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NYSNYS NEWS: Inspector General asked to investigate how Cuomo campaign obtained reported 40 NY Mets World Series tickets to resell to donors for $5,500 each.
NYSNYS NEWS: Inspector General asked to investigate how Cuomo campaign obtained reported 40 NY Mets World Series tickets to resell to donors for $5,500 each.

By Kyle Hughes

ALBANY, N.Y. (November 2) — Assemblyman Steve McLaughlin released a letter Monday calling on the state Inspector General to investigate how Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s re-election campaign obtained World Series tickets for resale at a marked up price.

“There’s certainly smoke there, is there fire?” McLaughlin (R-Rensselaer County) said Monday. “I don’t know but I think that’s why the inspector general should certainly take a look at it.”

Cuomo’s campaign said McLaughlin was trying to score political points. “This is the usual sort of grandstanding that we've come to expect from Steve McLaughlin, who always attacks the Governor on days that end with ‘y,’ “ spokesman Austin Shafran said. “However, this is the first time I've seen someone call for an investigation into something that even they say is legal.”

McLaughlin said he was alarmed to learn Cuomo obtained a reported 40 tickets and planned to offer them to his campaign donors for $5,500 each. Cuomo cancelled the fundraiser plans after being accused by critics of being a ticket scalper.

Tickets to the games in New York City carried a face value of $71 for the bleachers to $571 for prime seats, but it was not clear what kind of tickets Cuomo obtained and and what kind of financial transaction he made with the team.

“While I understand that this is not technically illegal, I am deeply troubled by the refusal of Governor Cuomo and his staff to release any details regarding this situation,” McLaughlin said in the letter dated October 28 and released on Monday.

“I am calling on you as Inspector General to launch an investigation into Governor Cuomo’s deal with the New York Mets organization,” he wrote. “The governor has refused to disclose many details about the deal, but I believe the public has a right to know exactly how many tickets were purchased, at what price and how exactly he obtained them. As you may be aware, Mets fans are subject to a lottery in order to obtain World Series tickets due to their scarcity and demand, and the news of a wealthy politician cutting corners is disconcerting and frustrating to many Mets fans and constituents alike. It is also my understanding that the New York Mets owners have had business before the state, and Governor Cuomo’s deal may potentially represent a conflict of interest in that regard.”

A spokesman for Inspector General Catherine Scott was not available.

McLaughlin said he waited to put the letter out until the series ended with the Kansas City Royals beating the Mets on Sunday night, and said the World Series fundraiser needs to be scrutinized even though Cuomo called it off.

“If there was nothing wrong with what he was doing, why did he cancel it, number one,” McLaughlin said in an interview. “He cancelled it because of blistering criticism … and I think it is a legitimate question to ask how he got those tickets when the general public has got to enter a lottery to try to somehow secure a ticket. And yet the governor apparently with a phone call gets quote-unquote ‘a few dozen.’ “

He said it was “typical Cuomo to think he can kind of do whatever he wants. But when you have the Mets owners with business before the state and you have the governor flying to the game on a private jet owned by the Wilpons (team owners) and then you have him getting a few dozen tickets — it just looks heavy handed in my opinion.”

He said it was “completely appropriate” for any governor to attend a World Series game in New York as long as he or she paid face value for the tickets, but it was not right to use the office to get dozens of tickets for a campaign fundraiser.

Cuomo was not the only politician to use the tickets as a fundraiser. Rep. Grace Meng (D-Queens) also resold tickets, but charged less than Cuomo’s price.

NYPIRG’s Blair Horner said he didn’t know enough about the tickets to say whether the deal was enough to trigger an investigation, but he noted the Mets’ owners have registered as lobbyists in the past. That raises questions about Cuomo’s flight to the opening game of the series.

Horner said candidates are allowed to use campaign money for events, but the opening game was not a campaign event, which raises doubts about whether Cuomo can use the money to reimburse for his share of the cost of the flight.

“That one to me was more troublesome of the two,” Horner said.