “I thought it was a story to screw up.”
“I didn’t realize it at first, but I thought there had been campaign funding fraud because of the way the donors were willing,” DeRosa told investigators. âThere were specific donors listed at different addresses, which looks like one – it seemed at first that someone was donating money from different addresses, which would have been campaign finance fraud because this would have had an impact on the matching public funds. “