ALBANY, New York — Donations for a lobbying group that promotes Gov. Andrew Cuomo's policies dropped from $17 million to zero after the state ethics board began requiring that donors be named, a 2012 federal tax filing provided Friday to The Associated Press shows.
The business-based Committee to Save New York has funded statewide TV ad blitzes boosting Cuomo's popularity and has lobbied the Legislature and public to support his proposals. The committee spent millions spinning Cuomo's image, without requiring the Democrat to touch his own massive campaign account, whose donors must be identified.
The tax record shows the Committee to Save New York received $17.4 million in payments in 2011 when contributors were anonymous and the group received $1.15 million in January of 2012, including a $600,000 payment by one unidentified person.
But the record shows no donations coming in after July 2012, when the ethics board began requiring that donors be identified, and through the end of 2012. The Committee to Save New York ended that year with $2.1 million.
Cuomo had no comment Friday on donations to the group. His aides have said they coordinate efforts with the Committee to Save New York.
A 2011 ethics and lobbying law required that donors to powerful lobbying be identified so the public would know what groups or individuals are trying to influence public sentiment and elected officials.
But it was up to the state Joint Commission on Public Ethics, headed at the time by many of Cuomo's appointees and former staffers, to determine when those disclosures would begin.
The commission decided not to make the requirement retroactive, instead setting the start clock at July 2012.
According to the tax filing, the Committee to Save New York's continuing purposes include promoting "responsible gaming." The New York Times reported that the New York Gaming Association acknowledged the group contributed $2 million to the committee more than a year ago, as Cuomo was pushing for more casino gambling.
The tax record also shows committee director Steven Spinola was paid $861,887 in 2012.
But committee spokesman Michael McKeon said that figure reflects Spinola's salary at The Real Estate Board of New York, which has members associated with the committee. McKeon said Spinola isn't paid by the committee, but tax rules required the compensation from The Real Estate Board of New York be listed. The board represents New York City real estate developers.
In addition, the tax record shows that in 2012 the committee paid more than $4 million for "media/radio" to ASGK Public Strategies, a Chicago-based public relations firm founded by David Axelrod, former aide to President Bill Clinton. Axelrod is no longer with the firm. Cuomo also worked in the Clinton administration.
Another $139,652 went to Mercury Public Affairs, a Manhattan public relations firm, where McKeon works. And the committee donated $10,000 to the Coalition for New York's Future, another lobbying group based in Manhattan.