Friday, November 30, 2007

Screw the sex, NYC was charged for Rudy’s campaign expenses

Sex sure does get a lot of attention, and, in this case, rightfully so, since, as others have so ably reported, Rudolph Giuliani tried to hide fiscal evidence of his tryst with Judi Nathan by billing his security detail and travel expenses to several obscure New York City agencies. We now also know that Giuliani assigned his mistress her own city car and driver at NYC taxpayer expense. All very improper, if not, as yet, proved to be specifically illegal.

But, if we all can take our eyes off of America’s little mayor for a minute, we might see something that is more overtly against the law.

Buried in Ben Smith’s original story, posted Wednesday on Politico, is a brief mention of similar, non-Hamptons-related travel, most of which “also was billed to obscure agencies.”

[NYC Comptroller Bill] Thompson also warned that travel costs had increased by 151 percent in Giuliani's final fiscal year, to more than $618,000, a number which also includes police security on campaign swings for Giuliani’s abortive 2000 Senate run and trips to Los Angeles by Donna Hanover, who remained Giuliani's wife and the city's official first lady, in the fall of 2000.

That New York City’s mayor was billing the city for travel related solely to his campaign struck me as odd and wrong, but since the article made no further mention of this, I, like everyone, returned my attention to the sex. But, on Thursday, Smith again made reference to the campaign travel during an appearance on WNYC’s Brian Lehrer Show, this time adding a little more detail (I transcribed the audio, leaving out some cross-talk):

Ben Smith: The total of expenses. . . include expenses related to his 2000 campaign for senate—some of the upstate travel for that campaign—the total is between four-hundred and five-hundred thousand dollars, but a lot of that is not the trips to the Hamptons. . . .

Brian Lehrer: You’re not saying that city taxpayers footed the bill for his political senate campaign trips, are you?

BS: Yes.

BL: Yes?

BS: Yes. His chief of staff told me yesterday that they had offered to reimburse the NYPD and the NYPD wouldn’t accept reimbursement for security on those trips.

To refresh and recap: Prohibited from standing for New York City mayor a third time because of term limits, Giuliani was actively exploring a run for the Senate before a combination of prostate cancer, a bitter divorce, an ugly police shooting, bad poll trends, and personal disinterest caused him to abort his campaign in May of 2000. Before that, however, while serving as mayor of NYC, Giuliani made campaign swings upstate. Expenses for that campaign-related travel were billed to New York City, even though these trips presumably had nothing to do with Rudy’s responsibilities as mayor. That the Giuliani team felt these expenses should not be charged to city taxpayers seems clear, since Giuliani’s chief of staff reportedly told Smith that they had offered to reimburse the NYPD.

According to Rudy’s chief of staff, again as reported by Smith, “the NYPD wouldn’t accept reimbursement for security on those trips.”

All of this raises a host of questions:

  • Isn’t it illegal under New York City law to bill the city for campaign expenses—especially campaign expenses for trips that are outside of NYC, and extra especially for trips that have no relation to city business? (We know from the flap over State Senator Joe Bruno’s use of New York State helicopters that this type of billing is against state law.)
  • If it weren’t illegal, or at least improper, why would Giuliani offer to reimburse the NYPD?
  • On what grounds would the NYPD have cause to refuse reimbursement?
  • When exactly did the mayor offer to reimburse the NYPD? Was it during the campaign, after Rudy pulled out, or after the city comptroller spotted the charges?
  • Was the reimbursement refused by the NYPD under the direction of Giuliani crony Howard Safir, or was it done by the NYPD under the direction of Giuliani crony Bernard Kerik?
  • And, do we know that Giuliani actually offered to reimburse the NYPD, and do we know that the NYPD actually said, “no thanks,” or are we just going on the say-so of Rudy’s chief of staff?

As of this writing, I don’t know the answers to any of these questions—but I would sure like to. I would think others might, too.

. . .

As it turns out, these are not the first questions asked about expenses related to Giuliani’s 2000 senate run. As the New York Times reported in January of 2004:

The Federal Election Commission has asked former Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani to explain more than $8,000 in expenditures last summer from campaign funds left over from his United States Senate race in 2000. The commission said some of the money appeared to have been used for ''personal'' expenses.

The commission, in a letter to Mr. Giuliani's Senate fund-raising committee, said a financial report issued last fall by the committee, which had $2 million in residual assets, listed disbursements ''that appear to constitute personal use of campaign funds by the candidate,'' which would violate federal law.

The letter, published on the commission's Web site and described as routine by a commission spokesman yesterday, asked for explanations of 15 expenditures totaling $8,250. Nearly all were for airline tickets, car rentals and other travel expenses, a hotel bill and $560 to ''Yankee-Nets, Inc.''

Though this article quotes Giuliani spokesperson Sunny Mindel calling this “much ado about nothing,” and attributing the charges either to a trip taken on behalf of the Bush Administration or to a “bookkeeping mix-up,” I can find no report on Giuliani’s official response to the FEC, or on how the case was finally resolved.

At the very least, though, it appears that Rudy let New York City foot the bill for some of his campaign-related expenses while he retained some $2 million for future use.

. . .

And, finally, from the “with friends like these” department:

Bernard B. Kerik, who was Mr. Giuliani’s police commissioner when some of the charges were billed, said in an interview yesterday that the security detail’s travel expenses would normally come out of the Police Department’s budget.

“There would be no need for anyone to conceal his detail’s travel expenses,” said Mr. Kerik, who was indicted earlier this month on unrelated federal tax fraud and corruption charges. “And I think It’s ridiculous for anyone to suggest that the mayor or his staff attempted to do so.”

Ah, but because the expenses were distributed around several obscure city agencies rather than billed to a single account, it appears that “conceal” is exactly what the mayor tried to do. Yet, as Kerik says, “there would be no need to conceal his detail’s travel expenses”—so, what’s up with that?

(cross-posted to The Seminal and Daily Kos)

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Blogger muse142 said...

This is the best summary I've seen of Giuliani's sliminess, so much that I couldn't help link to it. Rock on.

3:28 AM  

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