New York AG Candidate Pirro Stays in Race Amid Probe of Alleged Plot Against Hubby

An awkward pause during an important speech. A puzzling geography gaffe. An aborted bid for the U.S. Senate. A husband who keeps getting into trouble.

The latest in a string of pitfalls and miscues for state attorney general candidate Jeanine Pirro came Wednesday when she announced she is being investigated for allegedly plotting to secretly record her husband to find out if he was having another affair.

Despite the stumbles, the Republican forcefully maintained at a Manhattan news conference that she has no plans to drop out of the race against Democrat Andrew Cuomo.

She said the investigation is the result of a partisan, overreaching federal prosecutor.

"Placing a recording device on one's property to intercept a conversation involving one's spouse is not a crime," Pirro said in a statement provided to The Associated Press. "I am being investigated for speaking in anger about doing something that it is lawful to do, and which I didn't do."

The location of a bug could matter because in interpreting if a recording was legal, authorities may have to determine if the boat counts as a marital residence. Pirro's husband, millionaire lobbyist Albert Pirro, reportedly owns the boat.

U.S. Attorney Michael J. Garcia confirmed in a statement his office was investigating but declined to offer details. But, Garcia said, "we do not take politics into account in deciding either the subject matter or timing of our investigations."

Pirro said she contacted former New York City Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik, now a private security consultant, in the middle of 2005 to discuss possibly placing a recorder in a room to listen in on her husband. She said she suspected her husband of having an affair.

WNBC-TV, citing transcripts of Kerik and Pirro's conversations, reported that Pirro, in often profanity-laced terms, floated the idea of bugging the family boat.

Pirro, 55, said the recording device was never used.

Albert Pirro served time in federal prison after being convicted on tax fraud charges in June 2000 and embarrassed his wife by fathering an illegitimate daughter after they were married.

Pirro, who is seeking to become the state's first female attorney general, said she was told of the investigation by FBI agents last week.

Political observers said Pirro, who is trailing Cuomo 53 percent to 36 percent in a Siena College Research Institute poll, can ill afford the new embarrassment.

"She doesn't have any points to give and this only creates a darker cloud over her candidacy," said Lee Miringoff, head of Marist College's Institute for Public Opinion. "It's been one problem after another."

Wendy Katz, a spokeswoman for Cuomo, a former federal housing secretary and the eldest son of former Gov. Mario Cuomo, declined comment.

Pirro's stretch of pitfalls began last year, when she announced she would run for U.S. Senate against Democratic Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton. While making the announcement, she was left speechless for 32 seconds because a page was missing from her prepared text.

Shortly after that, news reports said her husband, without her knowledge, was pushing an effort with top state Republicans, including Gov. George Pataki, to get her out of the U.S. Senate race.

Albert Pirro did not deny those reports. "Any private conversations I have had were solely intended to support Jeanine's political aspirations," he said.

Pirro dropped her four-month Senate campaign in December after failing to generate much interest or raise much money. Instead, she said, she would run for attorney general.

In March, Pirro, who grew up in Elmira and went to law school in Albany, goofed on her upstate geography when she said she had traveled to the "west end of New York, bordering on Ohio." New York does not border Ohio.

That month, she acknowledged that she had misplaced her driver's license and district attorney's badge.

Two weeks ago, Albert Pirro was pulled over in White Plains for driving his Mercedes-Benz 51 mph in a 25-mph zone near two schools.

The ticket came two weeks after Pirro reached a plea deal in traffic court in New Rochelle that let him keep his driver's license. He had been charged with driving 98 mph in a 55-mph zone and pleaded guilty to driving 74 mph.

Just last week, the candidate came under fire from the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association because she scheduled a news conference at ground zero. The PBA said Pirro's choice of venue was inappropriate to use "as a backdrop for political campaigning."

Pirro canceled the event, citing scheduling problems.