Cuomo pays $280K to Iowa political consultant Jeff Link, then denies it

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Cuomo denies paying Jeff Link
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo. Image Ruben Diaz, Jr (CC2.0)

Public records show that New York Governor Andrew Cuomo paid nearly $280,000 to a Des Moines campaign consultancy starting in November 2014. The consultancy, Analytics Media Group, is led by highly-sought-after Democratic Iowa political operative Jeff Link.

The hiring of Link would indicate that Cuomo was investing ahead of the 2016 Iowa Democratic Caucus for a possible Presidential run, but for some reason the Governor is refusing to acknowledge this explanation.

In a radio interview with with WAMC’s Alan Chartock on Tuesday, Cuomo flatly denied any knowledge of the payments. He said if they were in fact made “it would be news” to him.

Cuomo hires Jeff Link in lead up to 2016 Iowa Caucus

Recently named by the Des Moines Register as one of Iowa’s 50 most influential players in the 2020 caucuses, Jeff Link has worked for some very extremely profile Democrats in past elections, including Bill Clinton, Al Gore, and Barrack Obama.

Andrew Cuomo retained Link through his Des Moines-based Analytics Media Group in November 2014 (the same month Cuomo cruised to an easy win for his second term as Governor of New York). With the 2016 Democratic ticket far from settled at that point, there was nothing odd about Cuomo dipping his toe in the water. It was an unremarkable move for a well-funded politician with well-known national ambitions.

The payments continued until January 19th, just under two weeks before the Iowa Democratic Caucus.

It was no secret that Cuomo was considering a run during fifteen months when he was paying Link. A February 2015 edition of New York Magazine‘s Intelligencer column listed all candidates currently in the frame for 2016. “Andrew Cuomo is believed to be interested in the job and recently released what appears to be a campaign memoir,” it said.

Although the Intelligencer also made an unflattering comparison to Mario Cuomo’s famous dithering about a 1992 Presidential run, the fact that Andrew Cuomo had secured an operative as sought after as Jeff Link (and paid him handsomely) shows that he was taking the idea very seriously.

Cuomo denies hiring Jeff Link

Two years later, during an interview with WAMC Radio’s Alan Chartock on Tuesday, Cuomo denied any knowledge of the large payments made to Jeff Link. A transcript of the interview has been published on the Governor’s office website:

Alan Chartock: Now, last time you were with us you said you weren’t running for president. Since then the Times Union reports that your campaign has paid an Iowa political consultant $280,000 from 2014 to 2016. Not running, how come?

Governor Cuomo: That assumes I paid an Iowa consultant $280,000. And if I paid an Iowa consultant $280,000 it would be news to me.

Alan Chartock: Interesting, so the report’s wrong?

Governor Cuomo: Stranger things have happened.

Journalists almost immediately started tweeting copies of the public records confirming the payments, however.

Link says he helped Cuomo in 2018, not 2015

While Andrew Cuomo may have forgotten paying out over a quarter million dollars to an out-of-state campaign adviser, Jeff Link is at least prepared to acknowledge he has been an adviser to the Governor. Link says he helping with race Cuomo needed no help winning, however.

According to the Albany Times-Union, Link claims he helped Cuomo in his 2018 with his media buying strategy for his recent gubernatorial reelection campaign. Link’s consultancy had never helped in a New York State election before, and Cuomo’s reelection was never in any serious doubt. After out-raising his Republican opposition by a factor of 10, he won the general election by nearly 20 points.

If Cumo’s and Link’s public statements are to be believed it paints a very confusing picture. The timeline would be as follows:

  • Andrew Cuomo hires Link in 2014 to help advise him on media strategy for his 2018 gubernatorial reelection campaign.
  • After paying him a quarter million dollars for help with a race still more than two years away, Cuomo stopped paying Link in January 2016 and then forgot he had ever hired him.
  • Jeff Link then provided his valuable advice (over two years after he was last paid) to help a candidate who was a shoo-in for a race in a state he had no experience with (meanwhile in public, Link was supposed to be focused on the Iowa gubernatorial race instead).

If Cuomo considered running for the presidency four years ago and then changed his mind it is hardly a scandal. It remains unclear why he would choose to deny it (assuming he has not actually forgotten about the huge payments).

Cuomo has recently denied any interest in running for 2020, however. It is possible he simply wants to quash all speculation about runs for the White House past or present.

Even that explanation is a best tenuous, however. Maybe $280,000 is simply too small an amount for a candidate as lavishly funded Andrew Cuomo to remember.

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