Gov. Andrew Cuomo canceled two $5,500-a-ticket World Series fundraisers after being accused of exploiting America's national pastime and civic pride for a chance to raise cash from wealthy insiders.
The Democratic governor's campaign said Thursday that the events scheduled for Games 3 and 4 at Citi Field were nixed and that about 20 "high-end" tickets per game were returned to the Mets.
"Given the overwhelming demand for tickets for Friday and Saturday night's games, we have decided to reschedule this weekend's events to a future date so that more tickets are available," campaign spokesman Austin Shafran said in a statement. Cuomo still plans to attend the games.
Most fans trying to buy tickets to the World Series are limited to two tickets, according to information on the team's website.
The New York Post editorial board called the fundraisers a "scalping scam" and good-government groups questioned how the campaign could buy 40 tickets to the World Series. On Thursday, standing-room-only tickets were going for $586 on StubHub, with the most expensive luxury seats fetching $11,241 apiece.
"The governor should be the fan-in-chief for any New York team up for a championship," said Susan Lerner, executive director of Common Cause. "But when he turns around, takes a special number of tickets and sells them at a premium for his own benefit, he looks terrible, and he's gone from being booster-in-chief to self-serving politician."
Assemblyman Steven McLaughlin, a Republican from the Albany area, wants a state inspector general investigation into what he has called "Metgate." He said Cuomo's ability to score 40 World Series tickets shows that he feels "he does not have to play by the same rules as his fellow New Yorkers."
"The public deserves to know how the governor obtained these tickets ... for what price and if any special favors were given to Cuomo when average fans are subject to a lottery," he said.
The "Andrew Cuomo 2018" campaign maintains that it purchased the tickets directly from the Mets at face value using traditional channels. But Cuomo has a tight relationship with the Mets, who have significant business before the state. On Tuesday, Cuomo and two staffers flew to Game 1 in Kansas City on a plane owned by the team's owners. The campaign plans to pay for the travel.
A message left Thursday with the Mets' media relations team was not immediately returned.
Lerner said that if Cuomo's campaign used its pull to get more tickets than the average fan could obtain, "that seems to be an abuse of his office. It's ethically, morally and possibly legally inappropriate."
Meanwhile, aides to New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said he purchased a standing-room-only ticket to attend Game 3.
Cuomo, who was elected last year to a second term, wouldn't be the first New York governor to commit an error during the World Series. Democratic Gov. David Paterson was fined $62,000 by the state's ethics commission for seeking and accepting free tickets to a 2009 Yankees World Series game.