Posted by Damozel | It's an all-too-familiar story.
Gov. Eliot Spitzer has been caught on a federal wiretap arranging to meet with a high-priced prostitute at a Washington hotel last month, according to a person briefed on the federal investigation.
An affidavit in the federal investigation into a prostitution ring said that a wiretap recording captured a man identified as Client 9 on a telephone call confirming plans to have a woman travel from New York to Washington, where he had reserved a hotel room. The person briefed on the case identified Mr. Spitzer as Client 9.
Mr. Spitzer today made a brief public appearance during which he apologized for his behavior, and described it as a “private matter.” (NYT)
No, it actually isn't. It seems that by 'having a woman travel' from New York to Washington he might have violated the Mann Act, which I didn't even know was still in place. I'm not sure what federal interests the Mann Act was protecting here since the woman seems to have done so of her own free will. (NYT) But one way or another, Gov. Spitzer is in a heap of trouble. It's a shame because he was a powerful advocate against "Wall Street wrongdoing.' (NYT)
As for me, I personally couldn't care less about the morality of his actions, but this doesn't sit well with me.
As attorney general, he...prosecuted at least two prostitution rings as head of the state’s organized crime task force.
In one such case in 2004, Mr. Spitzer spoke with revulsion and anger after announcing the arrest of 16 people for operating a high-end prostitution ring out of Staten Island.
“This was a sophisticated and lucrative operation with a multitiered management structure,” Mr. Spitzer said at the time. “It was, however, nothing more than a prostitution ring.”(NYT)
Apparently the FBI thought at first that several (not just one, then) money transfers that Spitzer seemed to be hiding.
The suspicious financial activity was initially reported by a bank to the IRS which, under direction from the Justice Department, brought kin the FBI's Public Corruption Squad.
"We had no interest at all in the prostitution ring until the thing with Spitzer led us to learn about it," said one Justice Department official....
Spitzer...is likely to be prosecuted under a relatively obscure statute called "structuring," according to a Justice Department official.
Structuring involves creating a series of financial movements designed to obscure the true purpose of the payments. Prosecutors reportedly have a series of e-mails and wiretapped phone conversations of Spitzer. (ABC News)
By the way, I definitely understand why Jane Hamsher thinks the whole set-up looks a bit like a set up. It does smell to high heaven. Hamsher wrote:
1. Why would the bank tell the IRS and not Spitzer himself if there was a suspicious transfer? Spitzer is a longtime client, a rich guy and the governor. We're talking thousands of dollars here, not millions. It doesn't make a whole lot of sense that they spotted a "suspicious transfer" made by the governor, and that this is how things began. It's possible it was just ordinary paperwork the bank had to file with the government whenever some particular flag was raised, but if that's the case, why did the DoJ go to DefCon 3?
2. What is a USA doing prosecuting a prostitution case? This isn't normally what the feds spend their time with.
3. Mike Garcia is a Chertoff crony. Sources familiar with the investigation say that he sent a prosecution memo to DC two months ago asking for authority to indict a public figure (Spitzer). Which means they had their case made long before the wire tap of February 13. Why did they then include this line from that conversation in the complaint?
LEWIS continued that from what she had been told "he" (believed to be a reference to Client-9) "would ask you to do things that, like, you might not think were safe -- you know -- I mean that...very basic things...."Kristen" responded: "I have a way of dealing with that...I'd be like listen dude, you really want the sex?...You know what I mean."
This salacious detail does not seem like it's necessary to make their case, and appears to be added for no other purpose than to destroy Spitzer's career.
4. How did Spitzer's name get leaked to the media, and who did it? Didn't happen to Dave Vitter.
5. Why did Mike Bloomberg suddenly start talking about running for governor recently? And why did he give $500,000 to Joe Bruno? He's good buddies with Mike Mukasey. What did he know and how did he know it?
6. The Mann Act? Are you kidding?
7. Spitzer's been in the line of fire of the GOP hit squad for a while. Roger Stone, Roger Stone, Roger Stone.
There are all kinds of things about this that just don't pass the smell test. (Firedoglake)
Yes, yes, all excellent points raising important questions about the ongoing politicization of American justice. Let's hope we'll get answers to them because we all have an interest in putting a stop to that. At Harper's, Scott Horton says outright: "It looks like the Bush Justice Department just bagged themselves another Democratic Governor" and produces some telling arguments (Harper's).
The politicization of the Justice Department is an ongoing concern of this blog, and particularly of my co-blogger D Cupples, who has written extensively on the subject (through Dec. 07 and through the present). If that's what happened, I want it exposed.
And perhaps we have an interest in decriminalizing prostitution, if for no other reason than to prevent these ongoing embarrassments by the people (men) we elect. At Slate, Emily Bazelon asks why prostitution is even still illegal. I don't know. I don't think it should be---but the fact remains that it is. As Bazelon says, "When he was attorney general, Eliot Spitzer had no trouble going after a "sophisticated prostitution ring." As governor, he apparently had no trouble patronizing one. The hypocrisy speaks for itself." (Slate)
Which is why it's hard for me to dismiss Spitzer's extremely high-priced call girl as a "private matter" between him, his wife, and his God the way I might do otherwise. One can be outraged by the politicization of the Justice system and still take very seriously the actions of the public official who opened himself (or herself, if that happens) to its machinations.
It's the hypocrisy that turns me right around. Well, that and the missing-the-point apology.
“I have acted in a way that violates my obligation to my family and violates my or any sense of right or wrong,” said Mr. Spitzer, who appeared with his wife Silda at his Manhattan office. “I apologize first and most importantly to my family. I apologize to the public to whom I promised better.”
“I have disappointed and failed to live up to the standard I expected of myself. I must now dedicate some time to regain the trust of my family.”
Before speaking, Mr. Spitzer stood with his arm around his wife; the two nodded and then strode forward together to face more than 100 reporters. Both had glassy, tear-filled eyes, but they did not cry.(NYT)
I'm sorry; wasn't the assignation in question a mere few weeks ago? What has changed since then?
What sort of hubris would make a sitting governor---and a former prosecutor--- think he could get away with this sort of activity? What sort of person would be so reckless, so lacking in regard for his family, his public position, his party, and his presidential endorsee? (Yes, Hillary is being blamed back-handedly for being short-sighted enough to be endorsed by him and for currently wishing to remove him from her list)
As The New York Times says:
A further tragedy here, beyond the personal one of the Spitzer family and the damage he has done to the reform cause, is that Mr. Spitzer’s targets are now relishing their tormentor’s torment. Those on Wall Street who fumed at having to make their world fairer for ordinary shareholders can now chortle with satisfaction in their private enclaves. For New York Republicans, who have blocked some of the most important reforms in Albany, it is hard to imagine the private glee — especially at a moment when they are fighting desperately to hold their majority in the State Senate.
Sadly, this was not the first time that Mr. Spitzer has been caught up in his own arrogance. For all his promise as governor, Mr. Spitzer’s first year was unnecessarily rocky and full of the kinds of mistakes that come as much from hubris as from being new on the job. After succeeding with a few reforms, the governor’s ill-fated attempts to smear his Republican opponent lost him months of progress. Only recently had he seemed to be tempering his abrasive style.
Mr. Spitzer did not seem to understand on Monday what he owed the public — a strong argument for why he should be trusted again. The longer he hesitates, it becomes a harder case to make.(New York Times)
That's generous, assuming---on the part of one or some of Spitzer's constituents---that such an argument is even possible.
So as I said of Vitter and Larry Craig and others of their ilk, so I say of Spitzer: it's not the sin, or even the crime or 'crime' that offends me, it's the hypocrisy. And the hypocrisy speaks for itself.
I specifically recommend the following (many of whom do not agree with me):
Talking Points Memo, Firedoglake, Taylor Marsh, TalkLeft, TPMMuckraker, Salon, Majikthise, TalkLeft, Slate, Open Left, DownWithTyranny!, Talking Points Memo, Corrente, Democratic Strategist, The Carpetbagger Report, News Hounds, Hullabaloo, Shakesville, Attytood