Suozzi calls for probe of Gov. Hochul’s use of state aircraft

Long Island Rep. Tom Suozzi called for a probe into whether Gov. Kathy Hochul misused state aircraft to promote her campaign to keep the executive’s seat.

Suozzi, who is challenging Hochul in a Democratic primary for governor, said Thursday Hochul should agree to have state Attorney General Letitia James conduct an investigation of the Air Hochul trips.

“If she truly believes in openness and transparency, let’s have the governor refer the matter to the attorney general to investigate and determine if any ethics laws were violated,” Suozzi, a former Nassau County executive, said during a press conference held via Zoom.

Suozzi’s campaign also released a video during the press briefing and on Twitter showing a clip of Hochul pledging open and clean government after replacing ex-Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who was forced out of office last August amid a sexual harassment scandal.

The video then shows a helicopter and a dizzying zigzag of trips across the state, 45 on a state chopper or plane over 45 days. Campaign events were sprinkled in.

Gov. Kathy Hochul has hosted approximately 64 campaign events so far in her gubernatorial term.
Lev Radin/Pacific Press via ZUMA Press Wire

Suozzi’s attack of the trips was triggered by reports in the Albany Times Union last week that questioned the legality of the governor’s use of aircraft for some campaign events. Some 64 campaign events were held during Hochul’s first 45 days in office.

“Let’s have reimbursement to the taxpayers for improper travel,” Suozzi said.

Long Island Rep. Tom Suozzi
Long Island Rep. Tom Suozzi plans on challenging Gov. Kathy Hochul in this year’s gubernatorial election.
Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call/Sipa USA

Hochul’s office said she reimbursed the state $19,949.84 for “mixed used” trips that included travel for campaign or private events last Sept. 19, Sept. 24 and Oct. 4.

Beginning in December, Hochul tasked a new deputy counsel who oversees ethics, Pei Pei Cheng de-Castro, to review whether aircraft usage complies with ethics guidelines.

Other mixed-use flights are being reviewed, according to the governor’s office.

“Governor Hochul is committed to transparency, accountability, and the highest ethical standards,” said Hochul spokeswoman Hazel Crampton-Hays.

“The Governor’s new deputy counsel who oversees ethics is completing a thorough review of all aircraft usage and necessary reimbursements identified thus far have been made, and we are creating additional controls and processes to better ensure consistent adherence to the strictest ethical guidelines.”

Hochul also reimburses for all mileage in state cars related to political activity and charters aircraft for political activity, her office said.

New York Attorney General Letitia James
Long Island Rep. Tom Suozzi recommends state Attorney General Letitia James to dig into Gov. Kathy Hochul’s campaign finances.
AP Photo/Richard Drew, File

Attacking governors for use of official aircrafts is a time-honored practice in the Empire State.

During the 1994 campaign for governor, Republican George Pataki attacked three-term Democratic incumbent Mario Cuomo’s use of state aircraft, which he sarcastically called “Air Cuomo.”

But Suozzi’s own maneuvers have raised eyebrows from government watchdogs.

Former Gov. George Pataki
Former Gov. George Pataki was known for slamming then-Gov. Mario Cuomo for misusing state aircraft resources.
James Messerschmidt

The Post last year reported that Suozzi used cash from his campaign account to pay himself $37,860 in rent for a condo office unit he owns in a Glen Cove building.

Critics said it was reminiscent of how former President Donald Trump billed his campaign handsomely to rent office space in Trump Tower, which he owns. The Suozzi campaign said it paid fair market rent to Suozzi.