Rudy's past coming back with a vengeance

Two groups are mobilizing anew against Rudy Giuliani, hoping to inform voters about some of the skeletons in his closet.

By Alex Koppelman

Published December 20, 2007 12:40AM (EST)

For a man with a public record as long and as checkered as his is, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani has been getting surprisingly little scrutiny from voters, who seem not to care about a long list of problems that might each have been enough to doom a lesser candidate. But Wednesday, two separate groups signaled that they will keep pushing to raise voter awareness of problems that could one day loom large for Giuliani.

First, there was an article in the Los Angeles Times signaling that the families of some of the firefighters who died on 9/11 are ready to go national with some of their complaints about Giuliani's pre-9/11 performance as mayor. There have been signs throughout the campaign that this might happen eventually. Until now, though, the families have been relatively low-key, keeping their activities for the most part in the New York City area and not launching the kind of blitz that might get them the kind of national media attention the Swift Boat Veterans got for their attacks on John Kerry in 2004. The Times reports that a leader from the main group, 9/11 Firefighters and Families, "met Tuesday with union leaders and political consultants, readying plans to set up a tax-exempt committee that would fund appearances and a media drive against Giuliani."

Elsewhere, an activist group called Survivors Network of those Abused By Priests (SNAP) confronted Giuliani and his associates in multiple cities Wednesday. SNAP was protesting Giuliani's continued employment of his childhood friend Alan Placa, a priest who has been accused of molesting one child and using his skills as a lawyer to help a diocese keep many more molestation incidents under wraps. SNAP went to two Giuliani events in Missouri, where Giuliani was campaigning Wednesday, and also delivered a letter to the offices of his firm, Giuliani Partners, in Manhattan's Times Square. In the letter, SNAP says in part, "It's time to put up or shut up about the serious allegations against your friend, Msgr. Alan Placa. ...

"You've said you think Placa is innocent. If this is what you truly believe, then you must act. As a citizen, an attorney, an ex-prosecutor and former public official, you have a duty to expose this alleged injustice that has supposedly been done to a professed innocent man. Bring forward evidence that helps to prove Placa's innocence. Explain why and how an impartial panel of grand jurors conducted a thorough, months-long probe and came to the wrong conclusion about Placa. File a bar complaint against the Suffolk County District Attorney for whatever excesses or wrongs he may have, in your mind, committed. ... Explain precisely why you believe that he's innocent. (Having known him a long time is no explanation.) Enlighten us as to why Placa's bishop (who knows better than anyone what Placa has done) has suspended him and kept him on suspension for five years now.

"You're obviously busy now, running for the Republican presidential nomination. But, if you honestly feel Placa's innocent, you should publicly explain why you failed to take any of these steps at any point over the past five years."

Barbara Blaine, SNAP's president, tells Salon that, though the group was asked to move away from the headquarters, they managed to hand out several hundred fliers to passerby.

Maria Comella, a spokeswoman for the Giuliani campaign, did not return a message left seeking comment.

Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

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