December 1, 2007

The Giuliani Scandal Expands, Somewhat

Everyone knew that the marital woes of Rudy Giuliani would get some play in the presidential race, but the extent of official expenses involved in the extramarital affair that led to his second divorce and third marriage may come as a surprise. New York newspapers have begun to dig into the expenses of Giuliani's security details to see how much the affair cost the Big Apple -- and so far, the results have not helped Rudy put the affair behind him. First, his explanations for spreading the billings to other offices didn't wash with other NYC officials, as ABC News reports:

New questions were raised today about Rudy Giuliani's explanation for submitting police security expenses to obscure city agencies while he was mayor of New York and carried on a secret affair with his mistress, who also was given use of a police driver and city car.

Giuliani said Thursday the unusual billing practice was not intended to hide anything but instead to speed payment of American Express credit card bills.

But the current New York Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said today he knew of no problems with the delay of payments before Giuliani was mayor, when Kelly served under Mayor David Dinkins, or since. ...

He said all bills for the police details for Dinkins and now for Mayor Mike Bloomberg are handled directly "through the police department."

Given Giuliani's particularly high profile in regards to his work against the Mob, one could consider his explanation plausible, at least to a point. One would not want to tip off enemies to the assets in a security detail, and keeping all of the the expenses in one office could do that. If that was the intent, American Express billing doesn't make a lot of sense as an excuse. Why not just say that Rudy wanted to keep the extent of security around him a secret to keep those making threats unaware of the defense he had established?

Perhaps today's story from the Daily News shows why that wouldn't work, either. They have discovered a number of receipts showing that Judith Giuliani got a personal driver for her 130-mile trip to the home of her Pennsylvania family while Rudy attended a series of 9/11 funerals:

In the fall of 2001, city cops chauffeured Rudy Giuliani's then-mistress, Judith Nathan, to her parents' Pennsylvania home 130 miles away on the taxpayers' dime.

Records show that city cops refueled at an ExxonMobil station down the road from Nathan's childhood home in Hazleton on Oct. 20, 2001, while Giuliani stayed behind in New York attending 9/11 funerals.

A similar receipt pops up at a different Hazleton gas station two months later, when Nathan apparently went home for a pre-Christmas visit with her parents.

The records show that - in addition to using City Hall funds to take Giuliani and Nathan to 11 secret trysts in the Hamptons, as has been previously reported - taxpayers were paying to ferry Nathan on long-distance trips without Giuliani, now a Republican contender for President.

How serious are these allegations? On one hand, Giuliani needed security, and by extension, so did his family and close associates, such as his girlfriend. (He had publicly split from Donna Hanover well before then, so calling Judith a "mistress" seems a rather loaded nomenclature.) If security was going to tail Judith all the way out to Pennsylvania anyway, why not have her ride in the car and make it easier?

However, most people won't buy that explanation, either. At the least, the Giulianis should have reimbursed the costs of the trips to the taxpayers of New York City -- particularly the fuel bills. The necessity of security does not grant politicians the authority to provide no-cost chauffeur service to friends, and that includes significant others. When those kinds of expenses do get incurred, the expectation is that they will be handled in an above-board manner so that taxpayers can have an honest accounting of the costs to the community.

While I believe this to be a minor issue for Giuliani in terms of ethics -- it tells us nothing new about his relationship with Judith Nathan before their marriage that didn't already make contemporaneous headlines -- the Giuliani team has not handled it very well. They should acknowledge that they made mistakes in handling the billings in 2000 and 2001 and apologize for the errors. The longer they issue threadbare rationalizations, the longer this will stick to the campaign.

UPDATE: For the reading-comprehension challenged, there is nowhere in here where I say this is "no big deal". Clearly, the Giuliani camp has a problem here, one which I note in two ways they're not handling well. We already knew that Giuliani conducted a very public affair with Judith Nathan while married to Donna Hanover, and people have already factored that knowledge into the race. Newspapers and pundits have discussed that much since the beginning of the year.

This is different, and unless the Giuliani team quits issuing the threadbare rationalizations we've heard and starts making some reimbursements, it's going to sting. That's what I said above, and that's what I believe. If there's more after this, it's going to be a real problem for Rudy.

Incidentally, I should note that Josh Marshall at TPM has been doing a good job of going through the paperwork on this story. It's worth a long read, whatever your take on the story.


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