Saturday, March 22, 2008

Paterson Was Living Large Off Campaign Funds

(New York Post image; click to enlargen)

New York Governor David Paterson's inaugural week in office has gone anything but smooth and at the rate we're going, he may not see April, unless, of course that's the name of one of his girlfriends.

Apparently he's being given a long grace period to clean out his closets before the public tires of his act, and it's likely he's got plenty of leeway with the public considering the outrageous behavior of his predecessor, Eliot Spitzer.

Who figured though when he was cleaning out the closets we'd find clothing bought with campaign funds?
Gov. Paterson is reimbursing his state Senate campaign for stays at a Manhattan hotel, as his aides revealed he'd also improperly used the account to buy suits, furniture and a dinner with his dad.

The new revelations came during an hourlong briefing with reporters, in which the aides struggled to explain numerous questionable charges to Paterson's accounts from campaign accounts.

Those include payments to a Quality Inn on the West Side where Paterson has admitted to bringing an extramarital lover - and to sometimes using his campaign credit card when his own didn't work.
How often do we hear lectures from politicians not to live beyond our means? In fact now, during shaky economic times, if you had maxed out your credit card, might that be a sign that you need to curtail your spending?

Of course since politicians are living on the public dole, they have no problem spending other people's money.
Paterson is repaying $252 for two of the Quality Inn stays - on Nov. 9, 2002, and April 20, 2003 - because he can't remember who stayed there, campaign lawyer Henry Berger said at the press briefing.
Huh? He can't remember who stayed there? Wow, is that ever Clintonian.
I might have been there, but shucks, I really can't remember because I was out there working hard for the people and, you know, I may have been there, I may not have, I can't really be sure, so I decided it's best I pay for it so there's no confusion, and stop bothering me with this because I have to get back to work.
OK, so a couple of hotel stays were repaid, but now we get to practices that were clearly illegal.
But the new Democratic governor also used his campaign account for other personal expenditures - a practice that is illegal - and then reimbursed the fund several months late, Berger acknowledged.
So what was he buying?
* A $1,430.04 check Paterson wrote in June 2004 to cover more than $1,000 worth of clothes at the Men's Wearhouse, and a roughly $350 tab at the club Den.

The items were listed as "constituent services" in Paterson's filings, and there are no receipts available, Berger said.

It is also a violation of state election law to falsely label the reason for the campaign expenditure.

* A $637 check in July 2004 for roughly $470 worth of furniture at Taft Furniture Warehouse, an Albany Crowne Plaza hotel bar bill and about $40 at another men's store.

* A $70 check in February 2004 to cover a post-Christmas dinner with his dad at Docks restaurant on the East Side.

* Paterson himself reportedly said he paid a woman identified as his former lover, Lila Kirton, $500 as a reimbursement for a donation for another candidate. But Berger yesterday said that upon further review, it turns out there was an extensive reconfiguration of his campaign database and she was paid wages.

Officials refused to say whether Kirton was still romantically involved with Paterson at the time.

* After initially refusing, Paterson aides provided late yesterday a copy of a canceled check for $1,000 to Luiza Vizcarrando, a New Jersey woman who told The Post she barely knew Paterson, never worked for him and didn't get paid.
Somehow I doubt this was the extent of his reckless spending.

This brings up some interesting questions. Why wasn't any of this divulged to Spitzer's people when Paterson was brought on the ticket as Lieutenant Governor for the 2006 gubernatorial race? If it was, did Spitzer's people simply ignore it? Or did Paterson never say anything?

Also, what else did Paterson buy with campaign funds? Any more furniture, bar tabs, hotel rooms, clothing bills we need to know about?

Paterson was first elected to the New York State Senate in 1985. What else has he used campaign funds for in the intervening years?

To their credit, even the New York Times is finding Paterson's ever-changing and flimsy story to be rather dubious.
The session, which was also attended by the governor’s spokesman, Errol Cockfield, grew strained at times as reporters pressed for explanations for various hotel stays and payments to women. Mr. Cockfield took exception to some of the questioning.

“In some cases,” he said, “the inquiries have bordered on being sexist by suggesting that many of the women involved in campaign work for the senator, women doing legitimate work, were somehow romantically linked to the senator.”

Mr. Paterson, who was catapulted into the governorship Monday after Eliot Spitzer resigned in a prostitution scandal, has struggled to answer questions about whether he improperly used campaign money in the relationships he said he had with other women during a troubled time in his marriage.

He has given conflicting accounts, alternately denying and then saying it was possible that he inadvertently used his campaign credit card for personal expenses. He stressed that if he had used the card for personal expenses, he would have repaid the committee.
The people of New York deserve better than this. How long their patience stretches is up to them, but if these stories aren't put top rest soon, Paterson's term in office will be much shorter than Spitzer's.

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