Rudy's not-so-money politics

The former New York mayor seems to have the money thing down, but does he have the right political instincts for a serious shot at the White House?

By Julia Scott
Published March 30, 2005 11:32PM (EST)

How do you prepare to run for the presidency? First, you gain national visibility. Then you cultivate political contacts in your chosen party. And it also helps if you amass millions of dollars in personal wealth.

It looks like former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani is three for three so far. Long rumored to be eyeing a bid for the White House in 2008, Giuliani, after being thrust into the national spotlight by the events of 9/11, has spent the past few years growing his bank account: through a two-book deal, speaking appearances that have rung him up $8 million, and a highly profitable consulting firm. And this week he joined a Texas law firm with close ties to the Bush White House. One small problem, though: Some of his recent business decisions haven't been too, well, politic.

The New York Observer's Ben Smith, in an investigation of Giuliani's finances, concluded on Wednesday that "[a] close examination of the details of the front-runner's choices in his career as a business mogul show that success, growth and money seem to rank higher than the careful calculations of Republican primary politics."

Some observers are questioning the wisdom of Giuliani's decision to accept an $80,000 fee for a tsunami benefit in South Carolina (after donating $20,000 himself). "It is not the gesture of someone who's serious about running for the Republican presidential nomination or someone who is getting sound political advice about South Carolina," Nelson Warfield, a Republican political consultant, told the Observer.

Giuliani's consulting firm has chosen to represent several companies that could leave him vulnerable to criticism, including the unpopular Indian Point nuclear plant, and a pharmaceutical-industry trade group.

In a chat with Jay Leno on "The Tonight Show" on Tuesday night, Giuliani maintained that it's "way to early" to talk about any concrete plans for a presidential campaign. But an unnamed source close to the former mayor told the New York Post that it remains his "first focus," though he is also seriously considering a run for governor.

How "seriously" may be hard to say: With the governor's salary at $179,000 a year and the presidency pulling in $400,000, the choice may seem obvious. Then again, if it comes down to the money, Giuliani may conclude his best interests lie in sticking with the private sector.

Julia Scott

San Francisco-based freelance journalist Julia Scott writes about water and energy issues for various publications. She also covers the environment for Bay Area News Group, a chain of newspapers in Northern California.

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