Good Government Groups Curious About Cuomo Speech At Elite Manhattan Prep School

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Governor Cuomo gives many speeches every year, but one that he gave on Thursday was a bit unusual.

He addressed graduates of an elite Manhattan prep school where a top leader is also a major donor to the governor.

Good government groups are raising questions about how it all came about.

As CBS2’s Tony Aiello reported, when the governor speaks, the media listens.

Thursday at Lincoln Center there were no news cameras allowed for Mr. Cuomo’s commencement address to Columbia Grammar and Prep, which charges more than $47,000 a year in tuition.

The governor’s office — which supplies a feed of many of his events — did not for this speech.

“He must get invited to lots of these, why did he choose this one?” Dick Dadey with Citizens Union said.

Good government groups are curious. The governor has no known family connection to Columbia Prep, but he does have a political one.

The chair of the school’s board of trustees is Andrew Zaro.

Records show Zaro and his wife gave $50,000 to the Cuomo campaign this years, and $100,000 since 2010.

CBS2 searched the internet extensively, but couldn’t find any record of Governor Cuomo ever giving a high school commencement address.

A spokeswoman would not provide an example of a previous high school speech, and did not provide a copy of Columbia Prep’s invitation to the governor.

“He rarely, if ever, speaks at high school graduations, and this is a school full of very rich New Yorkers, including some of his top donors,”John Kaehny, Reinvent Albany said.

“It comes very close to the line when you see a big campaign contributor getting the government to appear at the only high school commencement address during his entire time possibly as governor,” Dadey said.

Cuomo’s office said he was proud to talk to the students about future challenges, and added that he has so many donors that some are bound to be connected to almost any invitation he accepts.

“The governor was invited by the school to deliver the commencement address at this year’s graduation and was proud to address students on both the opportunities and the challenges presented to them now and in the future,” a statement from his office said.

The governor’s office said in past years Scott Stringer and Cory Booker have spoken at Columbia Prep’s commencement.

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