Mayor Rudolph Giuliani was in a buoyant mood as he took to the stage of
the old Board of Estimate chamber in City Hall on Jan. 5. He was there to
announce that his chief of staff, Bruce Teitelbaum, would leave city
government to become executive director of Solutions America, the
Mayor’s political action committee.
Standing at a podium, Mr. Giuliani quickly won over the lively crowd of
scores of lobbyists, developers, aides and assorted boosters. He joked
about the large turnout for Mr. Teitelbaum: “This is almost as big as
his wedding!” And the Mayor turned giddy when talk turned to the
possibility that he could face Hillary Rodham Clinton in a race for Senate
“Will you be able to whip her?” a reporter asked, to roars of
“They start investigations for less than that!” Mr. Giuliani
answered. “Wow! Oooo!”
The cheery tone was understandable. At a time when some of the
state’s best-known Democrats are passing up a chance to succeed
retiring Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, Mr. Giuliani is dramatically
ratcheting up his efforts to prepare for higher office, probably Mr.
Moynihan’s seat. An important part of the effort is the
wholesome-sounding Solutions America, which allows Mr. Giuliani to finance
lectures about himself all over New York State and the country, to buy
chits with other Republicans and to otherwise run a shadow campaign for
higher office–even while three years remain in his second and final
term as Mayor.
Other signs of growth in what might be termed Mr. Giuliani’s
ambition apparatus are clear. For instance, The Observer has learned
that two women who have long played key roles in Mr. Giuliani’s local
fund-raising operation have quietly resigned. The fund-raisers, Diana
Robertson and Gogie Padilla, were early supporters of the Mayor and
reportedly helped him raise more than $15 million for his mayoral campaigns
in 1993 and 1997. But according to people familiar with the Mayor’s
political plans, they were eased out by mayoral aides who are likely to
replace them with experienced national fund-raisers. (Ms. Robertson and Ms.
Padilla declined comment.)
Indeed, the appointment of Mr. Teitelbaum–a staunch Giuliani
loyalist who rose from low-level campaign operative to City Hall’s
liaison to the Orthodox and Hasidic communities–suggests that the
Mayor is moving to broaden his fund-raising base. At a time when many
out-of-town politicians use the city as a cash machine, Mr. Giuliani is
looking beyond the five boroughs. Mr. Teitelbaum, according to sources, was
named to head Solutions America in part because of his contacts with
affluent Jewish suburbanites, who can in turn tap into similar communities
around the country. Suburban Jews were a key base of support for former
Senator Alfonse D’Amato, and Mr. Giuliani has gone to great lengths to
court Jewish supporters; several years ago, he made a brash cameo in an
international dispute by booting Palestine Liberation Organization chairman
Yasir Arafat from a United Nations ceremony.
Within a month or two, Mr. Teitelbaum is expected to present the Mayor
with a detailed travel and fund-raising itinerary. According to a source,
Mr. Giuliani will dramatically increase his travels throughout the state
and will meet with upstate Republican leaders, who remember him as the man
who endorsed Mario Cuomo over George Pataki for governor in 1994.
Among the places under consideration for dinners and speaking
engagements in February and March, sources said, are Syracuse, Buffalo,
Albany and Rensselaer County–the latter represented by State Senate
majority leader Joseph Bruno. Mr. Bruno derided the Mayor five years ago as
“Judas Giuliani” because of his endorsement of Mr. Cuomo. But in
an interview with the New York Post on Jan. 11, Mr. Bruno
practically begged the Mayor to run for Senate next year, suggesting he
would easily win over other embittered upstate Republicans.
Of course, that’s assuming Mr. Giuliani is positioning himself for
the Senate race, which is the conventional wisdom. The Mayor, however,
isn’t letting on about his plans. After announcing Mr.
Teitelbaum’s appointment, a reporter asked if it was fair to interpret
the event as the start of an unofficial campaign for higher office.
“No,” the Mayor said. Silence. Laughter.
Another reporter noted that the Mayor had transferred a valued aide to
his political front. Why shouldn’t it be read as a political
“You can read it any way you want,” the Mayor answered. He
added that Solutions America is about ideas: “I’m constantly
asked, ‘How do we make the changes that have taken place in the city
permanent?’ There’s a certain amount of fear that in a few years
things will turn back to the way they were. Well, one of the ways of doing
that is by getting people to think differently … Solutions America can
help to accomplish that.”
It Sure Sounds Good
Despite these lofty goals, Mr. Giuliani seems to be adopting a
well-honed political tactic: using a wonkish-sounding organization to
disguise what is largely a fund-raising vehicle. Senator Bob Kerrey of
Nebraska has his Building America’s Conscience and Kids P.A.C., while
former Gov. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee calls his “We the
For its part, Solutions America may be about spreading ideas around, but
it’s mainly about raising cash to spread Mr. Giuliani around.
Like other political action committees, Solutions America allows Mr.
Giuliani to raise money from donors who have already contributed the legal
maximum of $1,000 per election to his Federal campaign committee, Friends
Cash from Friends of Giuliani can fund overt campaign activities, such
as a possible Senate or Presidential campaign. That’s not true of
money raised by the P.A.C. But it can finance quasi-campaign activities,
like political trips, so-called “issue polling” and donations to
political allies–all under the lofty guise of spreading ideas. Records
show that in October, Solutions America made several political
contributions, including $1,000 to the campaign of Mr. D’Amato, $1,000
to the New York Republican Assembly Campaign Committee and $5,000 to the
New York State Republican Committee–whose support, as it happens, will
come in handy if Mr. Giuliani runs for Senate next year.
Another advantage is that a P.A.C. can receive individual donations of
as much as $5,000 per election. And Solutions America has drawn big
contributions from a range of powerful New Yorkers, some of whom had
already chipped in the maximum of $1,000 to Friends of Giuliani. Among them
are developers Bernard Mendik and Howard Milstein, investment banker Frank
Richardson, restaurateur Warner LeRoy, Rupert Murdoch, Mets owner Fred
Wilpon and Jets owner Leon Hess.
Most of the 232 people who had contributed to Solutions America as of
November are based in the city and its outlying suburbs; a few hail from
Miami, Los Angeles and Palm Beach–cities with large contingents of ex-
and part-time New Yorkers. And the donors more or less represent Mr.
Giuliani’s prototypical local supporters: real estate developers,
financial-services gurus and a passel of Manhattan attorneys.
“P.A.C.’s are an extra pocket of money,” said Sheila Krumholz, research director for the
Washington-based Center for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan research
organization. “They’re a kind of slush fund. There are more
limitations on how you can spend it, but it increases your take.”
That increased take, of course, will no doubt prove useful to Mr.
Giuliani. After all, someone has to pay for all those chart-and-pointer
lectures all over the country that have become a regular part of Mr.
“You’re going to see him all over the state,” noted one
person familiar with the Mayor’s plans. “And you’ll be
surprised at how many trips he takes around the country.”