Gov. George Pataki called for a federal investigation on Monday after transcripts of taped telephone conversations, some involving him and his wife, appeared in a New York City tabloid.
The conversations, all featuring former Pataki patronage dispenser Thomas Doherty, were reported in Monday’s New York Post. The newspaper said it received a tape recording of the telephone conversations anonymously.
“We have requested that the U.S Attorney for the Southern District investigate how these private conversations were recorded and disseminated, and who was responsible,” said Pataki spokesman David Catalfamo.
The conversations range from the mundane — Doherty asking the governor to speak at a funeral and promising to write some “very personal” remarks for him — to the politically blunt. In one exchange, Doherty complains with bursts of profanity to then-Sen. Alfonse D’Amato, a Pataki mentor, about administration commissioners not hiring quickly enough the patronage appointees Doherty has recommended to them.
One conversation features the Republican governor’s wife, Libby Pataki, using a barnyard epithet of her own as she complains to Doherty about spending too much time doing minor public events and not getting enough publicity from them.
Doherty, now a lobbyist-consultant, told The Associated Press on Monday he did not tape the conversations and does not know who did.
“As an individual, I’m appalled at it,” he said. “I think any American would be appalled if their private conversations were recorded without their knowledge.”
The Post said the conversations appear to have taken place during Pataki’s first term, probably in 1996 and possibly in 1997.
“Even if these tapes were illegally made — and we don’t know yet that they were — we believe the Supreme Court of the United States has affirmed our right to publish the contents of the tapes. There is a clear public interest for our readers to understand how important patronage jobs in state agencies are doled out in Albany and how the Governor and the First Lady’s schedules are decided,” Col Allan, editor-in-chief of the Post, said in a statement.
The Pataki camp also expressed displeasure that the Post had printed details about the conversations.
“Taping anyone’s private conversations without proper consent is illegal,” Catalfamo said. “Printing those conversations — when they serve no public interest — is unethical and potentially illegal.”
“The notion that a media outlet would reprint private conversations that they know to have been illegally recorded is outrageous,” the Pataki aide added. “It’s sad and unfortunate that today the bar for journalistic integrity has been lowered.”
“If the governor’s office had legal or ethical issues with our publishing the contents of these tapes, they failed to raise them when we contacted them about the tapes Friday morning,” Allan said.
In a subsequent interview with the AP, Catalfamo said, “I don’t think there’s anything special about the contents” of the tape recorded conversations.
Asked about Mrs. Pataki’s use of profanity, the Pataki aide said: “I think the first lady is entitled to have private conversations with members of the governor’s senior staff as it relates to her scheduling and not have an expectation that they be broadcast around the globe.”
In New York, it is illegal without a court order to tape record telephone conversations unless one of the parties on the call is aware of the taping.
Pataki, who ousted Democrat Mario Cuomo in the 1994 governor’s race, announced in late July that he would not seek a fourth, four-year term next year.