Rob Astorino, left, and Andrew Cuomo.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo returned fire after his Republican rival released an incendiary video Monday morning accusing him of essentially embezzling Hurricane Sandy relief money for political purposes.
"Is it true that you diverted Hurricane Sandy and other relief money into TV commercials to help your re-election?" the GOP challenger, Rob Astorino, asks in the video.
In the clip, Astorino doesn't detail his sourcing or evidence for the claim. Astorino merely said he was "told the allegation is true. When Business Insider contacted his campaign to ask for proof of the allegation they pointed to the reported $40 million in federal funds that New York State sought to promote tourism and business in areas hard-hit by the 2012 storm.
The New York Times reported in 2013 that Cuomo critics claimed these sorts of ads were "a backdoor way of elevating the governor’s stature, even though they do not mention his name and he is prohibited from appearing in them." Republican New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie faced far more scrutiny, including a reported federal investigation, after he personally appeared in Sandy recovery ads during his re-election campaign.
Reached for comment on the Astorino allegations, Cuomo's government office referred Business Insider to his campaign operation, which disputed the idea the governor had diverted money from victims and slammed Astorino's "pathetic, baseless attacks."
"This is yet another in a string of pathetic, baseless attacks by a flailing candidate," campaign spokesman Peter Kauffmann said in a statement. "The federal government approved funds for advertising to promote tourism in counties devastated by storm damage. New York State invested in a series of tourism ads to drive vacation dollars to those counties, many of which featured small businesses in the impacted areas. Under Governor Cuomo's leadership, New York is building back better than ever."
Kauffmann said Cuomo's position sharply contrasts with the Astorino "strategy."
"I guess Rob Astorino's strategy would have been to tell those counties to drop dead," he quipped.
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