Controversies Infiltrate Presidential Campaigns Rudolph Giuliani's weekend trips to the Hamptons and a Hillary Clinton supporter's contribution to the CNN/YouTube debate are under scutiny.'s John Harris discusses the latest developments.
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Controversies Infiltrate Presidential Campaigns

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Controversies Infiltrate Presidential Campaigns

Controversies Infiltrate Presidential Campaigns

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This is DAY TO DAY. I'm Madeleine Brand.


I'm Alex Chadwick.

Coming up, two countries, two elections this weekend. In Russia, President Vladimir Putin switches gears to run for prime minister. And in Venezuela President Hugo Chavez aims to cement his rule.

BRAND: First to the election in this country. Rudy Giuliani is defending himself against allegations that were made this week in an investigative article in that he spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in security costs when he was mayor in New York, and that that money was hidden in various budgets of city agencies.

John Harris is editor-in-chief of Politico, and that's where the story first appeared. He joins me now.

Hi, John.

Mr. JOHN HARRIS ( Good to be with you.

BRAND: Well, tell me more about the story you broke.

Mr. HARRIS: Ben Smith, our political reporter, filed Freedom of Information Act requests to get records from the city of New York during Rudy Giuliani's second term as mayor and was looking at those travel and security expenses that the mayor charged for a series of trips to Long Island, to the Hamptons in 1999 and 2000. What was interesting about these is that these travel receipts were not billed to the agencies that normally get them for mayoral travel. Instead, they went to obscure city agencies like the bureau in charge of regulating loft departments. Why was this? That was the question we were trying to find out.

BRAND: And Giuliani responded last night on the "CBS Evening News." Here is what he said.

(Soundbite of "CBS Evening News")

Mr. RUDY GIULIANI (Republican Presidential Candidate): It's a typical political hit job, with only half the story told, not that second part told that every single penny was reimbursed, that all of this was public, all of this was discoverable. This particular case, it was sort of a debate-day dirty trick.

BRAND: John Harris, editor-in-chief of Politico, a political hit job?

Mr. HARRIS: Well, I've got no public argument with Mayor Giuliani. He obviously knows that was not the case because surely his aides have told him that we took our reporting to them days in advance, specifically showed them what we had found and asked him for an explanation. They chose not to give us any. At the time the article ran, we also were available to hear any complaints or specific rebuttals of the factual assertions in the article. Again, we never heard from them. So if they had legitimate problems with the piece, they clearly would be bringing those to our attention. They haven't.

BRAND: So any sense of how the story is playing among voters?

Mr. HARRIS: No, I don't really have that sense. What it has done, in a way that's unwelcome for Mayor Giuliani, it has brought to life a period of his mayoral term that he would just as soon not have on public display a month out from the Iowa caucuses.

BRAND: John, another big story this week was at Wednesday's Republican debate - that's the YouTube/CNN debate - when retired Brigadier General Keith Kerr posed a question. Let's hear it.

(Soundbite of debate)

Brigadier General KEITH KERR (U.S. Army, Retired): I want to know why you think that American men and women in uniform are not professional enough to serve with gays and lesbians.

BRAND: That's retired Brigadier General Keith Kerr. Now, what wasn't revealed was that he has actually worked for Hillary Clinton's campaign.

Mr. HARRIS: Right. And that was - it turned out to be news to CNN as well, and they had said that if they had known that, they would not have gone to that question. They were somewhat chagrined by this.

BRAND: What is Clinton saying? Is she saying that this was not a planted question, or is she being accused of planting a question?

Mr. HARRIS: I don't know that she's being accused of planting the question. I mean really the responsibility of the news organization is, as best they can, and it's not easy - Politico sponsored the debate, so I know this can be difficult - is making sure that the questions are both legitimate and relevant as this question was, but that they're also seen as genuinely independent, which this question, I think you'd have to say, was not, since the general has been associated with Hillary Clinton's campaign.

BRAND: And then your Web site found out that there were other questions posed by people who supported other Democratic candidates.

Mr. HARRIS: Yeah. Whoops - a little bit of a stub toe for CNN and YouTube. It doesn't take away from the fact that it was a very lively, well-done debate. But it does raise questions of the sort they would have preferred to avoid.

BRAND: Another issue your Web site is talking about, and that is the issue of Iraq in the campaign and not as big an issue as it used it to be.

Mr. HARRIS: You know, we've been struck talking to members of Congress back from the Thanksgiving holiday, asking them what are constituents talking about, specifically what's the mood on Iraq. And what these are - people are telling us - these are Democrats - is that Iraq is not as front and center an issue as it was earlier, and particularly last summer. And instead other issues here at home are taking precedence. Anxiety about the economy is one, the controversy over illegal immigration is another.

BRAND: John Harris, editor-in-chief of the political Web site Thank you very much.

Mr. HARRIS: Thank you.

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