Giuliani Will Not Sever Ties to His Firm
By MARC SANTORA
New York Times
DECEMBER 9, 2007
Rudolph W. Giuliani, seeking to stem a spate of bad news in his bid for the Republican nomination, defended himself Sunday morning from a vast array of questions about his personal integrity, his judgment and possible conflicts of interest because of business ties, among other issues.
As the solo guest on “Meet the Press,” Mr. Giuliani was by turns defensive, apologetic and indignant under the questions of Tim Russert, but the interview never grew heated and at points Mr. Giuliani seemed amused.
He said he would not sever his financial ties with Giuliani Partners, the security consulting firm he founded. He also disassociated himself from the opinions of one of his more hawkish foreign policy advisers, tried to explain why he missed meetings of the Iraq Study Group to give lucrative speeches and once again tried to explain his recommendation of Bernard Kerik to head the office of Homeland Security.
His personal life was also touched upon, when Mr. Giuliani, the former mayor of New York who was twice divorced, was questioned about the decision to provide security to his then-girlfriend, now wife, Judith Nathan, at taxpayer expense.
Mr. Giuliani was dismissive when asked about the work his law firm, Bracewell/Giuliani, has done on behalf of Citgo Petroleum Corporation of Houston, the American subsidiary of Venezuela’s state-owned oil company, Petroleos de Venezuela S.A. (PDVSA).
Hugo Chávez, the socialist leader of Venezuela who derides President Bush as a genocidal murderer, controls the state company.
Mr. Giuliani laughed loudly as Mr. Russert posed the question and then went on to claim that the law firm represented Citgo “just in Texas.”
He was also asked about some controversial clients of his security firm, Giuliani Partners, including the government of Qatar.
Members of the royal family in the Gulf Country are suspected of sheltering Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks. “The reality is Qatar is an ally of the United States,” he said.
Mr. Russert pressed him on why he simply did not sever his financial ties with Giuliani Partners and make a full list of clients public.
Mr. Giuliani said certain confidentiality agreements made that impossible but he did not explain why he still takes money from the security firm, which he founded, while he runs for president.
He said he was “not going to do more than what is absolutely required.”
The explanation seemed to run counter to his defense of his decision to drop out of the Iraq Study Group.
Mr. Giuliani missed several early meetings, and on those days instead gave speeches for which he was paid millions of dollars.
Mr. Giuliani said that it was not personal gain that compelled him to quit the group, a bipartisan commission that was tasked with assessing the situation in Iraq. Rather, he said, he feared that as he considered running for president, his political ambition could taint the findings of the commission.
Mr. Russert pressed the point, saying that Mr. Giuliani had told no one at the time that he was quitting because of his presidential ambitions. Mr. Giuliani claimed he mentioned his rationale to James Baker, the Republican head of the study group.
Often there are one or two difficult issues a candidate will have to deal with when going on the Sunday morning talk shows. But the tough and serious questions for Mr. Giuliani, who was reluctant to appear on “Meet the Press,” according to people familiar with the booking process, did not seem to stop. Though the interview touched on foreign policy, fuel standards and even remarks by a rival, Mike Huckabee, most of the questions were about Mr. Giuliani’s personal record and decision making.
It was a reminder of just how much the campaign has been struggling of late to drive the news rather than simply respond.
For months, Mr. Giuliani was setting the agenda of the Republican race. Last spring, he focused on 9/11 and pushed the theme as far as he could. Throughout the summer, he used crime and New York as a foil to position himself as tough. And he started the fall talking almost solely about Hillary Clinton and his contention that he was the best candidate to beat her.
Even the question of abortion seemed to work for him, at once allowing him to say that he was going to not shift his pro-life stand despite the pressures of the primary while at the same time repeatedly invoke his desire to appoint “strict-constructionist” judges.
But in the last month, he has yet to find a successful narrative to move beyond the questions that are being raised about him.
On his decision to appoint Mr. Kerik — now under indictment on corruption charges — to lead the New York City Police Department and later to recommend him to for a critical job in keeping America safe from terrorism as head of the Homeland Security Department, Mr. Giuliani said, “The mistake was I should have checked it out much more carefully.”
But he also once again tried to point to successes Mr. Kerik had as his police commissioner.
On the question of police protection for Judith Nathan, Mr. Giuliani said it was a security matter and not his call and that no one really likes to have security anyway.
Mr. Russert focused on the timing of when the security was provided, citing reports that she was given security before December of 2000, suggesting that the security argument was hollow because Mr. Giuliani’s relationship with Ms. Nathan was secret.
Mr. Giuliani said he misunderstood the timing of his affair, noting that they went public in May of 2000.
But the details of discussion seemed of little importance. Words like affair, mistress, secret, and girlfriend are not what a candidate wants to be discussion one month before the first caucus and primary contests.
It is perhaps a bit surprising the Mr. Giuliani waited so long to go on the program, since the scrutiny will likely now be much greater.
However, Mitt Romney, the former Massachusetts governor who is also seeking the Republican nomination, has also been reluctant to subject himself to tough questions. He is scheduled to appear on “Meet the Press” next Sunday.