Rudy and Arnie and Minimal Disclosure

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Two stories this morning, although unrelated, show the kind of tone-deafness that gets politicians in trouble.

As Rudy Giuliani faces more and more questions about his business dealings, and particularly its work for clients that included the government of Qatar and an Asian gambling venture involving a billionaire with ties to North Korea’s Kim Jong Il, Giuliani has refused to provide enough information to address the real question this raises about his ethics and his judgment. When it came up yesterday on Meet the Press, Giuliani’s response to Tim Russert was:

“I’ll do some more complete financial disclosures, but I’m not doing more than what is absolutely required.”

The default position in politics never seems to be: I’ll give voters enough information to reassure them that everything I’ve done is ethical. Doing “what is absolutely required” is rarely enough to deal with a political problem, and in fact, can sometimes create one. Exhibit A–This Los Angeles Times story:

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s office has avoided fully disclosing payments of $1.7 million in nonprofit funds for private jets, hotel suites and support staff for his trips overseas, according to state documents and interviews.

Record-keeping for many of the governor’s luxury-class jaunts has been by word of mouth. Asked how the staff tracks the costs, subject to public disclosure laws, Schwarzenegger attorney Daniel Maguire said: “Orally.”

The Governor’s response:

Schwarzenegger spokesman Aaron McLear said the governor’s office did nothing wrong. “We’ve been following the law all along,” he said.

In both cases, these are the kinds of answers that only raise more questions.

UPDATE: Giuliani Partners spokeswoman Sunny Mindel takes issue with my characterization of the firm’s involvement with the Asian gambling venture, saying that the North Korean link is more tenuous than my post would suggest. She points out that Giuliani Partners signed on as a security consultant to the project before Lawrence Ho, the son of Stanley Ho (the reputed organized crime figure with ties to Kim Jong Il), became a partner in the venture. All of this is spelled out in the Chicago Tribune piece linked above.