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WASHINGTON - Amid a spate of stories about his firms' controversial clients, GOP presidential contender Rudy Giuliani yesterday finally announced he gave up his role as chairman and chief executive of his consulting firm earlier this year.

The disclosure comes after recent stories about his consulting and law firms' business with the government of Qatar, a gambling business in Macau and an Ethiopian faction opposing its government.

And it comes as Vanity Fair just published a story about his business dealings that questions whether it's legal for him to be paid by the firms as he runs full time for president.

But spokeswoman Sunny Mindel said Giuliani Partners pays Giuliani no salary.

"Mayor Giuliani has had no day-to-day involvement in GP since June," she said. Peter Powers, an old friend and former deputy mayor, "has assumed the position of chairman."

Giuliani still has an equity stake in the business he created in 2002 after leaving the New York mayor's office - a 30 percent share that he reported paid him $4.1 million last year.

Giuliani also remains a participating partner in Bracewell & Giuliani, the Houston-based law firm that he joined in 2005 and that he said paid him $1.2 million last year.

"He continues to provide general guidance to the management of the firm and to the New York office of Bracewell in particular, but does not directly participate in any client matters or in the day to day operation of the firm," said Bracewell aide Melanie Hillis.

But she added, "As a matter of firm policy, we don't discuss compensation."

Even if it did, federal election law allows candidates to make a living, as long as their pay is not tied to or distorted by their candidacy, said Paul Ryan of the nonpartisan Campaign Legal Center.

The clarification of Giuliani's status at the firms that bear his name comes after months of vague statements and unclear answers to repeated questions.

In April, he told reporters he would give up day-to-day operations to Powers, but not when.

In June, he told a Bloomberg TV interviewer he was "basically out of both," but did not say he had relinquished his titles.

Until yesterday, he never issued a formal statement and the Web site of Giuliani Partners even listed him as chairman and CEO until last month.

The New York Post on Sunday first reported the formal shift of power to Powers.

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