How Mort Zuckerman Helped Out a Friend in Need

Last October, Maureen White, the former finance chair for the Democratic National Committee and wife of Steve Rattner, was arrested for drunk driving. According to the police report, White was pulled over in her Mercedes at the Throgs Neck Bridge and failed a field sobriety test, registering a blood-alcohol level that was twice the legal limit. (She subsequently pleaded guilty to the charges, paid a fine, and had her driver's license suspended for 90 days.) That the Democratic fundraiser and wife of one of the city's most prominent financiers had been arrested was certainly news, and the Daily News covered the arrest a day later in an article titled "Democratic Money Queen in Booze Bust." But the paper pulled the article down soon after—it was originally located here—and now we know why. A source inside the News tells us the order came from "the very top," namely Daily News publisher Mort Zuckerman.

The timing of White's arrest was clearly unfortunate for Rattner. At the time, he was still hoping a Democratic victory in November would earn him a cabinet position in the Obama administration, perhaps even Secretary of the Treasury. It's easy to see why Rattner, with just a month to go before the election, would be especially eager to quash a story that might damage his political chances, not to mention his carefully tended public image.

It's also not hard to see why Zuckerman would be disposed to lend Rattner a helping hand. The real estate developer and media mogul is a longtime friend of Rattner's. And he's been an investor in Rattner's private equity fund, Quadrangle Capital Partners, since its inception in 2001. (Zuckerman isn't the only one: Times publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr., one of Rattner's oldest friends, is also a Quadrangle investor, and the Times didn't make mention of the incident at all.) And while editors at the Daily News weren't given an explanation for Zuckerman's directive, it stands to reason he made the highly unusual request to remove all traces of the story from the News website only after Rattner intervened. It doesn't appear, though, that the incident did any permanent damage to Rattner. He's still believed to be a leading contender to assume the role of Obama's "car czar."

The Daily News did not respond to our email seeking comment.

Previously: DWI Trouble for Possible Car Czar? [Cityfile]