Sunday, December 30, 2007

Bracewell & Giuliani

The latest issue of Vanity Fair has a feature story about former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani. Some of the buzz about this issue has suggested that this story, written by Michael Shnayerson, would be a great take-down piece. A serious blow to Rudy's candidacy.

It isn't. Frankly, I got the sense reading it that Shnayerson was flailing about a bit, trying to score a solid punch and missing.

Example: In 2005 (as the story accurately reports), Giuliani became a partner at what had been the Texas law firm of Bracewell & Patterson. It's now, of course, the Texas & New York law firm of Bracewell & Giuliani.

By the time Giuliani put his name on the door, Bracewell had become, we're told, "the go-to law firm for major polluters in oil and gas as well as coal companies."

Shocking. Until you give it a second's thought. A prominent Texas law firm represents oil and gas companies? Such companies, when accused of environmental violations, hire lawyers to defend them? What's the shocker there again?

Then we get a long graf re-hashing the Citgo connection. No "mini-scoop" here. This stuff was all thoroughly vented months ago. Yes, Citgo is run by the Venezuelan state, which is currently run by Hugo Chavez, a nasty piece of work.

"Bracewell & Giuliani [has] been happy to take Chavez' money," our intrepid reporter breathlessly informs us.

Would he be happier -- would he want us to be happier -- if B&G hadn't taken Chavez' money? Suppose they had represented Citgo's interests in the US for free, and called it their pro bono work for the year. Feel better?

Either way: they're in the business of advocacy, aren't they? A law firm can, without any shadow to its reputation, defend a serial killer -- for money if he can pay it. Why is it hard to believe that a law firm can work for the interests of a company that does a lot of business in the US, that is run by the government of a foreign state.

The fact that I say "big whoop" to this doesn't make me partial to Giuliani. (Although, for the sake of full disclosure, I might as well admit that a couple of the lawyers who work in Bracewell & Giuliani -- NOT the candidate -- have been valuable sources to me in explaining some legal issues pertinent to stories I've been working on.) I'm not partial to Rudy as a candidate at all -- indeed (a) I don't believe in politics, (b) even if I did believe in politics, it would be a sort of politics that would involve the rejection of the two major parties, and (c) even thinking within the box of those two parties, the only candidate who makes even a smidgen of sense to me is Ron Paul. So there, for Rudy.

Still, I recognize a flailing boxer in the ring when I see one. And that is the figure Mr. Shnayerson cuts.

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