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Stranger than Fiction -- Eliot Spitzer and Prostitutes

My novel BMOC included an incompetent and power-abusing Senator who managed to remain a darling of the press as long as he focused his attention on pork-barrel spending and using government power to help and hurt his friends and enemies.  However, the press finally turned on him when it became known he was involved with prostitutes.  The fairly cynical (if not realistic) moral was that it was fine to abuse government power, just don't get caught in a sex scandal.

Well, it seems that we will get to test that notion in real life.  Apparently, NY governor Eliot Spitzer has been dallying with prostitutes.  Now, I couldn't really care less about his purchase of sex -- I have argued many times for legalization of prostitution.  But it will be an interesting test of my book's cynical hypothesis, since to date the press has been in love with Spitzer despite (even because of) his abusive practices as AG and governor.  The radio news a few minutes ago actually said "Mr. Spitzer, who to date has had a squeaky clean reputation..."  Huh?  Only if you read the fawning PR work done for him by the NY Times in the past.

Update: Here is the passage from the book.  Sound familiar?

Taking a deep breath, Givens said, “Senator, there is a reason that this one is not going away. I will spell it out: S-E-X. The press doesn’t give a shit about a few billion dollars of waste. No one tunes in to the evening news if the teaser is ‘Government pays too much for a bridge, news at eleven.’ The Today Show doesn’t interview the contractors benefiting from a useless bridge.”

“However, everybody and his dog will tune in if the teaser is ‘Your tax dollars are funding call girls, film at eleven’. Jesus, do you really think the CBS Evening News is going to turn down a chance to put hookers on the evening news? Not just tonight but day after day? Just watch – Dan Rather will be interviewing hookers and Chris Mathews will be interviewing hookers and for God’s sakes Barbara Walters will probably have a weepy interview with a hooker.”....

“You guys in the Senate can get away with a lot, as long as long as a) you don’t get caught or b) the scandal is so boring or complex that it won’t sell newspapers. Hell, I saw a poll the other day that a substantial percentage of Americans to this day don’t understand or even believe what Richard Nixon did was wrong. But if you polled those same people, every freaking one of them would say that they knew and believed that Bill Clinton got [had sex with] an intern.

Update #2: Disclosure -- I did not like Spitzer, even at Princeton.  This, however, was not uncommon.  In fact, Spitzer managed to inspire a jihad in response to his governance of the student council there.

Update #3:  ROFL!  I got this email from a reader:

I eagerly await your comments on the latest imbroglio involving your favorite Princeton classmate.  Please don't take the high road.

It seems I may not be the only person who does not care for Mr. Spitzer.

Update #4:  I hope the girls paid sales taxes on their transactions and have all their payroll taxes in order.  Certainly Mr. Spitzer has established the principle that illegal businesses still owe taxes.

That seems to be the axiom in New York these days, where Gov. Eliot L. Spitzer (D), struggling to close a $4.4 billion budget gap, has proposed making drug dealers pay tax on their stashes of illegal drugs. The new tax would apply to cocaine, heroin and marijuana, and could be paid with pre-bought "tax stamps" affixed to the bags of dope.

Update #5:  Libertarians like myself will point out that this is all between consenting adults.  Of course, that did not stop Eliot Spitzer from trying to prosecute Dick Grasso for a pay package that was approved by consenting (and quite sophisticated) adults.

Update #6: It is being reported that Spitzer will resign.  QED folks.  Spitzer uses the state police to spy on political rivals and the press continues to call him a squeaky clean reformer.  But pay for sex with a consenting adult, and your gone. 

Update #7:  Tom Kirkendal has been all over Spitzer for years.  He writes:

But I hope that the most important lesson that Spitzer's political career teaches us is not lost amidst the glare of a tawdry sex scandal. As with Rudy Giuliani before him, Spitzer rose to political power through the misuse of the state's overwhelming prosecutorial power to regulate business interests. In so doing, Spitzer manipulated an all-too-accommodating mainstream media, which never misses an opportunity to take down an easy target such as a wealthy businessperson. Spitzer is now learning that the same media dynamic applies to powerful politicians, as well. 

However, as noted earlier here, where was the mainstream media's scrutiny when Spitzer was destroying wealth, jobs and careers while threatening to go Arthur Andersen on American Insurance Group and other companies? Where was the healthy skepticism of the unrestrained use of the state's prosecutorial power to regulate business where business had no available regulatory procedure with which to contest Spitzer's actions?

Posted on March 10, 2008 at 12:25 PM | Permalink


oh and don't forget the hypocrisy angle. nothing plays in the media like hypocrisy.

from the NYT:

As attorney general, he also had 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.”

so uhh, prostitution is bad unless you are cruising for a girl mr. spitzer? this really does smack of a sense of privilege and entitlement that i find awfully offputting, particularly in a "public servant".

Posted by: morganovich | Mar 10, 2008 1:00:44 PM

I suppose he'll be available now to be VP candidate?

Posted by: dearieme | Mar 10, 2008 1:53:03 PM

My great uncle (retired exec at Marsh, McClennan) is celebrating.

Posted by: Jeff | Mar 10, 2008 1:54:30 PM

This makes me smile. Good riddance.

Posted by: Sameer Parekh | Mar 10, 2008 2:03:38 PM

I loved your novel excerpt. (very "Yes, Prime Minister")

I guess I have to buy it.

Re: Whine Spitzer

One Question: The man can bully, but can the Mann Act?

Sic Semper Tyrannus.

(and spit)

Posted by: Redacted | Mar 10, 2008 6:17:15 PM

It took both a crime and a sex scandal to take him down.

If he got caught stupping his secretary, it wouldn't have brought him down.
If he got caught takeing bribes, it wouldn't have brought him down.

He got 70% of the votes when he ran for governor, proving that the majority here not only like to be led by the nose, they liked to get kicked in the ass.. I found it hilarious when their was outrage over his DL's for illegals proposal - have these people not seen his political career?

Now, that Lt. Governor Patterson is in charge(A double first for New York, he's both Black and sight impaired), I've taken to saying "New York, where the blind lead the dumb"

I can't leave fast enough.

Posted by: HTRN | Mar 10, 2008 11:47:37 PM

I am still laughing my ass off..Eliot spitser paying $5000 for an hour with a hooker? Holy crap,, Holy crap holy crap,, ARE WE DREAMING? COULD SOMEONE WAKE ME? THE man act?

Posted by: JIMMY | Mar 11, 2008 6:19:11 AM

ROTFLMAO - reminds me of the Hindenberg disaster. It's a happy day in Albany.

Posted by: Joe Bruno | Mar 11, 2008 7:41:55 AM

It's time for him to take the 'perp walk'. But, fortunately for him, he's a Democrat, so he can not be shamed.

Where's a career public servant come up with that much cash for his dalliances ? What's Governor pay $200K ? AG - 150k ? Current scandal is "He spent HOW much ?".

Next scandal should be "How'd did he have that much to spend on a $200K/year job ?

Was this a business expense billed to the people of New York ?

Was this transaction subject to NY taxes ?

IF he did this before, do his prior bad acts make this racketeering ?

Posted by: tribal elder | Mar 11, 2008 9:21:20 AM

What I want to know is what this women or these women did that was worth $5,000+ a pop.

Posted by: Technomad | Mar 11, 2008 9:39:54 AM

I guess Mr. Spitzer is even more repulsive than we thought !

Posted by: tribal elder | Mar 11, 2008 9:49:49 AM

I guess this wasn't the same service used by Eddie Murphy's "Mr. Robinson" character on SNL:

"When a man and a woman really love each other, the man gives the woman $25..."

Posted by: Dan | Mar 11, 2008 9:54:48 AM

What I want to know is what this women or these women did that was worth $5,000+ a pop.

well...1.) they had to touch that schmuck and 2.)see #1.

Posted by: Methinks | Mar 11, 2008 11:54:33 AM

Methinks: Two hyotheses:

1) Spitzer managed to prosecute two prostitution rings without learning enough about the business to comparison shop,

or 2) The customers are paying for some pretty solid assurances of discretion. E.g., that the gals don't have a sideline in blackmail...

And it worked. Spitzer's recreational choices weren't revealed through the agency.

Posted by: markm | Mar 12, 2008 8:10:39 PM

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