New York Governor Eliot Spitzer at today’s embarassing press conference. Silda, Spitzer’s wife of 21 years, puts on a brave-but-unamused face and stands by his side. AP photo.
THE EMPEROR WEARS NO CLOTHES
With the bombshell news breaking late today that New York Governor Eliot Spitzer has been implicated in a prostitution ring, the Democratic politician will now forever be known as “Client 9,” one of the johns described in a recently unsealed FBI affidavit detailing the operation of the Emperors Club, an international call girl ring.
The FBI wiretap captured a man identified as Client 9 on a telephone call confirming plans to have a woman travel from New York to Washington on Feb. 13, where he had reserved a hotel room, according to an affidavit filed in federal court in Manhattan. The person briefed on the case and the law enforcement official identified Mr. Spitzer as Client 9.
Mr. Spitzer, a first term Democrat, today made a brief public appearance during which he apologized for his behavior, and described it as a “private matter.” He did not address his political future.
“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.
As he went to leave, three reporters called out, “Are you resigning? Are you resigning?”, and Mr. Spitzer charged out of the room, slamming the door.
CLIENT 9 CALLS BUTTERFIELD 8
The man described as Client 9 in the affidavit arranged to meet with a call girl who was part of the ring, Emperors Club VIP. The tryst was scheduled, ironically enough, for the night before Valentine’s Day.
The affidavit says that Client 9 met with the woman in hotel room 871 but does not identify the hotel. Mr. Spitzer stayed at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington on Feb. 13, according to a source who was told of his travel arrangements. Room 871 at the Mayflower Hotel that evening was registered under the name George Fox.
The law enforcement official said that several people running the prostitution ring knew Mr. Spitzer by the name of George Fox, though a few of the prostitutes came to realize he was the governor of New York.
Mr. Fox is a friend and donor to Mr. Spitzer. Asked in a telephone interview Monday whether he accompanied Mr. Spitzer to Washington on Feb. 13 and Feb. 14, Mr. Fox responded: “Why would you think that? I did not.”
Told that the Room 871 at the Renaissance Mayflower Hotel was registered in Mr. Fox’s name but with Mr. Spitzer’s Fifth Avenue address, Mr. Fox said, “That is the first I have heard of it. Until I speak to the governor further, I have no comment.”
When asked by Gov. Spitzer to remind him “what she looks like,” Emperor’s Club VIP described his lady of the evening as being “American, about five-foot-five, 105 lbs., a petite, pretty brunette.” Is it just me, or is this story starting to sound like the classic Elizabeth Taylor film “Butterfield 8”?
THE GOVERNOR’S “ECONOMIC STIMULUS PACKAGE”
Upon reading the initial reports, you might be inclined to call Governor Spitzer an idiot for being so indiscreet in the first place. Or for using his friend’s name to make arrangements with an escort service without that friend’s apparent knowledge. You could call him a philanderer, since it appears he does regular business with the escort agency in question. You could call him a hypocrite for holding himself up as a crusader for law and order in public while engaging in illegal activity privately.
But there’s one thing you can’t call the man: a cheapskate.
Considering the upscale fees charged by the Emperor’s Club for the pleasure of their model/companion’s “company,” it is clear that the Governor has expensive tastes and prefers champagne to beer. And why not? He can certainly afford it as a rich New York lawyer with oodles of old family money to play with — assuming the funds for this illicit transaction came from his own personal bank account.
That being said, it will be interesting to follow the money trail as the investigation progresses. Then we may just find out how stupid this guy really is.
In he meantime, his defenders can always say he’s doing his part to “stimulate” the “sagging” economy with a “package” designed to help single mothers and beautiful young women in his state.
As described in the FBI document, Client 9 (a repeat customer with an account on file at the agency) apparently went to great lengths to arrange his Washington encounter, choosing to mail money in advance, instead of using a credit card. Client 9, whose conversations were recorded by an FBI wiretap, would not do “traditional wire transferring,” the affidavit quotes one Emperors Club employee remarking.
Documents reveal that Client 9 would be sending cash through the mail in an envelope with no return address, “just like before.” (Nevermind that every state attorney general’s office in the land sternly warns consumers to never send cash in the mail. Apparently, Spitzer forgot he was a former attorney general, but that tends to happen when one is thinking with the wrong head…) The “package,” as the money envelope is referred to in phone conversations and text messages, was delayed in arriving, causing some considerable discontent with the escort agency’s owners.
Representatives from Emperor’s Club had to contact Client 9 several times to ask if he’d sent the “package” yet, basically letting him know he didn’t have enough credit on his account to “cover” the scheduled appointment. Client 9 assured them that the money was en route, and that he would also pay all travel expenses for the young lady, identified by the name “Kristen.”
Only problem was, Client 9 didn’t follow through with the money he had repeatedly promised to the escort service until the day of the scheduled “date” – actually, the money for her services arrived just 30 minutes prior to her scheduled departure on an Amtrak train from New York to Washington – and even then, the amount apparently wasn’t quite correct. (Maybe “Fiscal Responsibility” is not the Governor’s strongest suit?)
This prompted more phone calls back and forth between the agency and Client 9, making arrangements for him to pay the remainder of the call girl’s fee in cash that night, plus a “deposit” towards future engagements with the agency “to avoid payment issues in the future” and “so that we don’t have to go through this again.”
From the recorded conversations, it’s clear that the Emperor’s Club already felt they had a problem client on their hands here. The agency was obviously concerned that “Mr. Fox” was not good for the fee, even if he was a frequent flier. And it is also readily apparent that he had previously been identified by the agency as a “difficult” client. In EscortSpeak, that generally means the client was either rough, abusive, asked for unsafe sex, or didn’t pay up.
Additionally, the affidavit notes that after her appointment with Client-9 ended, “Kristen” spoke with a Emperors Club booker, who said that she had been told that Client-9 “would ask you to do things that, like, you might not think were safe…”
“Kristen” responded by saying, essentially, that she was a professional and knew how to handle guys like that. But “Kristen” reported back to the agency that she “liked him,” didn’t think he was “difficult,” and overall she thought the date had gone “very well.”
She also told the agency booker that she had collected $4,300 in cash from Client 9, more than enough to settle his balance due plus a comfy deposit towards the next visit. (Uh, somehow I rather doubt there will be a “next time”…that’s money he’ll never see again.)
Mel Brooks as the Governor in “Blazing Saddles”
His job to offer battle
He conquered fear and he conquered hate
He turned our night into day
He made his blazing saddle
A cry went up for a man with guts To take the West in hand
They needed a man who was brave and true
Then out of the sun rode a man with a gun
And Bart was his name
— “Blazing Saddles” theme song. Lyrics by Mel Brooks, vocal by Frankie Laine
HE RODE A BLAZING SADDLE
The real irony of this story, of course, is that Eliot Spitzer was propelled to fame in New York politics through his reputation as a crusading reformer, a “law and order” man who put criminals behind bars. Even before becoming Governor, he had let the bad guys know there was a new Sheriff in town — and they had better watch out.
As Attorney General of New York State, he had successfully prosecuted cases against (wait for it!)…prositution rings, strongly denouncing the world’s oldest profession in his public statements.
Spitzer, 48, served as New York’s attorney general for eight years before being elected governor in a landslide victory (he won 70% of the vote). Time magazine named him “Crusader of the Year” during his two terms as New York attorney general.
Tabloids labeled him “Eliot Ness,” after the hero in the crime drama “The Untouchables,” because of his reputation for rooting out corruption, busting white-collar criminals and tackling organized crime.
He also worked as an assistant district attorney in Manhattan and worked for three New York law firms after receiving his law degree from Harvard. The first-term Democratic governor had been considered a rising star among his party, perhaps even presidential material.
But all that began to change last year as one scandal and misstep after another seemed to befall him. Spitzer was accused of using the power of his office to investigate his political opponents (which is illegal as hell). Then came his disastrous plan to give driver’s licenses to illegal aliens, one bright idea which didn’t go over too well with the people of New York State – more than 85% opposed the proposal.
Since then, his approval ratings have plummeted – at one point down to only about 36% – and Spitzer has been hard-pressed to find a way to salvage his Governorship, his name, and now…his entire political career. Not to mention his marriage. His wife of 21 years and three teenage daughters will be faced with the embarassing ordeal of constant public scrutiny and media intrusion into their shattered private lives.
ELIOT MESS — THE FALLOUT
“To say this is a shock is an understatement,” said CNN senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin, who went to law school with Spitzer.
The Republican Governors Association has called on Spitzer to resign to “allow the people of New York to pursue honest leadership.”
“The American people are tired of corrupt and hypocritical politicians. The governor of New York is just another in the long list of politicians that have failed their constituents,” Nick Ayers, RGA executive Director, said in a statement.
Spitzer’s office, the U.S. Attorney’s office in New York and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg all declined to comment on Spitzer. So did presidential candidates Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, who is a longtime friend and political ally of the New York Governor. Right now, Mum’s the word…but mark my word, it won’t be for long.
This story’s got more legs than an octopus, and it’s going to walk from New York to Washington. We may even get congressional hearings out of this mess. The aftershocks from this rattler will extend far beyond the boundaries of New York State.
Spitzer’s close proximity to New York Senator Hillary Clinton (whom he has endorsed in the presidential contest) has already caused her trouble during this campaign. His licenses-for-illegals proposal forced Clinton to answer some very delicate questions on immigration which cost her campaign dearly last fall. By extension, this flap damaged the Democratic party overall, but once Spitzer dropped the idea, everyone seemed willing to give him one more chance. And now he’s blown it big time.
Governor Spitzer is also a highly-prized Superdelegate, one who was likely expected to “deliver” some other Superdelegates to Clinton and help her secure the nomination. How that will play out between now and August is anybody’s guess, but if the Governor resigns from office, it will cost Spitzer his Superdelegate status.
DO I HEAR A DOOR OPENING?
Another very interesting aspect of this story is how the fallout will effect Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.’s political plans. As readers of this blog already know, Bobby has endorsed Senator Clinton for President and makes no secret of the fact that he would love to reclaim his late father’s former Senate seat. Should Senator Clinton vacate that seat upon election to the presidency, the task of appointing her successor would fall to Governor Spitzer.
Up until now, that seemed a very distinct possibility, as Spitzer and Kennedy have always enjoyed a very friendly relationship. Although the two have probably shared a gentleman’s agreement not to run against each other for any public office, RFK Jr. did briefly consider running for Attorney General of New York once Spitzer announced he would run for Governor in 2005.
Kennedy decided against the idea of running for A.G., and later donated a small amount ($200) to Spitzer’s 2006 gubernatorial election campaign. They appeared together at a Clinton Library symposium last fall and Gov. Spitzer also proposed renaming the Triborough Bridge in New York “the RFK Bridge” just two months ago. (RFK Jr., his mother Ethel, and other members of the Robert Kennedy family were in attendance when the announcement was made during Gov. Spitzer’s State of the State address.)
At this point, with Senator Clinton running behind in the presidential race and Governor Spitzer now facing possible impeachment or recall, resignation, maybe even jail time over this sex scandal, Bobby may want to rethink what was seemingly a foolproof plan to be the next Junior Senator from New York State.
Maybe that Senate seat won’t be up for grabs anytime soon. If Hillary doesn’t win the nomination, I rather doubt she will accept a VP slot on Obama’s ticket. Nor do I envision her simply walking away from her hard-won Senate seat. Hillary can likely keep that seat for life, and if the voters of New York want her to stay put, why shouldn’t she?
Bobby is a practical political player. He’s also a realist. He can read the writing on the proverbial wall: “Win or lose, I hope and expect Hillary to remain in public life because she is extremely effective and because that is her passion,” Kennedy informed Page Six in January.
On the other hand, if Eliot Spitzer is impeached or resigns, there will be an election coming up for a Very Important Office — an office which one Robert F. Kennedy Jr. could certainly fill – and where he’d do great things for the people of New York State.
So, Bobby…ever considered running for Governor? (Yes, we know you have.)
Perhaps you should consider it again now.
MAR. 12 UPDATE: New York Governor Eliot Spitzer resigned today. Lt. Gov. David Patterson will be sworn in on Monday, Mar. 17th.