Launching Rudy’s Rocket! Staff Chief Teitelbaum Starts Senate Countdown

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

in 2000.

“Will you be able to whip her?” a reporter asked, to roars of

laughter.

“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

maneuver?

“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

Parents.”

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

of Giuliani.

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.

Giuliani’s itinerary.

“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.”