ALBANY, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — Lifestyle TV star Sandra Lee is not married to Gov. Andrew Cuomo, but a conservative group said she should be required to spill the beans on her finances as if she were.
As CBS 2’s Tony Aiello reported Monday, Lee looked like a proud first lady, holding the Bible and sharing a kiss when Cuomo was sworn into office on New Year’s Day 2011. But since Lee and Cuomo are not married, she technically is not the first lady.
Thus, unlike previous first ladies Libby Pataki, Silda Spitzer and Michelle Paterson, Lee is not legally required to disclose her finances.
Those finances include earnings from TV shows and cookbooks, Sandra Lee cookware at K-Mart, and other endorsement details.
“It’s something that New York voters really should be paying attention to,” said the Rev. Jason McGuire of the conservative New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms group.
McGuire has asked the state Ethics Commission for clarification, particularly after a ruling seemed to classify Lee as Cuomo’s domestic partner – eligible for first lady perks such as flights with the governor on state aircraft.
“You can have the taxpayer-funded perks in a domestic partnership relationship, and frankly have some influence on the governor, but not have to financially disclose any potential conflicts of interest,” McGuire said. “That’s the real concern.”
Lee and Cuomo live together in Westchester County. Cuomo has said they both cover the costs of their home.
Cuomo is the first governor since the disclosure rules were passed who does not have a spouse. Thus, the question is being asked for the first time – should a first girlfriend be required to disclose finances like a first lady?
“They’re not married, so she has a right to her own privacy,” one woman told CBS 2′s Aiello.
But a man later added, “In matters that are ambiguous, why not side on the right of being more transparent and more open?”
Cuomo’s office said Lee has not accompanied him on state aircraft. The office declined to comment further.
Lee’s publicist also has not commented. In the past, Lee has said she pays her own way while traveling the state doing charity work.
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