Former Obama administration auto czar Steve Rattner, who last week blasted Andrew Cuomo as a "bully" who had filed a "politically motivated" $26 million lawsuit against him, has taken his feud with New York's attorney general to the airwaves.
On Monday, Rattner told talk show host Charlie Rose that Cuomo had issued "threats" against him, was relying on emotions instead of facts in filing the suit, and questioned whether Cuomo, who becomes New York's governor in less than two months, has the right temperament to hold high elected office.
Rattner, a long-time force in Democratic politics, also told Rose he was never a Cuomo supporter. "I was never part of the Andrew Cuomo fan club," said Rattner. "I was frankly never president of his fan club or even a charter member."
Cuomo announced Thursday that he was suing Rattner over allegedly paying kickbacks to win investment business for his firm, Quadrangle Group, from the New York state pension fund. In dual lawsuits, Cuomo is demanding that Rattner return $26 million, and wants to ban Rattner for life from the securities industry.
The news came the same day that the federal Securities and Exchange Commission announced that Rattner had agreed to pay $6.2 million to settle civil charges over the same influence-peddling scandal. He is also barred for two years from the securities business.
In a response to Cuomo's suits, Rattner denied wrongdoing and said he intended to clear his name "by defending myself vigorously against this politically motivated lawsuit."
"While settling with the SEC begins the process of putting this matter behind me," said Rattner, "I will not be bullied simply because the Attorney General's office prefers political considerations instead of a reasoned assessment of the facts."
Rattner: Cuomo's Actions 'Close To Extortion'
On Charlie Rose, Rattner repeated the bully charge, and his insistence that he had not broken any laws. He also said he had been willing to settle with Cuomo, but that the attorney general had "dragged this out."
"I've been willing to settle this all along at a -- you know, on reasonable terms, but I'm not going to settle them on terms that make no sense," said Rattner. "The SEC looked at facts and came to a set of conclusions. Andrew Cuomo chose instead to rely on his emotions."
"This is not the kind of behavior I think we want out of an attorney general or a governor," added Rattner, who also charged that Cuomo's handling of the case was "frankly close to extortion" and involved "threaten[ing] … [to] prosecute me to the ends of the earth."
Rattner also seemed to suggest that Cuomo's decision to sue him may have been influenced by Cuomo's gubernatorial opponent Carl Paladino, who during the campaign had tried to make an issue of Cuomo not "going after" Rattner.
"My supposition," said Rattner, "but you should get the attorney general in here and ask him, is that it comes down to emotion and politics. I don't know how else to account for it."
In his introduction to the interview with Rattner, Rose dislosed that he and Rattner were long-time friends.
Cuomo's Spokesman: Rattner Is 'Spinning Friends In The Press'
Asked to comment on Rattner's accusations on Charlie Rose, Cuomo's office said Tuesday that they were not planning to add anything to a statement issued last week.
On Thursday, Cuomo spokesman Richard Bamberger responded to Rattner's criticisms by noting how many times Rattner had invoked the Fifth Amendment, which protects a witness from self-incrimination, while testifying. "Mr. Rattner now has a lot of say as he spins his friends in the press, but when he was questioned under oath about his pensions and dealing he was much less talkative, taking the Fifth and refusing to answer questions 68 different times."
"Anyone who reads the extensive facts laid out in our complaint," said Bamberger, "will understand that Rattner's claim that he did nothing wrong are ridiculous and belied by the fact that he is paying the $6 million today."
The SEC alleged that Rattner and Quadrangle Group provided political favors and kickbacks to win business from the New York's $125 billion pension fund. The SEC alleged that one of the favors was distributing DVDs of a low-budget film called "Chooch" produced by a pension fund official and his brothers.
David Rosenfeld, associate director of the SEC's New York Regional Office, said Thursday, "Rattner delivered special favors and conducted sham transactions that corrupted the [New York state] Retirement Fund's investment process."
Cuomo 's two lawsuits accuse Rattner of paying kickbacks to help Quadrangle land a $150 million investment from the state pension fund.