Gov. Andrew Cuomo is notorious for his strong on crime rhetoric. However, currently in the thick of a Democratic Primary, facing off against progressive challenger Cynthia Nixon on September the 13th, his tough talk is being brought into question. Just days before the election, new revelations suggest a $25k payment from a law firm forced Cuomo to halt an investigation into Harvey Weinstein, the accused serial sex offending movie producer.
Last year, the political daggers came out when journalists discovered that David Boies, the star litigator representing Weinstein, essentially decided to issue a secret $10,000 payment to Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. back in 2015. According to a report from The International Business Times, citing reviewed campaign finance documents, this enticing payment was made just months after Vance’s D.A. office, all of a sudden, decided not to prosecute Weinstein over these allegations. This wasn’t just a case of unsubstantiated he said she said, but involved that infamous tape recording of an Italian supermodel being pressured to Weinstein’s hotel room for sex.
For some reason, this case was rejected by D.A. officials after the law firm sent the money.
Surely a legal mind in Gov. Cuomo, father of three girls and a proud feminist, would see the appearance of pay-to-play corruption within his own D.A. that’s protecting this iconic monster, correct? Initially, yes.
In March, the governor was on the side of justice when he announced the appointment of a special deputy to specifically investigate the Manhattan D.A.’s corrupt handling of the case. Vance tried to save face, reversing his decision to later charge the producer, but Cuomo — this committed man of justice — kept to his guns and told the public “it is critical not only that these cases are given the utmost attention but also that there is public confidence in the handling of these cases.” The inquiry would proceed.
Now, in less than a year later, Cuomo has shown a change of heart, suspending the investigation without any solid reason or indication if the trial will continue. BuzzFeed News first reported on Cuomo’s reversal in a letter sent to NYC’s current Attorney General, Barbara Underwood, asking her to suspend the investigation for six months. Underwood, of course, became the new A.G. in May to replace Eric Schneiderman, the man forced to resign following accusations of abuse towards woman despite being a fierce adversary of the movie producer.
And why exactly did Cuomo do all this, you may be asking? Well, money of course.
In a new investigation from journalists David Sirota and Jay Cassano, it was the very same Boies’ law firm who gave Cuomo’s gubernatorial campaign a hefty $25,000 donation shortly before the tense race against Nixon commenced. Talk about the balls on a guy to not only try to bribe those investigating your client, but also those investigating the investigators. The absolute state of modern pay-to-play political corruption, people. It’s a multi-tiered level affair.
Six days after that order was issued, Boies, Schiller & Flexner (BSF) gave their $25,000 to Cuomo’s reelection campaign, while they’ve donated a lifetime sum of $245,000 to the governor since 2009.
Their mutual denial tour soon began.
“Neither Mr. Boies, nor anyone from his firm, ever discussed Harvey Weinstein or Mr. Vance with Mr. Cuomo, or anyone from his office, at any time,” a spokesperson for BSF said in an email statement to the journalists. “Mr. Boies is a longtime supporter of Mr. Cuomo and his contribution in June was consistent with his contributions to Mr. Cuomo over years past.”
In fairness, Boies has since severed ties to Weinstein following reports the producer used Black Cube, a private intelligence company, which he used to collect information on Weinstein’s accusers and the reporters investigating those allegations. These tactics are indicative of a Hollywood powerbroker who, according to the bombshell article from The New York Times, ruled the industry with an iron fist. Weinstein is notorious for silencing his dissenters with any means necessary, whether it involved blacklisting celebrities or getting dirt to use as leverage. Perhaps these actions of blackmail and extortion, once they reached the public eye, were just a bit too much for Boies. But those campaign cheques cleared regardless.
Cuomo’s spokesperson said the investigation was suspended temporarily in order to “avoid interfering with Vance’s ongoing prosecution of Weinstein.” No problem to see here, apparently. Please.
“As we said when the Governor directed the Attorney General to investigate the Manhattan DA’s Office, it should not interfere with the DA’s ongoing criminal case,” Cuomo press secretary Dani Lever told Buzzfeed News following the revelations. “Given the recent indictment and prosecution of Harvey Weinstein by the district attorney, the attorney general’s investigation has been postponed for six months.”
But don’t start counting the months. I don’t say this often, but BuzzFeed News is right when they say this: “The case could drag through the courts for months or even years, suggesting the suspension could be extended indefinitely.” Until that money is returned, new appointments are made and a commitment to justice is restored, the balls are still in Harvey’s court.