Where Is David Paterson Going?

When Eliot Spitzer and David Paterson got the Democratic nominations for Governor and Lieutenant Governor last year, their campaigns united into an entity called Spitzer-Paterson 2006.

Five months after taking office, they’ve split up.

Mr. Spitzer has been busy raising money for two entities: his re-election committee, Spitzer 2010, and a federal P.A.C. called the Excelsior Committee, which supports the election of New York Democrats to Congress.

More unusually, meanwhile, Mr. Paterson filed paperwork earlier this month creating his own committee, Paterson for New York, which held its first fund-raiser on May 22 at the chic Penn Club on Manhattan’s West Side. The invitation called for a “$500 minimum requested contribution,” and the event was headlined by Newark Mayor Cory Booker.

This wasn’t some alternate way of raising money for his next run with Mr. Spitzer. Or, if it is, it’s a highly impractical way: If the money raised by Mr. Paterson for New York were ever combined with Mr. Spitzer’s takings into a joint re-election committee, it would likely put many donors over the contribution limit—meaning that many of the donations would have to be returned.

In addition, Mr. Paterson’s solo fund-raising activities have actually generated a minor flurry of negative publicity for the Governor, who has pledged to abide voluntarily by a cap of $10,000 on campaign contributions for his re-election. If Mr. Paterson’s committee ended up collecting large contributions from Mr. Spitzer’s donors and then funneling them into a joint re-election committee, it would make a mockery of those limits.

“It could be viewed as double-dipping,” said Citizens Union executive director Dick Dadey. “It can be viewed as a way to double your investment.”

Whatever the goal, it’s certainly a rare step for the titular partner of a sitting governor to take. Jerry Skurnik, the longtime New York consultant and walking encyclopedia of political trivia, said he wasn’t aware of any precedent for a lieutenant governor holding his own fund-raisers.

So where is Mr. Paterson going?

His new committee shouldn’t be taken as evidence of anything in particular, according to Mr. Paterson’s spokeswoman, Maritere Arce.

“It’s not an indication either way,” Ms. Arce said. “It leaves the door open for possibilities. He’s not in any particular race right now.”

One thing, at least, seems obvious: Mr. Paterson isn’t planning to stay by Mr. Spitzer’s side forever.

“Clearly, David Paterson does not want to end his political career as Lieutenant Governor,” said Doug Muzzio, a professor of public affairs at Baruch. “He’s looking for higher office—Governor or U.S. Senate. “Should one of those seats open up, he feels he would have a shot.”

“David had a career in his own right before he ran with Eliot,” said State Senator Diane Savino of Brooklyn and Staten Island, who served with Mr. Paterson in the Legislature. “Who knows what David is going to do? But you have to prepare for it. And campaigns are expensive.”

Where Is David Paterson Going?