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NEWSDAY Feb. 8, 2002
Rudy Just Won't Let Go
by Ellis Henican

Look who's clinging to the chandeliers now.

And it isn't Donna Hanover.

Raoul Felder, eat your words!

Rudy Giuliani is 39 days out of office. Or so the calendar says. The new guy has moved his fish tanks and his bullpen into City Hall. Gracie Mansion is a B&B. But it's not the ex-mayor's almost-ex-wife who's having trouble letting go, as Rudy's loud-mouthed divorce lawyer so colorfully predicted a few months ago.

It's Rudy himself who is hanging stubbornly around.

Why let a little thing like a new mayor put an end to Giuliani Time? Rudy is truly the 800-pound tenant who won't move out when the lease is up.

So now we have the spectacle of private-citizen Giuliani claiming that he - not City Hall - should control the assets of the $100-million Twin Towers Fund.

That big pile of money, raised from decent people around the world, was being distributed to the families of dead firefighters and police officers from Sept. 11.

You have to say "was being distributed." The flow has stopped so Attorney General Eliot Spitzer can investigate the latest Rudy grab. He's trying to hijack the fund right out of City Hall (the New York City Public and Private Initiative) - and turn every last cent into his own private charity. Private-citizen Giuliani, no longer elected to anything, will decide when, where and how the money gets spent.

What gives him the right? Well, he has some friends who say its OK with them.

Judith Nathan is on the board of directors. She's the married ex-mayor's current girlfriend. She doesn't mind.

Neither does Rudy's actor-pal, Arnold Schwarzenegger. He's on the board too. Arnold's new terrorist movie, "Collateral Damage," has outraged the very cop and fire families the committee was created to support. Rudy graced the opening-night bash.

And you should see the salaries some of the staff members will earn. Oh, they're friends of Rudy's. Don't worry about that. My Newsday colleague Stephanie Saul lays out the big-dollar details today.

But honestly, who could be surprised by any of this?

Rudy the ex-mayor is behaving just like Rudy the mayor did - at his worst. He always loved the idea of a shadow government. Why stop now?

Through eight years in office, growing bolder as the time rolled on, he governed with the belief that he could always set up a nonprofit, sign a contract and - voila! - power would be magically transformed to him.

Power that was supposed to be elected power.

Exercised now without that pesky oversight.

So now he wants all the records of his eight-year administration taken from the public too and put in a private archives he controls.

Whoever heard of this?

Top scholars and historians from Harvard and Yale are denouncing the giant paper grab. But what does Rudy care? Before anyone noticed, the boxes were locked in an art vault in Long Island City, held behind the barbed wire and the thick steel doors where Rembrandts and Warhols are usually kept.

It just goes on and on.

Nowhere in America has a mayor's term been extended by three months. But that's what Rudy asked for.

Nowhere in America do married politicians parade their girlfriends in front of the camera. But that's what Rudy does.

Nowhere in America do mayors run off with $100 million charities and the entire historical record of their time. We can only hope that Rudy won't be allowed to.

In recent days, he has sent out various minions to embarrass themselves on his behalf.

CUNY vice chancellor Frederick Schaffer, speaking for the public-private initiative, said no one should be surprised that the Twin Tower Fund would become Rudy's personal piggy bank.

"The transfer of assets ... was made pursuant to the original understanding and intention of the parties," Schaffer said.

And former Queens College president Saul Cohen, now the Rudy archive boss, is uttering the same kind of blather about the 2,114 boxes in Rudy's private art vault.

"The public should trust him because this is very important in terms of the preservation of the legacy for the city and for somebody who has become a national leader," Cohen said.

Oh, sure.

So where's Mike Bloomberg in all this? So far, staying mostly quiet.

He is enough of a student of Rudy that he'd prefer avoiding a major brawl with his easily agitated predecessor. Yesterday, at City Hall, Bloomberg shrugged at the rising furor over the archives.

"For the life of me, I don't understand the fuss everyone is making," he said. "There is probably nothing in there anyone would want to read."

Well, nearly 1,000 serious scholars and historians think those papers are important. And they may yet get the last laugh.

They're the ones who will ultimately write the Giuliani legacy. And they aren't feeling too cheery right now.

Copyright 2002 Newsday, Inc.
Reprinted with permission.


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Defending the archives contract: Saul Cohen, President, Rudy Giuliani Center for Urban Affairs