Yesterday, the NY Times reported that former Giuliani aide Russell Harding, who served five years for embezzling $400,000 in city money and for child pornography found on his computer, had committed suicide last month. His body was found on September 29, and the following day a post appeared on his blog, "Rudy Veritas," titled, "The End"—"While you read this try and hear The Doors playing in the background for the right feel. Just kidding, trying to lighten the mood. Well, this is my last post. I am hoping and praying that by the time you read this I have not botched this suicide attempt."
Harding was son of a political power broker, former New York Liberal Party leader Raymond Harding, and his hire as an official in Mayor Rudy Giuliani's administration was "widely viewed as a political favor to his father."
He also apparently believed that Rudy's largesse allowed him to use taxpayer money to fund his lifestyle—the Village Voice's Tom Robbins exposed his embezzlement in a series of stories in 2002: For instance, he billed the NYC Housing Development Corporation—he was the agency's president— for a "$10,700 trip that would take him to Singapore, Thailand, and Bali" and also ordered a "pre-paid, open ticket for $7500, destination unnamed." Since the HDC's official who could sign off on bills was someone, Luke Cusack, that Harding had hired, it wasn't a problem. Oh and also:
Records show that after Harding was appointed by Giuliani in 1998, he and Cusack racked up more than $250,000 in travel, dining, and entertainment expenses—ranging from $1000 dinners at the Four Seasons to a Hong Kong junket. Even Harding's morning bagels, purchased for $1.25 each, were charged to the agency.
When the press had questioned Giuliani's motives for promoting Harding to president, Giuliani said, "Russell Harding has done an excellent job for this administration... What I do is. I try to be fair and have the most talented people I can find in this administration... I knew when I switched him to this position that you would all criticize me. But sometimes I enjoy it. Particularly when I think you're wrong and I'm right."
After Harding's prison sentence (he also had to register as a sex offender), he spent his time exposing Giuliani on his blog—like how he had to find a cheap rental for Rudy's then-mistress and future wife Judi Nathan. He had been blogging steadily and even emailed with a Times reporter right before his death. Harding's final post reads, "First, nothing sudden about this. I quit my job in March - turned out my boss on Wall St was a quasi-criminal and I was getting ensnared in his legal problems - and had three months of financial reserves. I tried to find another job, but as I expected, a felon who is a Level 3 sex offender stands no chance of gaining meaningful employment. So I decided, if by July 1 I couldn't find anything, I would take this route."
He also expressed love for his dog Seabe, how he was diagnosed with PTSD, and how the media printed lies, ending with "I've rambled on too long. Sorry this was so all over the place. I guess 'Goodbye cruel world' would have been enough. After all, who wants to leave a tedious suicide note? I wish you all the best, RAH."
It's unclear how Harding killed himself. The Times says that police found him in his Dobbs Ferry apartment; Dobbs Ferry Police Department refused to comment about the case "out of respect" for his family, while the Westchester County Medical Examiner's Office says the case is "still pending."
Robbins, who has since left the Voice, told us, "Russell Harding's suicide is a reminder that we never really know what demons we stir when we sit down and start typing about strangers, no matter how worthy the mission. I don't regret the stories or exposing his schemes. I do very much regret that he died alone, unable to even find his way home to his mother, his family or anyone else who may have loved him. Also that he and I never had a real conversation. I don't have much to say about dogs, but we could have talked movies at least. I bet I'm one of few readers of his farewell note who knew who Harold Russell was without having to Google him."