There are two people who seem to be guiding forces behind Carl Paladino's gubernatorial campaign—one is Michael Caputo, Paladino's ruthless, attack dog-like campaign manager, who failed to pay nearly $53,000 in federal taxes over the last few years. And the other is Rus Thompson, a Tea Party true-believer with a complicated past and a tether to Paladino's future.
Thompson, who is the New York Tea Party candidate for state controllers, serves in an official capacity as a paid consultant and as Paladino's driver. The 54-year-old gravelly-voiced concrete truck salesman credits himself with convincing Paladino to run for Governor: "It's trying to make Carl aware of the issues. We sit down in the car. It's usually me and Carl and Mike Caputo...and when you're driving across New York State you've got hours and hours and hours," he told the Daily News. He's one of the major voices behind Paladino's campaign, his major connection to the Tea Party, which Caputo confirms to the Wall Street Journal: "Unless we’re on an airplane, he’s driving Carl everywhere he goes."
But Thompson, whose real name is John L. Thompson, has his own secrets: he served 60 days in jail in 1990, after he was charged with driving under the influence, damaging a vehicle in a hit-and-run and driving with a suspended license in Arizona. He calls it the "lowest point" in his life, and told the Times, “I have never looked back, and I really don’t care to look back.” He even changed his name, although he claims that wasn't in order to hide his past: "If I was doing a name change, I'd do a new Social Security number. I'm not trying to hide from anything. I've gone by Rus my whole life. Nobody knows who John Thompson is. Everybody knows Rus Thompson."
Nevertheless, the revelation of Thompson's importance to the campaign, along with his background, calls much of Paladino's rhetoric into question; in particular, Paladino has very vocally criticized Gov. Paterson for surrounding himself with troubled aides, such as David Johnson. But Caputo barks in the face of such criticism: “This is a campaign of junkyard dogs, not pedigreed poodles.”