OFF THE GRID

Would-Be Car Czar Silences Press Over DWI Wife

Feb 6, 09 | 10:55 AM   byMichael Wolff
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Steven Rattner, the former New York Times reporter turned private equity investor, assiduously supported Hillary Clinton’s presidential ambitions, hoping that he would be made treasury secretary in a Clinton administration. Such hopes dashed, Rattner got on board the Obama train, and it is now widely assumed he’ll be given the new role of Car Czar—the guy who oversees the bailout and restructuring of the auto industry.

I’ve often written about Rattner. And while I don’t believe I’ve ever said anything particularly grievous about him, except that he’s a social climber, in each instance his response has been nearly feral—he’s called my editors; he’s written letters and had letters written on his behalf; he’s dissed me to anyone, it seems, who would listen. Now, none of this is particularly vexing, but it’s unusual. People who seek public office generally know about having to tolerate (or at least not overreact to) even an obnoxious media (nobody likes a heavy hand), as well as they know, for instance, to pay their taxes.

Well, Rattner, or the Rattner family, seems to have been at it again—this time with more success at managing, or stifling, the media.

The New York Daily News reported that on October 24, 2008, Rattner’s wife, Maureen White, herself an influential Democratic fund raiser and power broker (a former national finance chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee), was picked up for drunk driving in the Bronx. She was pulled over at the Throgs Neck Bridge in her 2006 Mercedes. Police officers, smelling alcohol and noticing she had trouble walking, administered a sobriety test. Her blood alcohol levels registered twice the legal limit, according to the News. (She subsequently plead guilty, paid a fine, and had her license suspended for 90 days, according to the New York State's WebCrims database, the only record of the crime available online to the public. Click here for the criminal complaint.)

The Daily News story promptly…disappeared. The story made it online long enough to be indexed by Google. But when you link to where it’s supposed to be, it’s gone: “Sorry, the page you have requested has moved.” (To where is not specified.) Because it doesn't exist online, it doesn't exist on the websites that are now monitoring the behavior and histories of current or potential government officials. 

What’s more, neither the Times, where Rattner once worked, and where he has long advised Times publisher Arthur Sulzberger on financial matters (Rattner and Sulzberger have been close friends through their careers), nor the New York Post, where Rattner maintains a careful relationship with owner Rupert Murdoch, reported the story. (It did not, however, entirely slip through unnoticed: A well-known broadcaster told me the story on election night.)

In other words, an incident that any other person seeking high office should expect to be covered wasn’t. At least not for very long.

It is possible, of course, that the Daily News website has malfunctioned. And that the Times and the Post were asleep at the switch. And that the Rattners are the luckiest public couple in New York. Anything is possible.

The Daily News did not return calls. Rattner's office and PR representatives declined to comment.

More of Newser founder Michael Wolff's articles and commentary can be found at VanityFair.com, where he writes a regular column. He can be emailed at michael@newser.com

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OFF THE GRID is about why the news is the news. Here are the real motivations of both media and newsmakers. Here's the backstory. This is a look at the inner workings of desperate media, the inner life of the publicity crazed, and the true meaning of the news of the day.

 

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