The New York State attorney general is expanding his investigation into sexual assault allegations against Governor Andrew Cuomo to include new charges that an aide to the governor linked access to the coronavirus vaccine to support for the governor.
The Wall Street Journal is reporting that half a dozen Democratic Party county executives were contacted by Larry Schwartz, a volunteer adviser who oversaw vaccine distribution for the state. The executives believed they were being contacted about the vaccine but Schwartz asked them about their position on whether Cuomo should resign.
At least one county executive contacted the attorney general’s office about the call, according to the Journal report.
“Right at the time that every county was working, and desperately needed more vaccines, to receive a call from the person who was responsible for allocating those doses gauging political loyalty to the governor was an obvious conflict, and at best ethically gray,” said one county executive who received a call from Mr. Schwartz.
In addition to the sexual assault and harassment allegations by several women, Cuomo is under federal investigation for falsifying data on Covid deaths in nursing homes.
Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz said he spoke with investigators on March 30 about the call he received from Mr. Schwartz. Mr. Poloncarz, a Democrat, said he didn’t feel Mr. Schwartz was trying to pressure him to stand by the governor; Mr. Poloncarz hasn’t called for Mr. Cuomo’s resignation.
The investigators for Ms. James’ office have interviewed at least six of Mr. Cuomo’s sexual-harassment accusers, according to the women and their lawyers. They have also issued dozens of subpoenas to current and former officials in the Cuomo administration, according to people familiar with the matter.
Just who is this guy Larry Schwartz? Lindsey Boylan, one of Cuomo’s accusers, called him “an enforcer.”
“Larry Schwartz is not a public servant,” she wrote. “He is an enforcer who represents the worst of @NYGovCuomo’s corrupt administration. Linking life-saving vaccine access to political support for the governor is a criminal abuse of power.”
Nice county you have there, Mr. Executive. Be a shame if you didn’t get any vaccinations to save residents’ lives.
Schwartz openly acknowledged the phone blitz to county executives, according to reports, but said he had done “nothing wrong” and that his conversations were “cordial, respectful and friendly.”
A spokesman for Cuomo denied any links between Schwartz’s calls and vaccine distribution in the state.
“To be clear, Larry’s conversations did not bring up vaccine distribution,” Rich Azzopardi told The Post. “He would never link political support to public health decisions. Distorting Larry’s role or intentions for headlines maligns a decades’ long public servant who has done nothing but volunteer around the clock since March to help New York get through the COVID pandemic.”
Those Democratic County executives knew precisely who Schwartz was and the reason he was calling. It is, after all, New York and politics is a tough game anywhere — more so in the Empire State. Schwartz could be perfectly “cordial, respectful and friendly” and the message would still come through loud and clear: play ball or the vaccine for your county could get “lost” on its way there.
That Cuomo got caught playing politics with vaccine access isn’t surprising. You have to wonder how many other state governors used the vaccine as leverage to get what they wanted?