Reporters stood vigil outside of the 5th Avenue apartment of New York state Governor Eliot Spitzer, but the Governor himself kept out of sight. Monday he made his public apology for being swept up, as collateral damage one might say, in the federal investigation of the Washington, DC Emperor’s Club prostitution ring. So far the Empire State Emporer has not resigned, nor has he acknowledged that his issues are anything more than a "private matter." He's weighing his options.
The governor remained in his Fifth Avenue apartment in Manhattan a day after law enforcement officials said he was a client of the prostitution ring, which was broken up last week by federal authorities. Things remained uncertain regarding the governor’s future throughout the day. Mr. Spitzer, 48, a first-term Democrat, was said by aides to be considering resigning, but no official announcement had been made Tuesday afternoon.
Lt. Gov. David A. Paterson, who would serve out Mr. Spitzer’s term in the event of a resignation, also said he had not heard from the governor on Tuesday.
“The governor called me yesterday, he said he didn’t resign for a number of reasons, and he didn’t go into the reasons, and that’s the last I’ve heard from him,” he said.
How Clintonesque. Bill Clinton set the bar pretty high on this. His refusal to step down, even in the face of perjury charges and disbarment, has set the standard for Democrats in general, and Eliot Spitzer in particular, to remain in power at all cost. It's for the good of the, pick one: nation, state, constituents, the children. Yes, that's it. It's for the children.
Under ordinary circumstances it might have worked for Spitzer. But these are not ordinary circumstances. This year another Clinton is running for the presidency, and things aren't going according to script for her. The last thing she needs is yet another scandal involving marital infidelity of a prominent supporter. In a heartbeat all traces of Spitzer support vanished from the Clinton for President website.
Spitzer, that was the name. Eliot. Governor of New York. At least at this writing. And the word in all the media was the feds have him on tape tied to a prostitution ring that must have the most beautiful women in the world to charge $5,500 for we can only guess what. But it can't be good if the feds are taping it.
Some people will criticize the media for always going after Republicans in sex scandals because of their hypocritical stance on morality. Trouble is, Spitzer's a Democrat. So you won't hear John McCain complaining this week. Another....
...There's a political problem, too -- or three -- for Hillary Clinton. Spitzer endorsed her for the Democratic presidential nomination. And so, as it happens, did Gavin Newsom, the mayor of San Francisco, who publicly apologized last year for conducting an illicit affair with the wife of one of his top aides.
And then there was this local L.A. fellow, Antonio Villaraigosa, another mayor, who also announced his endorsement of Clinton last year and then soon after also announced his impending divorce due to a long-running love affair with a local TV anchorwoman.
So you might understand the New York senator's sensitivity over Eliot "Let's give driver's licenses to illegal immigrants" Spitzer. While all the media hoo-hah was going on Monday, and the number of visitors to websites with Spitzer stories absolutely rocketed off the charts, the alert folks over at Radar Online cleverly went to Clinton's campaign website and put a clock on the endorsement page.
Their timing showed that faster than you can say "Mitt Romney dumps Larry Craig," the Spitzer endorsement on the Clinton website disappeared. Vanished. Gone. Poof. Like he never happened to her last May. There's Melanie Griffith, John Cook and Norm Dicks. But no more Eliot Spitzer.
And today the Wall Street Journal reports that the Governor won't resign until he has assurances from prosecutors that they won't pursue criminal charges.
Any legal case could be significant for Mr. Spitzer's future. Whether or not he remains in politics, the 48-year-old Mr. Spitzer likely would lose his license to practice law if convicted of a felony.
Ms. Hirshman -- a former assistant U.S. attorney in Manhattan -- also argued that if federal prosecutors brought charges against Mr. Spitzer, they would be required to similarly charge the nine other unnamed clients in a federal complaint unsealed last Thursday, to avoid what's known in legal circles as "selective prosecution." None of the other nine unnamed clients have been charged in the case.
"Historically, 'johns' haven't been prosecuted for conspiring with principals of a prostitution entity," says New York defense lawyer Gerald Lefcourt, who isn't involved in the case. "Could they be? Maybe. But that's not the way law enforcement has proceeded."
Michael Garcia, the Manhattan U.S. attorney pursuing the investigation of Mr. Spitzer, is Republican. The prosecution team is being led by Boyd Johnson, an assistant U.S. attorney who headed the recent prosecution of Norman Hsu, the disgraced Democratic fund-raiser for Hillary Clinton's presidential bid who was arrested late last year.
Will federal prosecutors pursue criminal charges? Will Spitzer resign or will he follow the Bill Clinton lead and tough it out? If he does, it may be that the Clinton chickens have finally come home to roost. How will Hill and Bill deal with a lengthy Spitzer distraction? A distraction so reminiscent of Bill, himself. The incoming Spitzer torpedo off the port bow may seal Bill's legacy. He needs the Hillary presidency to stay afloat. We await the outcomes.
Update: Spitzer has resigned, effective this coming Monday. According to the New York Sun, the Clinton strategy would have been too difficult for Spitzer's lesser political talents.
The embattled governor did not explicitly adopt one of Mr. Clinton's famous lines from that era: "I need to go back to work for the American people." However, Mr. Spitzer conjured up an industrious image when he closed his public statement by with a line taken straight from a military war room. "I will report back to you in short order," he declared.
A former member of Mr. Clinton's rapid response team, Christopher Lehane, said Mr. Spitzer's ability to hang on to his job will hinge on his ability to assert that he can get things done and not be paralyzed by the swirling scandal. "If somehow he is able to get back to work effectively then he has some chance," the crisis adviser said. "At the end of the day, that is where salvation will come from."
Some of Mr. Spitzer's supporters are openly urging him to follow the Clinton paradigm.
Hillary will face Spitzer's resignation with a mixture of relief and regret. She may feel some minor regret over the loss of one of her superdelegates. But even if she does, her regret will be eclipsed by the relief from knowing that Spitzer's sex scandal will be off the front pages in short order. Hillary will be spared the endless comparisons of Bill and Eliot and the Clinton strategy.
Update: Spitzer's problems may not be just a "private matter."
...federal investigators were quick to point out Tuesday that they weren’t interested in the New York governor’s pay-to-play sexual mores but how he financed his illegal dalliances. If the payments involved money laundering, Spitzer could face a felony charge with a possible sentence of up to 20 years in federal prison. He could also face felony charges related to conspiracy to commit a federal offense, as well as various charges in connection with enticement and furtherance of interstate prostitution, with possible sentences totaling 40 years in prison and fines of $1 million.
Routing payments through corporate shells like QAT Consulting Group Inc., QAT International or Protech Consultants is almost invariably a sign of money laundering, a fact that must have been known to the former New York attorney general from his own prior investigations of New York prostitution rings. Thus, the most amazing thing about the Spitzer case is that he apparently thought he could get away with it without fear of consequences.