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Giuliani billing practices could prove a political problem

November 28, 2007 |  3:32 pm

Did the early stages of Rudy Giuliani's relationship with third wife Judy Nathan -- which started when he was still married to his second wife -- cost New York City a hefty chunk of change? And was a concerted effort made to hide that spending from taxpayers?

Those are the key questions raised by a recently posted story by the Politico's Ben Smith. Here are its opening paragraphs:

"As New York mayor, Rudy Giuliani billed obscure city agencies for tens of thousands of dollars in security expenses amassed during the time when he was beginning an extramarital relationship with future wife Judith Nathan in the Hamptons, according to previously undisclosed government records.

"The documents, obtained by Politico under New York's Freedom of Information Law, show that the mayoral costs had nothing to do with the functions of the little-known city offices that defrayed his tabs, including agencies responsible for regulating loft apartments, aiding the disabled and providing lawyers for indigent defendants."

You can read the rest of it here.

Smith reports that Giuliani's campaign "declined to discuss any aspect of this story."

Whether the candidate and his aides can continue that posture in parrying queries about the dubious bookkeeping is doubtful. They also will have their work cut out for them in trying to dim the renewed spotlight the story casts on Giuliani's tangled personal life.

[UPDATE: The Giuliani campaign has launched an "internal probe" of the billing issue, according to Time magazine's The Page blog. And, the blog asserts: "Proper media focus is on why the billing was done this way — NOT on the expenses themselves, since NYC mayor is entitled to 24/7 security detail, even when on personal time." Additionally, the billing question came up in tonight's CNN/YouTube debate as described here.)

True enough, in a technical sense. But in a poltical sense, the focus among voters is likely to be on Giuliani's affair and the public expenses it caused.

-- Don Frederick