The actual story here kind of sneaks up on you. At first you think they’re charging him with having siphoned off taxpayer money to pay for personal trips with then-mistress Judi Nathan. Then it sounds like they’re accusing him of misusing his mayoral security detail by dragging them out to the Hamptons to stand guard during marital extracurriculars. Not so: “New York’s mayor receives round-the-clock police protection, and there’s no suggestion that Giuliani used his detail improperly on these trips.” The charge, in fact, is that he tried to hide his infidelity by dumping security expenses incurred in Nathan’s neighborhoods on odd city agencies like the Loft Board and the, er, Procurement Policy Board, where no one would think to look for the receipts. Says David Dinkins’s former budget director, “There is no really good reason to do this except to have nobody know about it.” A Giuliani aide denied wrongdoing, chalks it up to “accounting,” and notes that they were all mayoral agencies, not outside city agencies.

Exit question one: Who benefits most from this? Mitt, insofar as it reminds social cons of Rudy’s dysfunctional family shenanigans, or Fred, who’s pushing himself as the true law and order prosecutor (no pun intended) in the race? And exit question two: Does Rudy recover, assuming Mitt or Fred or whoever starts to lash him on it? It’s not a huge deal by itself but it’s just one more thing he’ll have to deal with between his social liberalism and the firefighters coming after him over 9/11 and his quite possibly dwindling electability.

More (Bryan): I’m not one to tout “I told you so’s” but Rudy’s bimbo time bombs have been bothering me for a while. I’m not saying that in this case at hand I’m already pronouncing him guilty as charged, especially not on the word of a Dinkins hand, but the potential for Giuliani to bring scandal wherever he goes doesn’t come at us out of the blue. He’s a known known.

What are the odds that if we have a President Giuliani, we’ll have a major sex scandal of some kind? I figure it’s about 60% or higher, and I’m only basing that on his own record. It’s not a record that James Dobson or anyone else made up out of false accusations. Like Bill Clinton’s record, Rudy’s is based on his own actions. It’s his own fault. It’s not demagoguery to point it out, and to wonder if it’s a good idea to put him in the White House knowing the potential for scandal that he carries with him. And when you add this potential to all of the other damage President Giuliani could do to the country and the conservative cause, well, it’s legitimate to wonder if he’s really the best man to be the Republican standard bearer next year. Do we want someone who might bring Republican bimbo eruptions to the White House, in the middle of a war?

If the GOP nominates Rudy, it had better do so clear eyed and understanding the full scope of the consequences for doing so.

Update: Rep. Peter King denies on Rudy’s behalf.

Update: Team Rudy is taking this seriously, per Mark Halperin.