The New York Post reported that New York officials are trying to come up with ethics rules to avoid repeating former New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s book scandal. For the uninitiated, Mr. Cuomo received a 5.1 million dollar advance for a book about his leadership in the early stages of the Wuhan coronavirus outbreak in New York. The book did not sell well, and Mr. Cuomo continues to fight allegations that he utilized his staffers to write the book on official time.
It is unclear from the Post article what New York officials hope to accomplish. In my view, the issue stems from royalties. Political books generally do not sell well, but politicians earn six (and sometimes seven) figure royalties to write them. It is an obvious case of buying good will. To be sure, politicians taking royalties is also fraught with issues — for example a politician or his or her party may use campaign money to purchase the book, or powerful backers of the politician may purchase books to drive up royalty payments. However, given the choice of how to clean up politician book deals, I would cast my vote for prohibiting advances to elected officials and ensuring transparency on royalty payments (again, working from the assumption that this is a problem to be resolved).