South Carolina Republican state Rep. Tracy Edge was outraged when he read in a New York newspaper Wednesday that former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani had taken $80,000 from the South Carolina Hospital Association after hosting an Asian tsunami benefit on its behalf for the Red Cross.
Giuliani said today that he donated $20,000 to the charity, but the New York Observer reported that the association, through sponsors, paid the Republican celebrity tens of thousands of dollars more. He commands as much as $100,000 per speech.
Because Giuliani accepted the honorarium and since the hospital association declined to say how much it raised for the Red Cross, Edge worries that the money raised for tsunami relief efforts went right back to paying Giuliani -- or that the Red Cross could have gotten $80,000 more.
"It's not right that he would ask for money to appear at an event designed to benefit the victims," he told ABC News.
Edge, a Republican, chairs a state legislative committee overseeing hospital budgets. He faxed Giuliani's office a letter Wednesday asking that all the money be returned to the association immediately.
"I was shocked and disappointed to learn that Mayor Giuliani charged our state hospital association $100,000 to speak at an event to benefit tsunami victims. What makes this most offensive is the fact that the occasion was widely publicized as a charitable event. Nowhere was it disclosed that Mayor Giuliani was being paid for his appearance," he wrote to the mayor's office.
Giuliani today said he planned to call the hospital association to see whether it wants the money back.
"If they feel more should be donated, I would be more than happy to do it," he said at a news conference announcing his new partnership with a Texas-based law firm, now known as Bracewell & Giuliani.
"And if they think all of it should be ... it's a conversation I will have with the hospital association. I'd like to see what they feel is the right thing to do because they know the economics of their event."
The hospital association, which lobbies the state legislature and accepts contributions from public and private sources, maintains that Giuliani's $100,000 fee was covered by contributions from private, outside sponsors.
Patti Smoake, the association's press aide, said that Giuliani's presence was a boom for fund-raising efforts. "If Mr. Giuliani had said, 'I can't participate,' we certainly would not have raised the money that we did," she said.
But Smoake declined to say how much had been raised and whether it was more than the $100,000 paid to Giuliani. She said that the association was still tallying the money it collected and hoped to announce a total shortly.
She said the association did not ask Giuliani to waive his fee and he did not offer to waive it. Smoake also said the former mayor asked the association to keep the size of his Red Cross contribution confidential.
Giuliani, who is popular with Republicans and Democrats across the country, has made little secret of his national political aspirations. And Republicans in New York are urging him to think seriously about running for governor in 2006. But since Giuliani left office a few months after Sept.11, 2001, he has thrown himself into his security and strategic consulting business and paid little attention to politics, except for a long stretch of stump appearances for Republican candidates in 2004.
The Observer article concluded that several of Giuliani's ventures could raise thorny questions if he were to run for president.
ABC News' David Chalian contributed to this report