Employee of New York Gubernatorial Candidate Served Time in Arizona for DUI Hit and Run -- By "Employee," We Mean Campaign Driver

Most people convicted of a hit-and-run DUI in Arizona have a tough time getting a job at McDonald's. One man, however, has overcome the limitations of a DUI conviction and landed himself a pretty sweet gig: driving around Carl Paladino, the Republican candidate for governor of New York.

Rus Thompson is a 54-year-old concrete truck salesman. He's a Tea Party activist and is regarded as the one who convinced Paladino, an upstate New York real estate developer, that he should run for governor in the first place.

Thompson was profiled by the Wall Street Journal earlier this week, where he's described as Paladino's driver, adviser, and liaison to many tea-party groups.

The "driver" part of that description is what's raised some concerns in the Empire State.

Following the Journal's profile, Thompson confessed to the newspaper that he'd served jail time in Arizona after he'd run into a car and driven away. He admits he was drunk at the time.

In 1990, Thompson says, he was drinking at a bar-b-que at his brother's house in Tucson.

The two got into an argument so Thompson got in his car and drove off. While turning a corner, he clipped a car and was stopped by police shortly after.

Nobody was hurt, and Thompson says he admitted right away that he was the one who clipped the car.

Thompson served eight weekends in jail and says while he used to be an alcoholic, he hasn't had a drink since the accident.

The campaign is standing by its man and announced today that despite Thompson's past, he will stay on as Paladino's driver.

"Unless we're on an airplane, he's driving Carl everywhere he goes," Paladino's campaign manager, Michael Caputo, said today.

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James King
Contact: James King