Giuliani loses support of billionaires Langone, Cooperman: 'I wouldn't give him a nickel'

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Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, an attorney for former U.S. President Donald Trump during challenges to the 2020 election results, exits U.S. District Court after attending a hearing in a defamation suit related to the 2020 election results that has been brought against Giuliani by two Georgia election workers, at the federal courthouse in Washington, U.S., May 19, 2023. 

Leah Millis | Reuters

Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani will not be getting help with his legal bills from many of the big-money donors who financed his 2008 campaign for president, according to people familiar with the matter.

Giuliani was beloved by several business titans when he was mayor of New York City, who supported his 2008 presidential campaign that raised more than $60 million, according to those familiar with the matter and data from the nonpartisan OpenSecrets.

Yet, many of the donors who backed the former mayor in 2008 are opting not to help him pay for his growing legal bills as he’s defended his longtime friend former President Donald Trump, and faced charges of his own in Georgia for allegedly trying to help Trump overturn the 2020 election, these people said.

Some people declined to be named in this story in order to speak freely about private deliberations.

Giuliani’s attorneys said in a recent court filing that the longtime Trump ally is having trouble paying his legal fees, and financial lifelines are running low for the man once known as “America’s mayor.”

Backers walk away

Billionaire investor Leon Cooperman, who donated $2,300 to Giuliani’s 2008 campaign for president, according to Federal Election Commission records, told CNBC he has no plans to assist the former mayor.

“I wouldn’t give him a nickel,” Cooperman said in a recent phone interview. “I’m very negative on Donald Trump. It’s an American tragedy. He was ‘America’s mayor.’ He did a great job. And like everybody else who gets involved with Trump, it turns to s—.”

Ken Langone, who co-founded Home Depot and has an estimated net worth of more than $7 billion, according to Forbes, does not plan to give to a Giuliani legal defense fund, according to his personal assistant. Langone contributed $4,600 to Giuliani’s 2008 campaign for president, according to FEC records.

Brian France, former CEO of NASCAR who donated $9,200 to Giuliani’s 2008 run, according to records, explained he too has no plans to help the former New York mayor this time.

“I was a major supporter of Rudy in 2008 and at other times. I’m not sure what happen[ed] but I miss the old Rudy. I’m wishing him well,” France said in an email.

The businessman was once embroiled in a legal scandal of his own while leading NASCAR. France was arrested in 2018 and pleaded guilty to driving while intoxicated and took a leave of absence from the company.

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Another Wall Street veteran who has known Trump and Giuliani for over a decade but chose to remain anonymous for this story told CNBC he has no plans to help Giuliani with his legal fees. This executive donated $2,300 to Giuliani’s 2008 run for president, according to FEC records. This person said he did not want to be named because he didn’t want to be bothered by Trump or Giuliani.

Ted Goodman, a political advisor to Giuliani, sent CNBC a lengthy statement in response to this story that did not deny that prior supporters had backed away.

“I get that it’s more expedient to say nasty things about the mayor in order to stay in good graces with New York’s so-called ‘high society’ social circles and the Washington D.C. cocktail circuit, but I would remind these same people that Rudy Giuliani is the most effective federal prosecutor in American history, he improved the quality of life for more people than any Mayor in American history, and he comforted the nation following September 11th. No one can take away his great accomplishments and contributions to the country,” Goodman said.

The Giuliani advisor also railed against those past allies, asking “where were they” when the former mayor needed help with other controversies, including the moment then-candidate Joe Biden swiped at Giuliani during the 2020 debate versus Trump as “being used as a Russian pawn.”

Goodman did not say who is contributing to help Giuliani pay for his legal fees or how much those entities have raised.

Giuliani’s fundraising

Giuliani is turning to his own efforts to raise money, including promoting the “Rudy Giuliani Defense Fund” on X, formerly known as Twitter, and selling his over $6 million New York City apartment.

Giuliani and his son, Andrew Giuliani, are also raising money with a political action committee titled Giuliani Defense, including a fundraiser for the PAC that will feature Trump himself.

Trump, who raised more than $7 million after his arrest in Georgia, has yet to spend any of his political operation’s money on Giuliani’s legal fees, according to FEC records.

Donors are being charged $100,000 to get into the Sept. 7 event with Trump at the former president’s Bedminster, New Jersey, golf club, with a dozen expected to attend and just over $1 million set to be raised, according to a person who previously spoke to CNBC.

The more than $1 million may only crack a dent in Giuliani’s legal bills after he was indicted as a co-defendant with Trump and 17 others for allegedly trying to overturn the election in Georgia. A legal expert previously told CNBC that co-defendants in the Georgia case will likely see at least seven figures for their legal bills.

Giuliani also faces civil cases that will add to his financial woes. A federal judge recently issued a default judgment against Giuliani, ruling he’s liable for the defamation of two Georgia election workers. The judge ruled Giuliani would have to pay nearly $133,000 in sanctions for the attorneys’ fees for the plaintiffs, and is yet to rule on damages owed by Giuliani.

At least one of Giuliani’s past donors, billionaire and longtime ally John Catsimatidis, said he is committing to helping the former mayor with his legal bills.

“I probably will,” said Catsimatidis, who owns New York radio station WABC that employs Rudy Giuliani and his son.

Catsimatidis, who has a net worth of around $4 billion, according to Forbes, said he didn’t know how much he would give to Giuliani’s fundraising efforts. Catsimatidis gave $4,600 to Giuliani’s 2008 campaign, according to FEC records.

“We pay him a lot of money to work for WABC,” Catsimatidis said. “I think people should help Rudy Giuliani. The people who supported him in the past and liked him, those people should help him.”

Little outside support

Even outside the direct prior donors contacted for this story, some Republican fundraisers have so far not heard from their wealthy clients about having an interest in helping the former mayor.

“I don’t have a crystal ball but I have not heard of one donor or know of one donor,” said a strategist for one of Giuliani’s past top financiers in New York who declined to be named for this story to speak frankly about the former mayor’s financial struggles. “Are there going to be people who had deep relationships with him that are looking at him with pity and are going to help him? Maybe. I haven’t heard that anywhere.”

A veteran New York Republican fundraiser with clients that had close allegiances to Giuliani but chose to remain anonymous for this story was even more blunt.

“Rudy should have a statue built in his honor for saving the city, but instead he is a clown figure amongst the donor class and needs to run begging for money to pay for a legal defense in which he tried to overturn an election,” the fundraiser said in a text message.