Records contradict published Paterson report

March 25, 2008 12:19:32 PM PDT
State travel records contradict a published report that Gov. David Paterson used state funds for a trip to South Carolina to work on Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's presidential campaign with a state employee with whom officials previously said he had an extramarital affair.Paterson's state credit card and travel records, reviewed by The Associated Press, give no indication that Paterson took an October trip to South Carolina.

Paterson spokesman Errol Cockfield on Tuesday denied a report in the Times Union of Albany that he and the woman made the trip and that it was paid for by the state.

Cockfield acknowledged Paterson and the female state employee worked on the Clinton campaign at the same time: In November in Iowa and in January in South Carolina. The Clinton campaign paid for those expenses that included separate hotel rooms, Cockfield said.

Paterson's state credit card records show the governor charged a stay on Nov. 11, 2007, at the "Inter-Continental Hotels" in "Carolina." But that appears to refer to the InterContinental San Juan Resort & Casino in the city of Carolina in Puerto Rico. His travel records show he took a Delta airlines flight Nov. 10 from New York City to San Juan.

That was the weekend of the annual Somos El Futuro Legislative Conference for Hispanic and minority legislators in San Juan, an event routinely attended by state lawmakers.

There is no claim that the Democrat and the woman had a romantic rendezvous. Paterson has said the relationship ended in 2002, when he and his wife reconciled after counseling.

Paterson succeeded Democrat Eliot Spitzer as governor after Spitzer was implicated in a prostitution investigation. Last week Paterson acknowledged affairs with "a number of women" while his marriage was failing. He says the affairs ended several years ago and his marriage is solid.

Paterson also acknowledged that he stayed at state expense in a downtown Albany hotel 13 times in the last 15 months despite having a suburban home 20 minutes away. He denies that he spent time with a woman during those stays. The hotels were two or three blocks from the Capitol.

"I was too far away for the trip to Guilderland," Paterson said. "Ten or 15 times I stayed in Albany to accommodate the governor ... I became basically like staff and you had to be real close."

There is no accusation that he was staying with a woman those nights.

The charges, as with all expenses, were approved by the comptroller's office.

Albany staffers are known for working long nights during budget and legislative negotiations, followed by early starts in the morning if there are breakthroughs. But lieutenant governors before Paterson haven't traditionally been part of that work. Spitzer included Paterson in public leaders meetings over the budget but how much Paterson was involved in the closed-door meetings - where most negotiation is done - isn't clear.

As lieutenant governor last year, he was called on more by Spitzer to help mend fences in the state Senate, where Paterson served for 20 years, most recently as minority leader. Paterson also ran Spitzer's multibillion dollar stem cell research project and supervised an overhaul of the state's program to help business owned by minorities and women qualify for and land state contracts.

It's been a rocky start for Paterson, now in his second week on the job. He was widely respected by fellow Democrats and Republicans as a senator and lieutenant governor despite the partisan atmosphere of Albany that intensified during the 14-months of the Spitzer administration.

On Monday night, Paterson told NY-1 TV that he used cocaine a couple of times when he was about 22 or 23 and used marijuana when he was around 20. He said he acknowledged to a television journalist after a 2006 gubernatorial Democratic primary debate that he had used illegal drugs.

A Siena College poll released Monday found Paterson was viewed favorably by 58 percent of New Yorkers polled, and unfavorably by 10 percent. The rest said they didn't know enough about the Harlem Democrat.

The poll was conducted between Paterson's inauguration day, on March 17, through March 21, after he revealed his infidelities. Siena Research Institute spokesman Steven Greenberg said his numbers were slightly higher before the disclosure but the data doesn't conclusively say if Paterson's popularity dropped during the period.


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