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Giuliani: Web site report on expenses a 'hit job'

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  • Politico editor defended report, saying Giuliani was given chance to dispute it
  • Records show Giuliani's security expenses paid by obscure New York agencies
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Republican presidential hopeful Rudy Giuliani has called a story raising questions about the accounting of his security expenses while he was mayor of New York a "hit job."

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Rudy Giulani denies any wrongdoing in the accounting of his security costs while he was New York City mayor.

Late Wednesday, Politico.com reported city records show Giuliani billed New York City government offices for at least $34,000 in security and travel costs on trips to the Hamptons in his last year in office, with charges spread around departments under his control.

"I thought the way the story was presented was like a hit job," Giuliani said after the CNN/YouTube debate Wednesday night.

"Coming two hours before this debate, I kind of got the idea that it was not a legitimate story."

"I would not accuse any of my opponents of doing it," he said. "But who knows, it could be on the Democratic side."

In its report, which Giuliani says might have been fueled by opposition research, Politico said it obtained the records through a Freedom of Information Act request. CNN was also able to obtain the same records. Video Watch Giuliani being questioned about expenses »

Politico editor-in-chief John Harris defended the Web site's reporting.

"This was a fair and carefully reported story. We gave the Giuliani campaign ample opportunity to dispute the story or comment on our reporting before publishing, and they did not do so," Harris said. "Since the story ran, we have not heard from the campaign disputing any substantive aspect of the story."

Giuliani denied any wrongdoing and told CNN the expenses were "perfectly appropriate."

"I was covered by the police for 24 hours a day, every day that I was mayor," he said. "I was covered because there were threats to kill me."

Joe Lhota, a former deputy New York mayor and a Giuliani campaign adviser, told CNN the security costs "were allocated throughout the various divisions within the mayor's office."

"Sometime thereafter, but before the end of each fiscal year, the [New York Police Department] would reimburse the Office of the Mayor for such expenditures and therefore these divisions were never deprived of any monies," Lhota said.

The New York City comptroller's office raised red flags about the expenses in 2002, after Giuliani left office.

The comptroller's office questioned why the expenses were charged to offices such as the city's Loft Board, which regulates the conversion of industrial buildings into housing.

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During a 2002 audit, the agency's director denied the board incurred $34,000 in travel costs on its books, city Comptroller William Thompson wrote in a letter to Giuliani's successor, Michael Bloomberg.

On Thursday, Bloomberg declined to comment on the report.

Giuliani's office had refused to provide details of the expenses when questioned about them, the comptroller's auditors said Wednesday.

"The comptroller's office made repeated requests for the information in 2001 and 2002, but was informed that due to security concerns, the information could not be provided," Jeff Simmons, a spokesman for the comptroller, said in a written statement to CNN.

In their 2002 letter, Thompson's auditors also raised questions about more than $500,000 in non-local travel expenses billed to other arms of the mayor's office in the 2000 and 2001 budget years, urging Bloomberg to investigate further. They included the Office of Emergency Management and the Office for People with Disabilities.

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Lhota of the Giuliani campaign said he did not know why security costs were allocated to entities like the Loft Board and that the campaign is still investigating.

Lhota also said he did not know when the practice of spreading costs out to multiple departments was started but that it was "done consistently." E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

CNN's Scott Anderson, Mary Snow and Alexander Mooney contributed to this report

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