Spitzer's fall

Matthew Hoy
By Matthew Hoy on March 10, 2008

That headline may be a little premature because, as of tonight, Gov. Eliot Spitzer is still the governor of New York. Monday afternoon every news channel was running the news that Spitzer was "Client 9" of a high-priced, high-class prostitution ring. Spitzer, in his arrogance, appears to have actually paid the prostitute to cross state lines in violation of the Mann Act.

I feel really sorry for his wife and kids -- and not so much for Spitzer himself. As the Wall Street Journal noted, Spitzer isn't a nice guy.

He routinely used the extraordinary threat of indicting entire firms, a financial death sentence, to force the dismissal of executives, such as AIG's Maurice "Hank" Greenberg. He routinely leaked to the press emails obtained with subpoena power to build public animosity against companies and executives. In the case of Mr. Greenberg, he went on national television to accuse the AIG founder of "illegal" behavior. Within the confines of the law itself, though, he never indicted Mr. Greenberg. Nor did he apologize.

In perhaps the incident most suggestive of Mr. Spitzer's lack of self-restraint, the then-Attorney General personally threatened John Whitehead after the former Goldman Sachs chief published an article on this page defending Mr. Greenberg. "I will be coming after you," Mr. Spitzer said, according to Mr. Whitehead's account. "You will pay the price. This is only the beginning, and you will pay dearly for what you have done."

Jack Welch, the former head of GE, said he was told to tell Ken Langone -- embroiled in Mr. Spitzer's investigation of former NYSE chairman Dick Grasso -- that the AG would "put a spike through Langone's heart." New York Congresswoman Sue Kelly, who clashed with Mr. Spitzer in 2003, had her office put out a statement that "the attorney general acted like a thug."

These are not merely acts of routine political rough-and-tumble. They were threats -- some rhetorical, some acted upon -- by one man with virtually unchecked legal powers.

And now the big question is whether or not Spitzer will resign. Personally, I'm not going to put any money on it -- Democrats have a tendency to try to weather these sorts of scandals. Sometimes they're successful (see Clinton, Bill).

0 comments on “Spitzer's fall”

  1. Jeff,
    He is unfit to serve as governor because he is a big phony. The troopergate scandal showed what a low life he was. He's a thug. He's acting like a thug. He's promoting campaign donors to the NYS Thruway? The dude needs to go away. And far. Relocate to California. He's a pig.

  2. Spitzer also violated Federal laws about structuring financial transactions to evade reporting requirements. Given that he routinely used these sort of ticky-tacky laws to go after his enemies, the irony of this is delicious. Oh, lest we forget, this is a Federal felony of the sort that landed Martha Stewart and Scooter Libby.

    Stupid laws? Yes. Should they be repealed? Absolutely. But in the meantime, nobody is going to convince me that we should let the former Attorney General who built his reputation on going after people with these sorts of laws slide.

    He needs to lose his law license and serve time. It's time for our lawmakers and law enforcers to live with what they enact.

  3. The public policy problem is that what Spitzer did was illegal and it opened him up to potential blackmail.


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March 2008



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