- Suspicion ran high yesterday that Rudy Giuliani's lost White House campaign playbook was swiped by aides to Florida's new governor - while the ex-mayor was helping him win election, sources told The Post.
Giuliani's aides were tightlipped about how it disappeared, but said it happened during a private plane ride on the campaign trail for 2006 candidates. They included Florida Gov. Charles Crist.
"During one leg of his campaign travel, all luggage was removed from a private plane and later put back on," said Giuliani's spokeswoman, Sunny Mindel.
"However, one staffer's bag was not returned. After repeated requests over the course of a few days, the bag was finally returned with the document inside.
"Because our staffer had custody of this document at all times except for this one occasion, it is clear that the document was removed from the luggage and photocopied," she added, stopping short of saying it was stolen.
"Voters are sick and tired of dirty tricks. They are interested in substantive issues and want leaders like Rudy who are as well," Mindel said.
But operatives outside Giuliani's camp said the book was taken during a campaign swing for Crist - a Republican, like Giuliani - whose inauguration to replace Jeb Bush as Florida's governor took place yesterday.
Crist's aides didn't return calls for comment.
Both Giuliani and Sen. John McCain campaigned for Crist during the fall.
Giuliani aides repeatedly refused to detail the specific plans of the internal document, which is believed to belong to Giuliani's national fund-raiser, Anne Dickerson, and is described as a cash-raising plan.
The book, made public in a report yesterday, also contained notes about Giuliani's potential personal liabilities, including ex-wife Donna Hanover and scandal-scarred former Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik.
Losing control of internal documents was a public embarrassment as he embarks on a potential presidential run.
Mindel described it as an outdated book that wasn't part of central planning, saying, "It's about as relevant today as a grocery list in early October . . . in pencil."
But the book was potentially damaging for Giuliani among political insiders and uncommitted donors, whom McCain has been moving to lock up on his side.
McCain strategist John Weaver said his team knew nothing about how the book went public and mocked Giuliani over losing track of it.
Weaver, in a reference to the former mayor's private-sector business, told the Politicker blog: "I thought it was a security company."
The information in the book reportedly puts Giuliani's fund-raising goals at $100 million for 2007, a number political experts called low.