By Jared Chausow
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His monogamous embrace of the Yankees as mayor was so fervent that when he tried to deliver a West Side stadium to them early in his administration, or approved a last-minute $400 million subsidy for their new Bronx stadium, New Yorkers blithely ascribed the bad deals to a heaving heart.
It turns out he also had an outstretched hand.
Sports fans grew accustomed to seeing Giuliani, in Yankee jacket and cap, within camera view of the team's dugout at every one of the 40 postseason home games the Yankees played while he was mayor. His devotion reached such heights that at the 1995 Inner Circle press dinner, he played himself handing the city over to George Steinbrenner in a lampoon version of the Broadway musical Damn Yankees, succumbing to a scantily clad Lola who importuned him on behalf of the Boss to the tune of "Whatever Lola Wants (Lola Gets)." Mike Bloomberg understood years later that the song was no joke; he nixed Rudy's stadium deal in his first weeks in office.
It is only now, however, as Giuliani campaigns for president, that we are beginning to learn that this relationship went even deeper. Giuliani has been seen on the campaign trail wearing a World Series ring, a valuable prize we never knew he had. Indeed, the Yankees have told the Voice that he has four rings, one for every world championship the Yankees won while he was mayor. Voice calls to other cities whose teams won the Series in the past decade have determined that Giuliani is the only mayor with a ring, much less four. If it sounds innocent, wait for the price tag. These are certainly no Canal Street cubic zirconia knockoffs.
With Giuliani's name inscribed in the 1996, 1998, 1999, and 2000 diamond-and-gold rings, memorabilia and baseball experts say they are collectively worth a minimum of $200,000. The Yankees say that Giuliani did pay for his ringsbut only $16,000, and years after he had left office. Anyone paying for the rings is as unusual as a mayor getting one, since neither the Yankees nor any other recent champion have sold rings to virtually anyone. The meager payment, however, is less than half of the replacement value of the rings, and that's a fraction of the market price, especially with the added value of Giuliani's name.
What's more troubling is that Giuliani's receipt of the rings may be a serious breach of the law, and one that could still be prosecuted. New York officials are barred from taking a gift of greater than $50 value from anyone doing business with the city, and under Giuliani, that statute was enforced aggressively against others. His administration forced a fire department chief, for example, to retire, forfeit $93,105 in salary, and pay a $6,000 fine for taking Broadway tickets to two shows and a free week in a ski condo from a city vendor. The city's Conflicts of Interest Board (COIB) has applied the gift rule to discounts as well, unless the cheaper rate "is available generally to all government employees." When a buildings department deputy commissioner was indicted in 2000 for taking Mets and Rangers tickets, as well as a family trip to Florida, from a vendor, an outraged Giuliani denounced his conduct as "reprehensible," particularly "at high levels in city agencies," and said that such officials had to be "singled out" and "used as examples."
City officials are also required to disclose gifts from anyone but relatives on forms filed with the COIB, something Giuliani did not do with any of the rings. Giuliani certainly used to sound serious about the need for full public disclosure. In 1989, he denounced his mayoral opponent, David Dinkins, for failing to disclose frequent-flier tickets to France given to him by a friend, even though the friend did no business with the city; Giuliani called it an example of "arrogance and disrespect for legal and ethical obligations."
And there's another, more recent, and closer-to-home example of arrogant nondisclosure noted publicly by Giuliani. When former police commissioner Bernard Kerik pled guilty last year to charges involving a city contractor's gift to him of a $165,000 apartment renovation, Giuliani said that Kerik had "acknowledged his violations." As part of a $221,000 plea deal, Kerik agreed to pay a $10,000 fine to the COIB for accepting and then failing to accurately disclose the renovations. Not only are Kerik and Giuliani's concealed gifts of similar value, but Kerik, like Giuliani, made a partial payment for the renovations$17,800, far less than full value.
More ominous for Giuliani, Kerik's prosecution came eight years after the renovation of his apartment began, an indication that the ordinary statute of limitations doesn't apply to the continuing reporting requirements of the COIB. In addition, Giuliani reportedly paid the Yankees as recently as 2004 for one of the rings, another reason why an investigation might still be timely. It is also a violation of state unlawful-gratuity statutes for a public official to "solicit, accept, or agree to accept any benefit" from a business like the Yankees, which leases the stadium from the city.
If Giuliani neither received the rings, nor was promised them while in office, he would not have violated these rules. In repeated exchanges with the Voice, a Yankee spokeswoman was vague about when Giuliani actually received the rings, though she suggested that Giuliani might have obtained them when he paid for themwhich would have been well after his mayoral term ended in 2001. Alice McGillion of Rubenstein Associates, the public relations firm that represents the Yankees, said that in 2003, Giuliani paid $13,500 for his 1998, 1999, and 2000 rings, and in 2004, he paid $2,500 for his 1996 ring. She said that the team had only "transmittal" documents that confirmed the payments and that, from those documents, it could be "reasonably deduced" that he didn't receive the rings until then.