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For Everything There is A Season

Mar
11
2008

Former New York Attorney General and now-former Governor Eliot Spitzer is getting a delicious comeuppance. If there’s any real justice, the anti-corruption crusader Gotham’s tabloids once dubbed “Eliot Ness” will learn what it’s like to be at the receiving end of a pitiless prosecutor, maybe even one with lofty political ambition and an ego to match.

I know I should feel some sense of Christian compassion for the Spitzer whose political career – he was once touted as the nation’s first Jewish president – is over. But the only Biblical reference that comes to mind has to do with reaping and sowing. I admit it: I’m enjoying knowing that, at this very moment, Spitzer’s twisting in the wind.

You see, I’ve got a dog in this fight. This isn’t about political schadenfreude – I’ll see your evangelical preacher and red state senator and raise you a hot-shot governor – it’s about payback. Eliot Spitzer’s just a plain-old hypocrite who used the law and his position to bully people into holding to standards he felt he was above. And now, everybody knows it.

A few years ago, when he was New York’s Attorney General, Spitzer turned his sights on a client of mine. That company, Direct Revenue, was an aggressive innovator in the interactive marketing industry and, with all the zeal of a politician who could taste both headline and higher office, Spitzer saw an opportunity and charged them with deceiving consumers and peddling “spyware.”

It was one of many opportunities he saw – and took – on the road to Albany. Spitzer campaigned on the public dime by (ab)using the authority and resources of his office and he was regarded as a hero because of it.

What galled me about my client’s case in particular was that Attorney General Eliot Spitzer entered into the record death threats that were emailed to my client by irate customers as evidence that Direct Revenue was an evil organization that preyed on innocent consumers online. It takes real seeds to ignore a blatant felony – that’s what a death threat is – that potentially endangers the lives of innocent people in order to make a point in a legal argument.

Spitzer, with deliberate calculus, crafted a public filing that made liberal use of inflammatory language that a judge eventually disallowed. And you know what’s really rich about the governor’s current position? That same trick is being played on Spitzer by the Assistant U.S. Attorneys who wrote – and leaked – the indictments and testimony of various call girls with whom Spitzer may have done business. This started as a tax case but the court papers have lots of talk about room numbers and the safety of various sexual preferences.

I’m not na├»ve; I know ambitious politicians will always use their position and authority to get to the next level — and sometimes the public interest is served. And because Spitzer hit close to home with his suit against Direct Revenue, I researched a few years of public communications — press releases and statements to the media — coming out of Spitzer’s office. I’m a recovering political hack. I know these things don’t happen by accident. But this was pretty obvious: Sometime in 2003, Spitzer decided to begin his campaign for governor in earnest and started using the power of the state attorney general’s office to get there.

Direct Revenue was but one example of a company eviscerated by Eliot Spitzer. In the financial services industry, his pursuit of companies like Marsh & McLennan and Merrill Lynch, and individuals like the New York Stock Exchange’s Dick Grasso and Bank of America’s Theodore Sihpol were no less dastardly. Spitzer’s zealous attack on the financial services industry for practices he didn’t like, but admitted were not illegal, wreaked havoc with the industry, put companies out of business, and cost many people their jobs. His harangue of AIG in 2005 prompted the Wall Street Journal to call for Spitzer’s resignation.

A cheer went up on the trading floor of the New York Stock Exchange when the Spitzer prostitution story broke on Monday. The vitriol that has begun to pour out of Wall Street will flood the streets of Albany any day now.

Meanwhile, Eliot Spitzer’s self-righteous crusade has claimed four more victims: his wife and three daughters. And while no one would wish the sort of embarrassment, shame and pain they must be feeling because of Spitzer’s actions on anyone, it’s hard to feel any sympathy for the man himself. Because, in the end hubris – not love – conquers all it infects.

Share  Posted by Mike Spinney at 10:45 PM | Permalink

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