Rudy’s business links may hurt campaign

As Rudy Giuliani prepares to run for president, it is increasingly clear he will have to revamp the global businesses that bear his name and link him to everything from jogger backpacks to nuclear power plants.

The former New York City mayor has created an exploratory committee to prepare to run for president next year, and aides concede that competing for the nation’s highest office will force major changes in how Giuliani handles his businesses.

“Obviously, there would have to be significant adjustments,” said his spokeswoman Sunny Mindel. She did not elaborate.

Extricating himself from that work may be tough: His name is on the door, on the stationery, and on the minds of many of their clients.

It is largely through his post-Sept. 11 popularity that he built up Giuliani Partners LLP, which focuses on emergency preparedness, public safety and corporate governance, and Bracewell & Giuliani, a well-established D.C. law firm best known for its energy company clients.

“It’s not just the companies, it’s the global nature of his work and how much he has to travel to foreign countries when he really needs to be in this country raising money,” said Steven Cohen, a Columbia University professor of politics.

“He’s going to have to make a decision very, very soon about running, because it’s very hard to run a business or even be a full-time public official and run for president,” said Cohen.

Well before the 2001 terror attacks, Giuliani’s politics were inextricably linked to his business future.

A former federal prosecutor, Giuliani’s corporate adventure actually began back in 1999, when he became friends with veteran Texas GOP fundraiser and businessman Roy Bailey.

Bailey approached Giuliani and encouraged him to run for the U.S. Senate against then-first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton. Giuliani later bowed out of the race, but he and Bailey remained close. After a friendly game of golf in Houston, the two began discussions on creating a consulting business when term limits would force Giuliani out of City Hall.

From those early conversations, Giuliani Partners was eventually born.

He also became a name partner in Bracewell & Giuliani, an international law firm with offices as far away as Kazakhstan.

While Giuliani is not a lobbyist — he was brought into Bracewell largely to expand their presence into the lucrative New York market — the firm’s lobbying income spiked recently, from about $150,000 in 2004 to more than $6 million in 2005.

The more Giuliani’s name is mentioned in national politics, the more his ties to Bracewell become a headache for both him and the company, particularly at a time when industry’s influence on lawmakers has led to corruption cases and public disgust.

Officials at the law firm declined to comment about Giuliani’s position there.

Much of Giuliani’s recent corporate work could become future political hurdles in a presidential race: energy companies are unpopular in a country still adjusting to the higher cost of gasoline and other fuels, and Giuliani has staked out the controversial position that the United States should build more nuclear power plants to meet its energy demands. The firm’s client roster could also open him to attacks that he was aligned with corporate polluters even if he didn’t represent all the companies directly.

He’s also authored a report, commissioned by the drug industry, that concluded importing cheaper prescription drugs from Canada is too dangerous — a claim rejected by many states, including politically critical Florida, where the new Republican governor favors importation.

“Yes, there are going to be people that say he represented energy companies and that’s all he cares about, but I don’t think they’re right,” said Phyllis Kelly, a Republican National Committeewoman from Iowa, where caucuses traditionally launch the nomination process.

“I don’t know what all his businesses were, but I like people who know something about business, and I know Giuliani is an honorable person,” she said.

Cohen argued Giuliani’s businesses will not make him unique in 2008 because all the candidates will have to cozy up to industry to finance their campaigns.

“It’s not just him, it’s all of the candidates,” Cohen said. “The real problem is that in order to run for president you need over $100 million and that can only come from powerful economic interests.”

Then there’s the personal baggage: the public disgrace of one of his closest former aides, Bernard Kerik, and the messy implosion of his last marriage.

Lately when it comes to the former mayor, even his baggage has baggage.

Giuliani made headlines last week when a copy of his nascent campaign’s strategy made its way to the New York Daily News.

Aides claimed the 140-page document was pilfered from a piece of luggage when a staffer changed planes. The document itself offered no bombshells, but it acknowledged the obvious: a moderate Republican who has supported abortion rights, gay rights, and gun control may be a tough sell to GOP primary voters.

More than anything, the airing of the document put Giuliani’s fledgling effort in a poor light at a time when they are trying to raise millions from major GOP donors, many of whom are already indicating early support for Sen. John McCain of Arizona.

Yet Giuliani may still hold a trump card against political sniping from inside or outside his party: The emotional chord he strikes in those who vividly remember his resolve on Sept. 11, 2001, and still see that moment as the defining mark of his abilities and character.

Copyright © 2007 The Associated Press