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Inside Politics

Giuliani's law firm tied to Venezuela's Chavez

Story Highlights

• Firm reportedly will make as much as $250,000 from the lobbying
• Giuliani's camp notes he is not personally involved in the lobbying
• Campaign: "Giuliani believes Hugo Chavez is not a friend of the United States"
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NEW YORK (CNN) -- At first glance, former New York Mayor and 2008 presidential hopeful Rudy Giuliani wouldn't seem to have much in common with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.

One is considered one of the heroes in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, a leader who walked to ground zero while the World Trade Center towers smoldered. The other is a vehement anti-American who has called President Bush a "madman" and "the devil" and flaunts his association with longtime U.S. adversary Fidel Castro of Cuba.

But there is a link between the two, according to the Texas Ethics Commission. Giuliani's law firm, Bracewell and Giuliani, is making money by lobbying American lawmakers on behalf of Citgo Petroleum Corp. of Houston. Citgo is the American subsidiary of Petroleos de Venezuela -- the state-owned Venezuelan oil company.

Bracewell and Giuliani made as much as $150,000 from the lobbying in 2005-06 and will make up to $100,000 this year, according to the ethics commission.

"Like most lawyers, [Giuliani] chooses his clients on the basis of what salary they're paying him," said Wayne Barrett, who has written extensively about the former mayor's business practices. "He got a chunk of money to join this law firm. They changed the name of the law firm to headline him. ... He's lent his credibility to these folks and sort of tossed the ball in the air."

Giuliani's camp is quick to point out, however, that he is not personally involved in the lobbying.

"Mayor Giuliani believes Hugo Chavez is not a friend of the United States, and his influence continues to grow because of our increasing reliance on foreign sources of oil," his office said in a written statement.

Also, Giuliani is apparently no fan of anti-Americanism. He famously declined a $10 million donation from Saudi Prince Talal after the prince commented that U.S. policies favored Israel over the Palestinians and ultimately led to 9/11. Giuliani called those comments "highly irresponsible and very, very dangerous."

"There is no justification for it," Giuliani said. "The people who did it lost the right to ask for justification for it when they slaughtered 4 to 5,000 innocent people."

But the Chavez affair is just another piece of bad press for Giuliani, who has been plagued by reports of his three marriages and his estrangement from his children, with the first presidential primary still nearly a year away.

The law firm of Rudy Giuliani, left, lobbies for a subsidiary of Venezuela's state-owned oil company, which is controlled by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, right.

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