The Takedown of Eliot Spitzer

New York Governor Eliot Spitzer resigned after being identified by the New York Times as a client of a high-priced call girl operation; New Yorkers now have a governor who openly admits to extra-marital affairs.

All signs are that Spitzer was targeted; the feds were far more interested in bringing down a rising Democratic star than in shutting the doors of the Emperors Club. Investigators had already been wiretapping the sex ring for almost three weeks on January 26, when the FBI staked out the Mayflower Hotel to catch Spitzer in flagrante delicto. But the hooker didn’t show or wasn’t seen by the FBI (although the feds were in the room across the hall, peeking through a cracked door).

When the one month wiretap authorization expired on February 7, the FBI had ample evidence against the Emperors Club, as well as numerous johns. But they still didn’t have anything really humiliating on Spitzer, only the record of him paying thousands of dollars to the prostitution ring.

They renewed the wiretap on February 11, and on February 12 they heard Spitzer on the line, asking for a hooker for the following day. That gave them an opportunity to catch Spitzer on tape dealing with the incriminating minutiae of arranging his tryst.

After Spitzer left room 871, they recorded the booker saying that some girls had complained about him because ‘he would ask you to do things that, like, you might not think were safe,’ which has been repeated ad nauseam through the media, even though it probably means only that he didn’t want to use a condom, making him no different than 99% of the men on the planet.

In order to force Spitzer from office, it was essential to have these salacious details. Johns are very rarely prosecuted, and the Mann Act, aka the ‘White Slave Trade Act,’ enacted in 1910 to prevent forced prostitution, doesn’t apply, as there is no sign that Ashley Dupre was forced.

Once they had Spitzer’s voice on tape asking for Kristen, and the booker’s voice mentioning that he might want to do things that were ‘unsafe,’ the feds quickly wrapped up their investigation and filed charges-but not against Eliot Spitzer. He hasn’t been charged, nor was he named in court documents.

Could prosecutors go after Client # 9 without also prosecuting Clients # 1 through 8? Seems doubtful, and the media has been strangely silent on the identities of the other Johns-with no interest in who else has been implicated in the 5,000 phone calls and 6,000 emails gleaned from the wiretap.

Spitzer was tried in the media, with swift results.

The Times account of how they broke the story is disingenuous at best. After receiving a routine press release about a sex ring on Thursday, March 6, they learned (they say) that the lead prosecutor in the case was the chief of the public corruption unit of the Manhattan U.S. attorney’s office. Because those units look at the conduct of elected officials, the Times became convinced that a public figure was involved.

Further down in their story, they state: ‘By Friday, the Times was confident that the official was Mr. Spitzer.’ They give no clue whatsoever for how they came to that conclusion.

Who leaked the information about Spitzer to the Times? Will we see the Justice Department now rise up like a lion and go in search of the scallywags that are responsible?

Not too likely. According to, the ‘Public Integrity Section at the Department of Justice is now at the center of a major scandal concerning politically directed prosecutions. During the Bush Administration, his Justice Department has opened 5.6 cases against Democrats for every one involving a Republican.’

Let’s be clear what happened here: a man paid for sex. Louisiana Senator David Vitter did the same, but there was no wire-tap, no stake-out, hence no titillating details: he’s still in office.

Senator Larry Craig tried to solicit sex in a men’s bathroom, and was the butt of jokes about his ‘wide stance,’ but he withstood the storm. Still in office.

Senator John McCain was romantically linked with a female lobbyist and improperly used his influence to try to persuade regulators to take positions favorable to her clients. He’s not only still in office, he could be our next president.

Spitzer was a popular attorney general who won an unprecedented 69% of the vote in his race for governor. New Yorkers-indeed all American investors-needed someone to fight for them against the Big Guys. For a while, as Sheriff of Wall Street, Eliot Spitzer was that man. Evidently he angered someone with the power to take him down. We are all the poorer for it.

Sheila Casey is a DC-based journalist. Her work has appeared in the Chicago Sun-Times, Reuters, The Denver Post, Buzz Flash, Common Dreams and the Rock Creek Free Press. She blogs at blog. Read other articles by Sheila, or visit Sheila's website.

8 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. J.T. said on March 29th, 2008 at 7:48am #

    I agree, it was a witchhunt and they got what they wanted. We are all poorer for it.

    I believe under the Bush regime that politcal targeting using the Justice dept. and various other federal law enforcement agencies is the becoming the rule (reminds me of the history of the early days of the Nazi party purging their rivals–the days before they dropped any pretexts and eventually just resorted to brute force).

    What’s scary is not only the deliberate attempt to public humiliate these men in public and drive them from office but what about all the ones we don’t know about that they may be politically blackmailing with secrets about their personal lives the government has secretly amassed. Well it makes me wonder if maybe this in some small part explains the cowardly,pathetic democratic congress and their constant capitulation to Bush policys they say they don’t believe in.

  2. hp said on March 29th, 2008 at 10:13am #

    “Of the delights of this world man cares most for sexual intercourse, yet he has left it out of his heaven.”
    Mark Twain

  3. Sheila Casey said on March 29th, 2008 at 11:06am #

    Greg Palast and Alexander Cockburn (of The Nation) have connected the dots on this better than I have.

    Palast writes: “This week, Bernanke’s Fed, for the first time in its history, loaned a selected coterie of banks one-fifth of a trillion dollars to guarantee these banks’ mortgage-backed junk bonds. The deluge of public loot was an eye-popping windfall to the very banking predators who have brought two million families to the brink of foreclosure.

    “Up until Wednesday, there was one single, lonely politician who stood in the way of this creepy little assignation at the bankers’ bordello: Eliot Spitzer.”

    Cockburn writes: “… Spitzer also frightened Wall Street, which was a good thing. There were plenty of powerful financial institutions that craved his downfall and whose employees cheered wildly when it happened.”

  4. HR said on March 29th, 2008 at 11:45am #

    Reading articles like this only confirms my rejection of the organized “left” in this country, although my political views are ultra progressive. This is nothing but whining, and reminds me of the line in the old Charlie Brown song from the Sixties: “Why’s everybody always picking on me?”

    Call girl and other prostitution operations are illegal – against the law – whether we agree with those laws or not. Consensual sex between adults, like that described by Governor Paterson, is not.

    Politically motivated law enforcement is the norm in this country, always has been, whether we like it or not. How much consideration do you think you’d get from a judge or jury if you whined that while you were robbing a liquor store, other people were robbing other liquor stores and that the police had paid no attention to them?

    Spitzer convicted himself by his admission, and by his resignation. He came off as one who knows he has broken the law, and knows he has been caught red-handed. Larry Craig denied that sexually related activity had occurred, and still does. His conviction was for disorderly conduct. The two cases are completely different.

    We’re better off with hypocritical megalomaniacs like Spitzer out of the way. He prosecuted just enough financiers to get elected governor, and then backed off. And, as I recall, he called for tougher anti-prostitution laws.

    Save your whining for others.

  5. Max Shields said on March 29th, 2008 at 12:08pm #

    HR, ultra-progressive. Let’s just stay with that and forget the “left” stuff there’s no such thing. It’s a strawman for the undecided and fascist to wail against.

  6. Jeremy Wells said on March 29th, 2008 at 6:40pm #

    FYI: On Elliot Spitzer, political motivations, etc.

    NY Times article questions official explanation of sex probe that forced New York governor to resign
    By Barry Grey
    24 March 2008

    (Note three other links at bottom of this article.)

  7. HR said on March 29th, 2008 at 9:17pm #

    Max Shields, the left’s still there. It’s simply become a handwringing subsidiary of the Democratic “party” leadership.

  8. Hatuxka said on March 30th, 2008 at 6:14pm #

    There’s always in forums like this someone who proclaims they are whatever and then go on to prove otherwise. But “ultra-progressive”? My BS detector’s needle is registering off the chart.