"Doesn't Add Up"

The Giuliani camp's evolving explanations for why obscure city offices were billed for his security detail.

By Tim Grieve
November 30, 2007 8:27PM (UTC)
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It's never a good sign when you've got disgraced and indicted friends vouching for you -- welcome back, Bernie Kerik! -- but maybe that's the best Rudy Giuliani can do just now.

The Politico broke the news Wednesday that obscure city offices in New York were billed for the cost of security when then Mayor Giuliani visited then mistress Judith Nathan in the Hamptons. Since then, Giuliani and his supporters have offered a series of explanations -- one unsupported, one already abandoned and none particularly satisfying.


Or, as the front of the New York Daily News says today: "Doesn't Add Up!"

Let's run through the math.

Explanation No. 1: No explanation whatsoever. When the Politico explained the charges it would be making to a Giuliani spokeswoman before the story appeared, the spokeswoman declined to comment at all.


Explanation No. 2: "It's not true." At the GOP presidential debate Wednesday night, Anderson Cooper asked Giuliani whether, as mayor, "you took trips to the Hamptons and expensed the costs of your police detail to obscure city offices." "First of all, it's not true," Giuliani said. Then, after saying that he needed security because he was the subject of threats, Giuliani said that the security teams "put in their records, and they handled them in the way they handled them. I had nothing to do with the handling of their records, and they were handled, as far as I know, perfectly appropriately." Giuliani hasn't explained what wasn't "true" about the story, and in fact, no one is disputing the basic allegation: that the security expenses were billed to obscure city agencies rather than to the NYPD.

Explanation No. 3: It's a "hit job." After the GOP debate, Giuliani speculated that the Politico piece might be the handiwork of one of the other presidential campaigns -- but only a Democratic campaign, of course. "I would not accuse any of my opponents of doing it," he said. "But who knows, it could be on the Democratic side." If Giuliani had any evidence that a rival campaign was behind the story, he didn't offer it.

Explanation No. 4: Everybody does it like this. Shortly after the Politico story broke, Joe Lhota, a deputy mayor under Giuliani, told the Daily News that the practice of billing obscure city offices for mayoral security has "gone on for years" and "predates Giuliani." When told Thursday that spokesmen for Giuliani's predecessors disagreed, Lhota said he needed to "reverse" himself. "I'm just going to talk about the Giuliani era," he said. "I should only talk about what I know about."


Explanation No. 5: Whatever it was, it wasn't a coverup: Having abandoned his "everybody does it" defense, Lhota told the Daily News Thursday: "I don't understand when it started. I don't understand why it started. But I do know one thing: It was consistently done ... in no way shape or form did it imply a coverup." But as the New York Times has reported, when a city auditor started asking questions about $34,000 in security-travel expenses he found in the city's Loft Board's ledgers in 2001, Giuliani's office "refused" to answer, citing "security" concerns.

Explanation No. 6: We were helping the cops. On Thursday -- the same day he told the Daily News that he didn't "understand why it started" -- Lohta told the Associated Press that the security expenses were paid out of offices tied to City Hall rather than by the NYPD itself because the NYPD took too long to reimburse the poor police officers assigned to Giuliani's detail. At the end of each year, Lohta said, the NYPD would reimburse the various city agencies that had been stuck with the tab in the meantime. But even if that's true, it doesn't explain why the costs were distributed among random city offices rather than paid out of a single budget account, which is how city comptroller William C. Thompson Jr. tells the Times it should have been done.

Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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2008 Elections Bernard Kerik Rudy Giuliani War Room