When discussing presidential candidates, people who do so for a living usually refer to a number of amorphously defined tiers. There’s the top tier (those likely to launch competitive bids, like Sen. Rand Paul and Jeb Bush), the second tier (candidates who could be competitive if they hit their stride, like Sen. Marco Rubio and Gov. Scott Walker), and bottom-tier jokesters who seem primarily interested in selling books (Newt Gingrich) and basking in the CPAC love (Donald Trump). This year, though, there’s another tier: the Pataki tier.
“Who’s George Pataki?” you might ask, if you’re under 30. Don’t let anyone hold your ignorance against you. George Pataki, a moderate Republican who favored stricter gun control laws and abortion rights, served three terms as governor of New York. Since then, he has busied himself with pondering White House bids and launching the George E. Pataki Leadership and Learning Center. He also joined the Chadbourne and Parke law firm, and co-founded a consulting practice, the Pataki-Cahill Group.
Every four years, the former governor floats that he might answer the call to serve his country if such a call comes, and every four years people sort of squint and shrug. His overtures fail to inspire the hair-pulling rage that Sarah Palin’s name generates, and he’s never had the cartoon-twirly-eyed devotion that Dennis Kucinich and Ron Paul managed to snag. This hasn’t kept him from looking for ways to flex his GOP-cred before early–primary state notables, which is what he would have done in New Hampshire this week had the blizzard not forced him to cancel his travel plans.
Past efforts have been comparably lackluster, starting with his eponymous monument to his leadership. The New York Times reported that the George E. Pataki Leadership and Learning Center recently closed its brick-and-mortar location in Peekskill, N.Y., due to lack of interest. Despite that, the Pataki Center still fights the good fight in cyberspace, where its website optimistically proclaims, “TODAY, WE ARE MAKING HISTORY.” It’s a bit light on original content. One page features pictures of all the New York governors. If you click on one of the images, you’ll go to a page with a short paragraph on when that governor served. Until Tuesday afternoon—when I contacted Pataki’s spokesman David Catalfamo—these paragraphs were copy-and-pasted, without attribution, from the New York Hall of Governors website. For instance, you can compare Pataki’s page on Gov. DeWitt Clinton with the New York State Hall of Governors’ page. The site appears to have copied the entries for all 56 governors. The Hall of Governors did not respond to a request for comment. After I reached out to Pataki’s spokesman, the site added attributions.
Besides the plagiarized mini-bios of the state’s 56 governors, the site also includes a short page encouraging people to give money to the center (there is no link where one can do so, if you were wondering), two short paragraphs explaining how the center aims “to make the American dream a reality for the next generation of young New York leaders,” a “Memorable Speeches” page that only includes one speech, and a “Remembering September 11” page that includes brief remarks the governor gave on the day of the 9/11 attacks.
This is unfortunate, as is much of Pataki’s online presence. In 2010, he helped create a group called Revere America that aimed to capitalize on the nascent Tea Party to push back against the Affordable Care Act. He left the group 10 months later, and it shuttered shortly after his egress. Its website boldly soldiers on, though, despite being partially cannibalized by ads for Internet bingo. On the site’s front page, posts titled “Rick Santorum’s take on the Middle East crisis” and “ ‘I’m Not Concerned About The Very Poor’ says Mitt Romney” peacefully co-mingle with entries titled “Bingo Bash – the number 1 android bingo game” and “Go shopping in New York, courtesy We Want Bingo.” There may be an upside here; bingo appears to be a popular pastime in Iowa.
The former governor hasn’t visited Iowa for this election cycle, but he has been to New Hampshire and South Carolina. And he’s started a political action committee called We the People Not Washington. On the Media section of the PAC’s site is posted the text to a curious article titled “GEORGE PATAKI—QUIETLY CONNECTING WITH CONSERVATIVES UNDER RADAR: ‘National Media Clueless.’ ” Though the media section doesn’t link to the article or give its origin, it appears to have first been published on a site called Conservative Base. It reads like a protracted Internet comment.
“Sorry Hillary, once they see and hear George Pataki, most Americans will want him answering the 3AM phone call [sic],” says the article. “Yep, the national media and political elites sure didn’t see this one coming.”
It is technically possible that Pataki will surprise the national media and political elites once the American people see and hear him. It is much more likely that—despite all the bingo-riddled websites in the world—Pataki won’t be heard from for another four years.