Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Why Eliot Spitzer Needs to Resign

Unless you have been living under a rock, you probably know by now that Eliot Spitzer pays hookers to have sex with him. Obviously when this news broke one would assume that Spitzer's political career was essentially over (I would argue it is), but he is holding back on resigning. The media is spinning it as "Spitzer Says to be Weighing Resignation" or "Will prostitution-linked governor quit?" I'm wondering why it is even a question. There is no way that he can survive as governor with this over his head. He was an Attorney General of New York, the highest law enforcement officer of the state, and he pulls this shit as governor? You wanna talk hypocrisy, talk about Eliot Spitzer.

What's even more criminal than the outrageous price he paid ($4,300 for an hour or two with "Kristen"), is the fact that he ran on a "Mr. Clean" premise and that he would be a change from politics as usual and would clean up Albany. There is no greater "politics as usual" than the combination of sex and money. And there is little that is dirtier than outright paying a woman to have sex with you.

A look at Spitzer's short time as governor, however, would leave one thinking to themselves "Maybe this is not so surprising after all." Just look at the whole Joseph Bruno affair. In what has been labeled "Troopergate", it appears that Eliot Spitzer knew about all of the actions that he claims his aides took without his knowledge. These actions, such as misusing the State Police to keep tabs on Bruno, etc., were blatant abuses of power and led to an investigation by the Attorney General's office. Many New Yorkers believe that Spitzer was lying through his teeth about this affair (and I'm inclined to believe them). The melodrama got so weird that one of Bruno's people called up Eliot Spitzer's father (an 83 year old) and bitched him out on the answering machine about loans given to Eliot during the 1994 Attorney General elections in New York. You can hear the audio of the phone call here (the man who made it, Republican consultant Robert J. Stone, Jr. said that someone framed him by compiling various recordings of his voice and stringing it into that message). So while Spitzer went to Albany under the guise of cleaning it up, he ended up simply participating in its bullshit.

Back to Spitzer's being a john. It seems that this information did not come about from snooping for personal information on Spitzer (like he and his aides did on Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno), but a routine check into public corruption, as the IRS noted that Spitzer was moving around a decent amount of cash while trying to make sure no one knew about it. This is what first led investigators to Spitzer. It only turned up later that the money was going to shell companies of Emperor's Club VIP, the company that Spitzer used to get his gals. It seems that the main issue here is how Spitzer paid for the prostitutes. It appears that he made a clear effort to hide the authentic use of the money by transferring it to shell companies, among other things. This is called structuring, which is essentially moving money around to conceal how the money is being spent and where it is ending up. Some news outlets are reporting that this crime carries a maximum of five years in the pokey.

But "structuring" is not the only crime Spitzer may be guilty of. He paid for sex, which is prostitution and is punishable (for the first offense) by a fine of $500 (which is peanuts compared to what he was paying for the hoes) and imprisonment of no more than 90 days in the District of Columbia. There is also a very old record on the books called the Mann Act (of 1910) that makes it illegal (a felony, even) for someone to transport a woman (in 1978 the act was amended to make it gender-neutral in order to tackle child pornography) for prostitution or other immoral acts. As alleged in the affidavit released regarding this case, "Client-9 [Spitzer] would be paying for everything - train tickets, cab fare from the hotel and back, mini bar or room service, travel time, and hotel." (Top of page 35). So, in the sense that he paid for the transportation, he was responsible for her transportation and could be charged under this statute. Whether or not he actually will be is up to the prosecutors.

In conclusion, there really is no way that Eliot Spitzer can maintain his position as governor of New York. He ran on a platform that he was going to reform Albany, and one of the first things he did was use dirty tricks to attack Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno. On top of that, he is lying about not knowing the actions that his aides undertook to try to discredit Bruno. Now, of course, this whole prostitution thing. News outlets are reporting that this is not Governor Spitzer's first time using prostitutes and some say that it happened in Florida, too. In any event, Spitzer needs to step down from the governorship, as there are important legislative matters that need to be tended to (such as the state budget which is facing a $4.6 billion deficit). I will leave this post with a quote from Mr. Spitzer himself in 2004 after busting an intricate prostitution ring as Attorney General: "This was a sophisticated and lucrative operation with a multitiered management structure. It was, however, nothing more than a prostitution ring." One could say the following about Mr. Spitzer now: "He was a governor who won in a landslide and promised to bring reform to Albany. He was, however, nothing more than a john."

Photos - Eliot Spitzer (commons.wikimedia.org), Joe Bruno (nymag.com), The New York State Capitol in Albany (photo.architect's flickr)

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