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December 13, 2004
The Other Shoes Keep Dropping On Kerik

As I suspected on Saturday, the nanny problem Bernard Kerik cited when he withdrew his nomination as DHS chief does not appear to be the only issue that his confirmation hearing would have revealed. Today, two new revelations about Kerik's tenure in New York demonstrate the poor job done in vetting his candidacy prior to the nomination.

First, the Daily News reveals that Kerik managed to conduct two simultaneous extramarital affairs, using a "secret" corporate-rental apartment. One of the women was a publishing magnate, while the other worked for Kerik in Corrections:

The first relationship, spanning nearly a decade, was with city Correction Officer Jeanette Pinero; the second, and more startling, was with famed publishing titan Judith Regan.

His affair with Regan, the stunningly attractive head of her own book publishing company, lasted for almost a year.

Dramatically, each woman learned of the existence of the other after Pinero discovered a love note left by Regan in the apartment.

Who sleeps with whom does not usually concern me in regards to job qualificiations -- except when a manager or executive carries on a sexual affair with an underling. Jeanette Pinero worked in Kerik's command structure, a gross violation of ethics for any manager or executive, the exact same kind as we saw in the Clinton-Lewinsky affair. This relationship has led to two separate lawsuits against the city of New York, both claiming that Kerik retaliated against managers who disciplined Pinero for job violations. The city settled one suit for a quarter-million dollars; the other id now in depositions and subject to a gag order. (Newsweek reports that Regan hired bodyguards to keep Kerik away after the affair collapsed.)

The New York Times picked up on another potential problem in Kerik's administration in NYC, first reported by the Daily News. Kerik had been accused of taking payoffs, a fact that seems to have been missed by the White House staff, although the charges were under review by New York:

While serving as New York City correction commissioner in the late 1990's, Bernard B. Kerik spoke to the city's Trade Waste Commission on behalf of a close friend who was helping a company suspected of mob connections try to get a license from the city, according to a former commission executive.

The conversation was part of a web of relationships Mr. Kerik developed with officials of a New Jersey construction company long suspected by New York authorities of connections to organized crime. The company, Interstate Industrial Corporation, hired Mr. Kerik's close friend Lawrence Ray, the best man at Mr. Kerik's wedding, to help with its licensing problems. Mr. Ray said yesterday that he gave Mr. Kerik more than $7,000 in cash and other gifts while Mr. Kerik was commissioner of correction and the police. The gifts were first reported in The Daily News yesterday.

Put all of this together and it adds up to political toxic waste, the kind that vetting staffs are supposed to keep well away from presidents. For the most part, the White House staff has done a good job in keeping this administration clean of scandal -- which makes the revelation-a-day embarrassment of the Kerik nomination difficult to fathom. Obviously, Rudy Giuliani's considerable assistance in the election gave him huge credibility with the Bush team. Perhaps it gave Rudy too much credibility, which is why he went out of his way to apologize to Bush this weekend:

Giuliani was at the White House on Sunday night, one of several dozen guests at holiday dinner party. The former mayor and his wife, Judith, also rode in the presidential limousine with Bush and his wife, Laura, back to the White House after they attended the taping of the annual "Christmas in Washington" concert.

McClellan noted that even though Giuliani offered an apology Sunday night to Bush, "I don't think the president felt that one was necessary."

Giuliani spokeswoman Sunny Mindel said in New York that the White House dinner Sunday had been planned several weeks ago. "The president was very gracious," she said. "They remain good friends."

Word has it that Kerik will return to his former position with Giuliani Partners now that he has withdrawn from the nomination, and that Giuliani will welcome him back. Expect that welcome to be short if Giuliani entertains any ideas about jumping into the presidential race in 2008.

UPDATE: I missed this excellent post on the subject by Michelle Malkin until she linked back to this one. I like her pick for the DHS position, too:

My dream pick: Peter Nunez, former United States Attorney, Southern District of California (1982-1988), former Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for Enforcement (1990-1993) overseeing all law enforcement components of the Treasury Department including Customs and BATF, lecturer in the Department of Political Science and International Relations at the University of San Diego and Chairman of the Board of Directors at the Center for Immigration Studies.

Nunez has been in the trenches, has demonstrated his ability and determination to enforce our immigration laws, and has worked with law enforcement officials and agencies on both the northern and southern borders. He gets it.

If he doesn't get the DHS nod, let's hope whoever does has the sense to put Nunez in charge of immigration issues.

Just to recap Kerik's disastrous nomination:

* Don't be fooled by the notion that the process has been too rough for Kerik and that we won't get anyone to serve if our standards are this high. Plenty of good people remain and are willing to serve.

* The nanny problem is no mere distraction. If Kerik had followed the law, he would have paid her Social Security taxes, which would have immediately shown whether the servant had work eligibility in the US. As a law-enforcement agent, Kerik knew the requirement, and as a politician, he knew the Kimba Wood/Zoe Baird precedent. The failure to pay the taxes demonstrates that he knew her status and lied about it.

* Sleeping with your employees may not be illegal, but it's highly unethical, and the city of New York continues to pay for it. It destroys morale, and more so, it demonstrates a self-centeredness that we really don't need at DHS. Either we take homeland security seriously or we don't. The White House should.

Kerik turned out to be a bad candidate, a huge mistake for the White House, and fortunately flamed out before the Senate confirmation hearings. No excuses necessary.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at December 13, 2004 12:06 PM

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» Kerik - Not Such a Good Idea from The Sundries Shack
Bernard Kerik, the President's choice for Secretary of DHS, has turned out to be a real crumb-bum. According to Ed Morrisey, not only did he hire an ilegal immigrant as a nanny, he was havig an affair with two different women - one of whom was one of ... [Read More]

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