As Pataki Raises Pre-Presidential Money, Is It 2008 Redux?

A new ad on New Hampshire television this week starring former New York Governor George Pataki is stoking renewed speculation that he may not sit 2012 out after all. The ad is narrated by Pataki and is ostensibly about federal debt. It begins with a pointed critique of Obama, and concludes with Pataki appealing directly to the view. “Join us,” he says. “You know we can do the right thing.”

The ad focuses on the federal debt, and is paid for by No American Debt, a group Pataki formed, the website says, “because he wants the President and Republican candidates for President to understand” that addressing the debt is central to economic recovery. But Pataki’s used the earned media moment to back off his previous denials of a run in 2012.

“I hope one of the Republican candidates comes out with a good, solid, serious plan,” Pataki told NBC New York on Thursday. “If it doesn’t, we’ll see what may or may not happen down the road.”

Pataki spokesman David Catalfamo dismisses the suggestion that the former governor's changed his position on a potential run. "He’s been very consistent, going back as long as the discussion of 2012, he’s never ruled it out." he said. "Right now he’s very focused on No American Debt."

The ad will run in New Hampshire through the next Republican primary debate on June 13.

The federal debt is just the latest issue Pataki has seized on in ads that also just so happen to raise his national profile. Until February, he was honorary chairman of Revere America, a group that spent more than $2.5 million in independent expenditures during the 2010 midterm elections. That group focused on an effort “to repeal, reform and replace ObamaCare.”

It’s also not the first time Pataki has raised and spent big bucks around a potential presidential run. While he explored a presidential campaign in 2008, Pataki had two PACs — Pataki PAC and 21st Century Freedom PAC. During that effort, Pataki opened an early campaign office in Iowa, but demurred for months on whether he would launch a campaign. He eventually opted out, but kept spending PAC money “to retain the political infrastructure and networking necessary to be a relevant and effective voice,” as spokesman David Catalfamo told the New York Times in 2008.

That time around, though, he’s using a 501c(4), rather than a PAC, as the vehicle for getting his name out. That means he doesn't have to tell disclose how much he’s spending or who’s giving him the money.

When asked who was backing this latest effort, Catalfamo said the group was adhering to all "all necessary reporting requirements."

“I don’t know them either," Catalfamo added. "I’m not involved in a fundraising.”