Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Weekends With Bernie

Weekends With Bernie

Dec 14, 2004

An illegal nanny has proven to be the least of Bernard Kerik's problems.

The saga of the used-to-be nominee for Homeland Security chief has now been spiced by reports of simultaneous extramarital affairs with two women, and the exploits of Lawrence Frank, the best man at Kerik's 1998 wedding.

Frank helped to bankroll the former New York City police commissioner's wedding reception, and wound up on the wrong side of the law when he was indicted in a stock-swindling scheme. Frank cooperated with the FBI, and later pled guilty to a conspiracy charge.

A New York newspaper, meanwhile, reported that the off-the-books nanny wasn't the only woman in Kerik's life.

Citing unidentified sources, the Daily News said Kerik had overlapping affairs with Judith Regan, the publisher of his recent memoir, and a city correction officer.

He used the same New York City apartment for liaisons with the women during his 18-month tenure as head of the nation's largest police department ending in 2001, the paper said.

"We had a close relationship. I'm not going to get into the details of either of those. I think that's my personal business," Kerik said of his reported affairs with the two women, the Daily News said.

Kerik apparently became close with Regan while writing his book, "The Lost Son," in which he described being abandoned by his prostitute mother.

The relationship first drew scrutiny in 2001 after Kerik reportedly dispatched detectives to question people whom Regan had accused of stealing her cell phone. In 2002, Kerik was ordered to pay a conflict-of-interest fine for using three police officers to do research about his mother for the book.

Other recent reports claim that around the time of the alleged affairs, Kerik accepted unreported gifts of thousands of dollars in cash and other items from associates at a New Jersey construction company while serving under then-Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, first as correction chief, then as police commissioner. Authorities suspect the company, Interstate Industrial Corp., has ties to organized crime.

Kerik said he was unaware of any mob allegations involving Interstate, which has denied any wrongdoing.

Giuliani insisted Kerik would have been a "very, very good choice" for homeland security secretary if not for the nanny problem.

"Everyone thinks he would have been superbly qualified," he said, adding that Kerik would remain a partner at the firm, Giuliani Partners.

President Bush also remains convinced Kerik "is someone who has a solid record of achievement," White House spokesman Scott McClellan said at a briefing in Washington.

When Mr. Bush picked Kerik on Dec. 3 to succeed Tom Ridge as homeland security chief, he won early support in Republican and some Democratic quarters based on his leadership of the Police Department following the Sept. 11 attacks.

But others questioned whether Kerik had the management experience to continue the nearly 2-year-long effort to meld the pieces of the sprawling Homeland Security Department, which has more than 180,000 employees from 22 federal agencies.

Democrats also were focusing on Kerik's recent windfall from exercising stock options in a stun gun company that does business with the department. He earned $6.2 million from the options received from Taser International.

Those around Kerik — and even Kerik himself — may have paid the price for becoming too enamored of his image as a brash, self-made law enforcer, said Stanley Renshon, a political scientist and psychoanalyst at the City University of New York's Graduate Center in Manhattan.

"Kerik is a great rags-to-accomplishment story and Bush really likes that because it fits into is view of the American dream," Renshon said. "What's different about them is that Bush is pretty much a straight shooter. He's a straight-and-narrow kind of guy, and Kerik clearly is a lot less that."

[Bush is a straight shooter? Must be a different Bush he is referring to.]