WASHINGTON – Former New York Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani’s presidential campaign scrambled Wednesday night to deflect a report questioning whether Giuliani’s office sought to cover up his extramarital affair with Judith Nathan in the Hamptons by hiding his security expenses in obscure city agencies.

The report on www.politco.com throws new attention on Giuliani’s messy personal life just five weeks before the first votes in Iowa – and could severely undercut his defense that his affair with future wife Nathan had no effect on his duties as mayor.

The report said tens of thousands of dollars in travel and security expenses for Giuliani were shifted into little-known city agencies from 1999 to 2001 — right at the time Giuliani reportedly was beginning an extramarital affair with Nathan, who had an apartment in Southampton.

Giuliani’s police details bought gas and stayed at various East End hotels over those three summers, billing the city for stays at the Southhampton Inn, the Village Latch Inn and the Atlantic Utopia Lifestyle Inn, according to travel records obtained by the Web site.

Giuliani on Wednesday night insisted that the expenses were legitimate costs related to his round-the-clock police security detail that traveled with him everywhere, in part because of past threats on his life. “They followed me everyplace that I went … and they took care of me, and they took care of their records,” Giuliani said during the debate.

“They were handled as far as I know perfectly appropriately.”

Giuliani political adviser Tony Carbonetti told Newsday that neither he nor Giulani knew anything about expenses being diverted to other city agencies. “There was no effort to hide or conceal anything,” said Carbonetti, Giuliani’s former chief of staff in City Hall.

But the report could prove particularly damaging for Giuliani as many Republicans are just now tuning into the race — particularly because it appears to link Giuliani’s public performance as mayor with the complications in his private life for the first time.

“It feeds into (a perception that) not only is he a private sneak, he’s a public sneak. If you’re having an adulterous affair and you’re using New York City cops to transport you and protect you, you would be a sneak, but his private life now extends to dishonesty in the public life,” said Doug Muzzio, a professor of public affairs at Baruch College.

Giuliani has long asked Republicans to overlook his marital problems — his bitter split from Donna Hanover and his public courting of Nathan, who became his third wife. Some have up until now, but there is growing evidence that social conservatives are turning to other alternatives. Already, Giuliani has been slipping in the polls in two early states where Christian conservatives have a major voice — Iowa and South Carolina.

“It’s very bad news at a very bad time,” said David Woodard of Clemson. “I think voters are learning more about “America’s mayor,’ and they’re getting more skeptical.”

The report even could anger fiscal conservatives in the party, because the mayor’s office travel expenses actually doubled in that time, from roughly $309,800 in 2000 to $620,000 in 2001.

The city’s comptroller wrote to Mayor Michael Bloomberg in January 2002 questioning why Giuliani’s office had moved much of its $620,000 in travel and security expenses to little-known agencies such as the Loft Board and the Assigned Counsel Administrative Office. Giuliani aides at the time wouldn’t say why, citing security reasons, so auditors “were unable to verify that these expenses were for legitimate or necessary purposes,” Comptroller William Thompson Jr. wrote.

But Carbonetti said some of those funds also covered political travel, as well as by Nathan and Giuliani’s children.

The Web site reported that Giuliani traveled to the Hamptons 11 times over three years but could not say how many were to visit Nathan. Travel records show that the trips included his four-person police detail staying at the Atlantic Utopia Lifestyle Inn on Aug. 31 and Sept. 1, 1999, for $1,016.20. Giuliani also visited Southampton the weekend of Sept. 2, 2001, shortly before the 9/11 attacks.

Distributed by the Los Angeles Times-Washington Post News Service

AP-NY-11-28-07 2303EST

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