Not too long ago, the Governor of the State of Connecticut, John Rowland, announced his resignation from office. A jovial enough fellow, he made the politically lethal mistake of accepting the gifts offered in return for gubernatorial favors while he was still in office and in the public eye. His cronies were none the smarter; they ended up in the Federal Penitentiary as well.

Just recently, another governor, Eliot Spitzer of New York State, resigned his office. His crime? The pleasures of the flesh, bought and paid for, rather than earned via love, respect and mutual understanding. Even though rumor and innuendo had it that Connecticut Governor Rowland was a mean drunk who threw his first wife down a staircase and had been witnessed smacking his second wife in public, John Rowland never cheated on his wife.

Every once in a while politics produces a "crusader for the public good" who ends up crashing and burning because they take their crusades too far. The best similarity I could conjure up to the sad situation of Eliot Spitzer's fall from grace was the story of Senator Joseph McCarthy. McCarthy's notorious Anti-Communist witch hunt during the 1950s ended up backfiring when the egotistical McCarthy went after the U.S. Army. But the damage had already been done; McCarthy's investigations typically turned up nothing, but the sheer number of individuals investigated did, in fact, reveal people with Communist ties. It's kinda like going after varmint or birds with a shotgun; sooner or later a pellet or two's going to hit something. Unlike Spitzer, McCarthy remained in office, licking his wounds, and died due to complications of alcoholism.

In the event you're wondering why I haven't chosen any of the more modern politicians who've been caught with their pants down (figuratively and literally, in an airport men's room), it's the sheer irony of each man's situation that makes Spitzer's, and to a lesser degree McCarthy's, humiliations similar. McCarthy's problem was that he was willing to trample upon the backs of others, many who were innocents, to advance his own career. Spitzer's problem, basically, was an enormous ego and vindictive personality.

Now, Great Britain had its John "Jack" Profumo affair in 1963, however, Profumo was different in that he was not a "holier than thou" type of politician and actually did a lot of genuine good for his country. He didn't spend a lot of time blowing his own horn, he didn't overtly criticize the failings of others, and generally was a very fine politician. Profumo got into hot water after being caught in a relationship with a nineteen-year-old girl who was also bedding a Soviet attache. Sadly, Profumo made the same error that U.S. President Bill Clinton made. Both men could've saved themselves a whole lot of trouble in the long run had they come clean. Profumo's response to questions as to the impropriety of his relationship with the girl was the U.K.'s equivalent of Clinton's famous denial, "I did not have sex with that young woman."
 

Ethics and Integrity

I will not tolerate this behavior, ethics and accountability must and will remain rigorous in my administration ... I have always stated that I want ethics and integrity to be the hallmarks of my administration.

— Eliot Spitzer

To put a gender twist on a familiar quote: "the gentleman protesteth too much."

It is true that Spitzer, much in the fashion of Gotti-gang buster Federal Attorney for the Southern District of New York Rudy Giuliani, effectively ended Gambino crime family activity with regard to trucking and labor racketeering in New York City's garment district. It was that and other effective prosecutions that made Spitzer the darling of the New York press.

However, Attorney General Spitzer made a name for himself as the "Sheriff of Wall Street", engaging in a series of actions against major financial institutions and even the chief of the New York Stock Exchange at the time. A 2006 Wall Street Journal report discussed the discrepancies between Mr. Spitzer's descriptions of his actions during his term as New York State's Attorney General and descriptions of his actions by others.

Spitzer appeared on CNBC television and stated that he brought a lawsuit against former NYSE CEO Dick Grasso after Grasso's successor, John Reed, "walked into my office and gave me [a NYSE report with regard to Grasso's compensation package] and said 'Eliot, our board doesn't want to handle this, you have to.'" Later, under oath, Mr. Reed was asked if what Mr. Spitzer said on the television was true. Reed replied "No. No. It's - I don't want to get into truth or not-truth - it is not a good description of what happened." Reed further asserted that it was Spitzer who would be delighted to get his hands on the internal NYSE report. The battle in the court has become so vigorous that both Reed and Spitzer have a vested interest in denying responsibility. Reed, however, was speaking under oath, and Spitzer to a television journalist.

Spitzer went on to commence legal action against such corporations as tax accounting giant H&R Block and insurance giant AIG. Worse, the Wall Street Journal reported that the former Chairman of Goldman Sachs, John Whitehead, published an op-ed piece criticizing Spitzer. Whitehead, again on the pages of The Wall Street Journal, described the content of a telephone call he received from Spitzer shortly after the piece was published. "Mr. Whitehead, it's now a war between us and you've fired the first shot. I will be coming after you. You will pay the price. This is only the beginning and you will pay dearly for what you have done."

Spitzer responded to the accusation by saying that he had a lot of "passion" about the issue but denied threatening Whitehead. Meanwhile, Spitzer aide Darren Dopp told news reporters during a press conference that Mr. Whitehead was "nutty." And imagine the gall of an elected official, particularly a State's Attorney General, contacting former Chairman of General Electric Jack Welch by way of using Welch as, essentially, a messenger boy to warn NYSE executive Ken Langone that Spitzer intended, in so many words, to "put a spike through Langone's heart." Welch confirmed this assertion, made in Newsweek Magazine. Mr. Welch has a lot of respect among his peers in business. He made a lot of money for General Electric and this writer can tell you that our mutual acquaintance GE executive Lawrence Bossidy never had a bad word to say about Jack Welch. In fact, Bossidy said that on a moral and ethical plane Welch was beyond reproach. How incredibly embarrassing for Welch to have to put up with the upstart Attorney General. Suffice it to say what Spitzer did to Welch, an "elder statesman" of commerce studied and admired to by students of business, was the equivalent of the Attorney General of the United States going to Linus Torvalds and ordering Torvalds to tell Bill Gates that the government was gonna skewer him with anti-trust litigation.

The above paragraphs describe only the tip of a Titanic-worthy iceberg's worth of accusations and anecdotes about Eliot Spitzer basically being, according to a spokesman for New York Congresswoman Sue Kelly, a "thug." Spitzer's threats, verbal tirades and other misdeeds were ignored by the press but for the Wall Street Journal, which shed light on Spitzer's dark side (in contrast to Spitzer's television ads during his gubernatorial run which basically aggregated the accolades of the New York press he'd earned over his years as Attorney General). How ironic that they questioned his "restraint, honesty and good judgment."

What was most destructive about Spitzer's term as Attorney General was that if he made his way through a henhouse (for example, an investigation into bid-rigging by insurance companies), and discovered a single bad egg, he'd sweep the "henhouse" clean. This cost many their jobs, reputations, and caused stock fluctuations that hurt millions of people. And if an indictment didn't pan out, Spitzer would just say "oops" and be on his way. Of course, the average "man on the street" took nearly as much delight as did Spitzer as major financial institutions fell or took tremendous hits one after another.
 

Governor Spitzer

Spitzer won the race for Governor of the State of New York in 2007. Overall, the people of New York State who elected him in a near landslide victory, thought of him as a champion of law and order. "Mister Clean" as he became known promised to change the "ethics of Albany." If change of the size and scope of his accomplishments in the world of finance were coming to the State's capitol, the people were all for it.

Among his more progressive moves were a bill, supported by U.S. Senator Hillary Clinton, which would provide drivers' licenses to illegal aliens. That flopped fast. A bill authorizing same-sex marriage flopped. There was also a bill which passed; one which Spitzer championed. The legislation imposed harsher new penalties for the crime of prostitution. Sound familiar? Yes, indeed, Eliot Spitzer wanted to become as famous and as popular as Rudy Giuliani did by cleaning up New York; only as Governor, Spitzer's aspirations were higher, he didn't have a mere city to clean up; he had an entire state (and a large one, too).

Spitzer did, indeed, begin to act on his campaign promises immediately. The press lauded his quick action with regard to investigation of financial mismanagement, bribery, and other facets of New York State government that had basically become part of the landscape. To his detriment, however, he was not capable of reaching agreement on a budget and the state is facing record deficits because of it.

The issue between Spitzer and his arch-rival Republican State Senator Joe Bruno earned him a little more criticism in the press, but not much. The issue was a vicious attack by Spitzer who improperly (via his minions) utilized the New York State Police in an attempt to drudge up improprieties with regard to Senator Bruno's use of a New York State helicopter and other vehicles. Spitzer had been quoted by insiders who insisted upon remaining nameless that he would "bring down" Joe Bruno. When no wrongdoing on the part of Bruno was found, Spitzer shifted the blame to two aides and long-time denizens of the State House, sacrificing them to keep himself above reproach. The following words from Spitzer are a portion of a New York Times Op-Ed piece written by Spitzer early in his first year as governor:

Though two independent investigations proved that no illegal activity occurred on my watch, it is crystal clear that what members of my administration did was wrong — no ifs, ands or buts.

I have apologized to Joe Bruno, the Senate majority leader, and now I want to apologize to all New Yorkers.

What you've been reading about in the papers and watching on television this week is not what we are about. In fact, it represents just the opposite.

On my first day in office, I brought my staff together and told them what our guiding principles must be: "First, we're going to fight for what we believe in. And second, we're going to maintain the highest ethical standards while doing it."

Over the past few weeks, two members of my administration forgot that second principle — creating an appearance that the State Police were being used inappropriately.

As soon as this became clear, we acted immediately and decisively, suspending one of my longtime advisers indefinitely and transferring the other out of the governor's office. These steps were not taken lightly. Both of these people have served New York with distinction for decades.

Questions are ongoing about whether or not Spitzer's millionaire father, a real-estate mogul, made illegal loans to his son's gubernatorial campaign. All of this, however seemed to magically disappear.

Spitzer happened, also, to be very close to U.S. Senator Hillary Clinton. It was only natural that Spitzer, a Democrat, support his own Senator. And a great supporter he was, with his squeaky-clean reputation and rather charismatic way with a speech. (Senator Clinton has had no comment on Governor Spitzer's troubles, and in fact the only noise so far from the Clinton camp at all was the sound of Hillary tearing up a photograph of she and the Governor and disposing of it down a toilet.)
 

They Stumbled Into It

This piece could go on and on reiterating the statements of dozens of persons who've worked with Eliot Spitzer over the years, and dozens more who've suffered his ire. Let's not continue to go there, lest this become a broken record accusing the man again and again of a furious temper, an ego the size of the five boroughs of Manhattan, a willingness to make unreasonable threats and then deny them at his convenience, and a legendary arrogance and abrasive personality.

Not too long ago, two banks approached the FBI and voiced their concerns over Spitzer's transfers of considerable amounts of funds in unusual fashions; wire transfers, cash, and other methods that smacked of misuse of campaign funds or worse, State funds. A long investigation ensued, and much to their surprise, the monies were not going to some off-shore paper company, but rather an ultra-elite call girl ring based in New York but operating not only in the U.S. but in London and Paris as well. Indeed, the "Emperor's Club VIP" rated their prostitutes on a website using a system of three to seven "diamonds," and charged consummately for their services, occasionally exceeding $2,500 per hour. The women were sent by air and train from New York to other major cities and met clandestinely with their clients, an A-list of the rich and powerful.

Four principals of "Emperor's Club" were indicted on prostitution and money laundering charges. Spitzer was informed by the Feds about their knowledge of his involvement in the case as early as March 7, 2008. The case hit the radio and television news shortly on or about March 9th, 2008. Upon closer examination of the records of the high-class call girl ring, and comparison with Mr. Spitzer's transfers of tens of thousands of dollars over a period of months, it became clear that Governor Spitzer was quite possibly the "Client Number 9" described in the indictment of the "Emperor's Club four."
 

Of All People...

Eliot Spitzer drove from Albany in a torrential rainstorm the evening of March 9, 2008. His destination was the luxury apartment in New York City where his family was located. He told his wife that he'd had trysts over a number of months with prostitutes on several occasions. The couple then informed their three teen-aged daughters.

The following day Spitzer appeared at a press conference apologizing to his family and the people of the State of New York for betraying their trust. He did not, however, make any mention of resignation. In typical arrogant Spitzer fashion, after dropping this bombshell without naming his transgressions, he concluded the press conference by informing reporters that he wouldn't entertain questions and would "report back in short order." It took him two more days to announce that he would resign as Governor of the State of New York effective March 17, 2008.

Despite his resignation, Spitzer is still suffering significant legal exposure on a number of fronts; State charges of prostitution and at the very least continued investigation into the sources and uses of his funds. Many Federal charges could be lodged, as well, the most peculiar being under the Mann Act, a 100-year old piece of legislation making it illegal to transport person(s) across state lines for the purpose of promoting or committing prostitution.

It took a day for Republicans to clamor for the Democrat governor's resignation or impeachment. Not a single Democrat came to his aid. When the announcement came that Spitzer had indeed resigned, cheers erupted on the trading floor of the New York Stock Exchange; the Associated Press reported that on Wall Street, Spitzer was known as an over-zealous bully who'd ruined people's careers and lives.

The young woman Spitzer was recorded by the FBI discussing with one of the indicted is a delightfully pretty, petite brunette who, beside plying the world's oldest profession, is also a singer. She's making a lot of money; over one million people have downloaded at least one of her two songs. Spitzer had spent the night with her at the de luxe Mayflower Hotel in Washington, D.C.. The cost for her transportation and services? $4,800. It's estimated by the Feds that Spitzer may have spent upwards of $100,000 on the pleasures of the flesh doing business with the high-priced hookers.

Spitzer's wife, Silda Wall Spitzer, who created and manages a non-profit for the benefit of children, stayed by her husband's side (although not appearing to be the happiest of individuals) during his television appearances. Perhaps she and Hillary Clinton can start a self-help group called "Wives of very powerful politicians who cheat; Anonymous." There are a few more women who'd certainly be welcome at those meetings. At least in the case of Mrs. Spitzer, an attractive, soft-spoken, fashionably-garbed blonde, the words of actor Paul Newman ring true: "Why go out and eat hamburger when you can have steak at home?"
 

All in all, Spitzer, I guess, thought he was above the law and wouldn't get caught. Power such as he wielded, arguably the most powerful political position outside of Washington, is a very potent opiate; and those under its effect are wont to do self-destructive things, just as much as the junkie who's high on a dime bag of heroin and injures himself in an abandoned building. What's really different and important about this political defeat is the fact that Eliot Spitzer had stepped on many, many people during the course of his career. He was, for lack of better words, not a likeable person. The lesson to be learned in this, beyond anything to do with political power, is best summed up by an old adage. "You catch more flies with a teaspoon of honey than you do with a gallon of vinegar."
 

SOURCES:

"Arrest John, er... Eliot, Right Now!" by Michael Daly, The Daily News (New York, NY) http://www.nydailynews.com/news/2008/03/15/2008-03-15_arrest_john_er_eliot_right_now.html (Accessed March 16, 2008)

"'Private Failings:' The Rise, and Sudden Fall, of Eliot Spitzer (transcript of radio broadcast) Voice of America Online http://www.voanews.com/specialenglish/2008-03-14-voa1.cfm (Accessed March 16, 2008)

Op-Classic, 2007: Eliot Spitzer on Ethical Principles. Reiteration of New York Times Op-Ed piece "An Apology from Albany," by Eliot Spitzer, July 29, 2007 http://www.nytimes.com/2008/03/16/opinion/16opclassic.html (Accessed March 16, 2008)

"SNL Shows Blatant Anti-Spitzer Bias, Endorses Obama" by Rachel Sklar The Huffington Post (a website), March 16, 2008 http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2008/03/16/snl-shows-blatant-antisp_n_91736.html (Accessed March 16, 2008)

"Deconstructing Spitzer's Spiraling End," by Amy Westfeldt and Michael Gormley, The Associated Press Online, http://ap.google.com/article/ALeqM5jymNLiYjmzSWcM01nuLDxpRuHF6gD8VE9V200 (Accessed March 16, 2008)

"Eliot Spitzer's Real Agenda... is Eliot Spitzer," by Kimberley Strassel, The Wall Street Journal, May 3, 2006 http://www.realclearpolitics.com/articles/2006/05/the_passion_of_eliot_spitzer.html (Accessed March 16, 2008)

"Life Isn't Fair - Just Ask Eliot Spitzer or Hillary Clinton," by Norman Webster, The Montreal Gazette on  Canada.com http://www.canada.com/topics/news/story.html?id=e419058c-573d-41a7-bb84-76f5f4a4a8bc&k=1870 (Accessed March 16, 2008) A discussion with GE Board Member Lawrence Bossidy and the writer at a political fund-raiser in Ridgefield, Connecticut in 1991.

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