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March 16
, 2008


A weblog about the politics and affairs of the old and glorious City of Albany, New York, USA. Articles written and disseminated from Albany's beautiful and historic South End by Daniel Van Riper. If you wish to make a response, have anything to add or would like to make an empty threat, please contact me.

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*UPDATE*: According to today's (March 21) New York Times, US Justice Department officials admit that such an investigation into prostitution is "unusual," "rare," and unheard of since 2001.

March 16 , 2008

The Virtual Assassination Of Governor Spitzer

The White House probed for a weakness and the corporations destroyed one of their most effective enemies

I’m not going to make excuses for Eliot Spitzer’s behavior. Democratic politicians are not allowed to commit embarrassing acts that Republicans engage in routinely. Spitzer knew that.

Ashley Dupré: Terrorist?
Ashley Dupré: Terrorist?

It’s almost as if he invited the Republicans and the corporate media to destroy him. The man is a former top of the line prosecutor, for frickin’ sake. He is intimately familiar with the distortions of the law which allow the secret police to snoop into bank records without a warrant.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI,) which is an agency of the White House, used the blatantly unconstitutional powers under the so-called “Patriot” Act to go on a fishing expedition. You might recall that the “Patriot” Act powers were granted to the White House and their secret police to “fight terrorism.” The idea was to catch transfers of money that might be going to support “terroristic organizations.”

So then . . . does Spitzer’s downfall make everybody feel safer? Was Ashley Dupré the $5,000 call girl a terrorist?

The FBI did not obtain a warrant to open this investigation. They couldn’t, not at that point. As a rule, the Federal government cannot get involved in a case unless the principals or the transactions cross a state line. Only later did some detail emerge which involved the crossing of a state line, a detail which was played up in initial corporate media accounts of the affair.

Pardon my patriotism, but the FBI is a discredited agency. If the FBI were at least generally dedicated to defending the common good, I might be inclined to look the other way at their criminal activities in this scandal. But they have a history of massively abusing their privileges under the “Patriot” Act, engaging in illegal searches and obtaining warrants when they feel like it.

Again, no excuses offered, but where is the actual crime, other than public disgust? The statute being exhumed to give the affair a sniff of illegality is the White-Slave Traffic Act of 1910. Seriously. This anachronistic legal nonsense is usually euphemistically referred to as the Mann Act, after the long-dead and almost forgotten politico who wrote it.

Governor Eliot Spitzer

If some politician cheats on his wife, even a moralistic SOB like Spitzer, does it justify the abrogation of the Fourth Amendment? Once upon a time this important section of the Bill of Rights protected all of us from clandestine and politically vengeful searches and seizures. But these days, no one is safe from the secret police, not even Eliot Spitzer.

The FBI sat for a month on the information that they had snooped out of the bank records, the list of customers of the escort service. Then, at 2:30 in the afternoon of March 11, they leaked exactly one name to the New York Times, which immediately put the news up on one of its blogs. This was perfect for the drive-home news cycle, ensuring maximum penetration of our minds.

Let’s compare this coverage to that of Republican Larry Craig. You will recall that the Senator from Idaho was caught last summer soliciting gay sex in a bathroom stall. This behavior from another kind of moralistic SOB, one who loudly opposed and voted against gay rights.

Larry Craig's Mug Shot
Larry Craig's Mug Shot

The corporate media did not report on Craig’s arrest for this crime. At all. About three months or so after the incident, a blogger stumbled on the arrest report and put it up on his site. The news spread like wildfire across the internet.

But, as I recall, after that it took the corporate media around three days to reluctantly pick up on a story that the majority of the population already knew about. See how it takes the coordinated effort of the White House, their secret police, and the corporate media to beat down a Democrat. But it takes a citizen journalist and an open internet to expose a Republican.

So, why did the White House go to all this effort to take down Spitzer in such a spectacular manner? They could have nailed him anytime, or they could have blackmailed him. Why did they choose to destroy him now?

Here’s a big clue. The money-grubbing slime balls who crawl up and down Wall Street were overjoyed at the takedown of “The Sheriff of Wall Street.” Eliot Spitzer as NY State Attorney General had taken on the job of holding the money managers to a minimal legal standard, a job that the White House Justice Department refused to do. These bad boys were not acustomed to being held personally responsible for their own actions, so they deeply resented Spitzer.

Watching The Resignation From Wall Street
Watching The Resignation From Wall Street

As an expression of Wall Street’s joy, the Dow Jones industrial average went up 416.66 points that afternoon, the largest one day gain in six years. This happened in the middle of a period when the stock market is sliding in fits and starts into a recessionary toilet. Indeed, despite this big one day gain, the stock market closed down for the week.

But it seems that the money managers were excited about another piece of news that day, one that got buried under all the repetitive rehashing about Spitzer’s nonsense. It seems that the White House handed $200 billion dollars of taxpayer money into a fund to protect banks and other lending institutions from fallout over the housing sub-prime scandal and crisis.

Nope, not a penny to bail out homeowners who got conned into taking these mortgages. They’re nothing but cows waiting to be milked. Besides, the vast majority of subprime mortgage victims are minorities and poor who live in places like the South End of Albany. I guess they really don’t matter anyway.

Is there a connection between Spitzer’s takedown and the bailout giveaway of $200 billion to the banks? Ace investigative journalist Greg Palast thinks so. In his own words:

It was the night of February 13 when Spitzer made the boneheaded choice to order take-out in his Washington Hotel room. He had just finished signing these words for the Washington Post about predatory loans:

“Not only did the Bush administration do nothing to protect consumers, it embarked on an aggressive and unprecedented campaign to prevent states from protecting their residents from the very problems to which the federal government was turning a blind eye.”

Bush, Spitzer said right in the headline, was the “Predator Lenders’ Partner in Crime.” The President, said Spitzer, was a fugitive from justice. And Spitzer was in Washington to launch a campaign to take on the Bush regime and the biggest financial powers on the planet.

Greg Palast
Greg Palast

As Mr. Palast pointed out earlier in the article, Eliot Spitzer is the only person who tried to hold bankers responsible for predatory lending. He tried to sue, but the Bush administration did everything they could to block his lawsuits. (Take a moment and click on the link to the Greg Palast article, the man knows how to cut through the crap and find the real story.)

Let’s go back to the initial investigation. Supposedly there was a “red flag” that triggered the snooping by the FBI, a pattern of blocks of money leaving Spitzer’s bank account. Um, exactly why does this indicate criminal activity? Well? Anybody?

Supposedly, this movement of cash out of his account was so serious that US Attorney General Robert Mukasey, a fellow with ethics issues of his own, is said to have personally approved further investigation. Oh, by the way, the Bush Justice Department has a track record of investigating 6 Democrats for every Republican. Just thought I’d mention that.

So, if Spitzer picks his nose a lot, he might be snorting cocaine. If he favors chicken salad sandwiches for lunch, he might be taking bribes from poultry producers. If he reads accounts of sex crimes on his personal computer, he may be a child molester.

It’s always hard for us regular folks to make this connection, but if the secret police can do this to a prominent politician, they can do the same thing to you and me. That is, if we accept what they did. And from what I can see, there has been almost universal acceptance of the FBI’s methods, with dissenters being shouted down.

Career Criminal Joe Bruno, Our Next Lt. Governer
Career Criminal Joe Bruno, Our Next Lt. Governer

I have to admit that I am puzzled. I mean, who did Spitzer kill? What did he steal? Who did he rape, who did he assault, whose house did he burn down? I’m sure his wife is mighty upset, but how is that any of our business?

The chorus calling for resignation all sounded very high minded, but I could not find a single solid reason in anybody’s commentary why he had to resign. The consensus seemed to be that his “ability to govern” had been seriously compromised. Therefore, to save us all a lot of trauma, he needed to go away somewhere to lick his wounds as soon as possible.

And what exactly has seriously compromised Spitzer’s ability to govern, and what is the source of the trauma?

No one seems to want to say it out loud in so many words. The unspoken assumption is that Spitzer’s dalliance with a high priced hooker would leave him open to constant abuse by the corporate owned media. That is, the voice of the corporations that Spitzer tried to regulate and contain.

It doesn’t seem to have occurred to anybody that the corporate media gets away with this sort of political determinism because we allow them to get away with it. We assume that a corporate media that is hostile to the best interests of our society is inevitable. We can demand that the Governor resign, but we can’t argue with the corporate media.

We did not have to give in to our nameless fears and obediently demand that Spitzer resign. We could have defied the corporate media and told them to shut up and go away so that we could think. But we didn’t.

If Larry Craig had been governor of New York State, I seriously doubt that we would have been told to pass decisive judgment so quickly. Perhaps we would have eventually. But remember, Craig is still a senator. He did not have to resign.

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If you are having difficulties posting a comment, please email Daniel Van Riper. We are experimenting with our spam filters, and we do not want to exclude any legitimate commenters, just spammers!

Posted by: nycowboy
Posted on:
Larry Craig wasn't moving around tens of thousands of dollars, structuring payments, and sending money to fake corporations to hide the fact that he was making 5-digit contributions to mob-run prostitution rings, which is known as money laundering.

Craig simply was soliciting gay sex in a men's room. That at worst is a Class B Misdemeanor or 30 days in jail or a year probation, if a judge is really tough.

Spitzer's crimes where felonies, bringing possible years of prison time if convicted. Money laundering is serious misdoing, as is the crime of structuring, to say nothing of bringing a sex-slave across state lines.

Posted by: alfednewman
Posted on:
Everyone should ask their bankers what would happen if they made multiple cash to wire transfers to the same recipient. I did. I was told that I too would probably be flagged and reported to the IRS.

Posted by: hailstorm
Posted on:
this girl was far from being a "sex-slave", she was a spoiled rich kid from jersey, selling her body to rich men to help pay the rent on her luxury apartment in mid-town manhattan and supplement her lavish lifestyle. and now she's actively using this publicity to push her "music career".

i'm not saying what spitzer did was right (it wasn't, and he did us all a favor by resigning so quickly). and i'm not saying that there aren't "sex-slaves" out there.

but this girl was no sex-slave, and she was no victim. she was a professional whore. on every level.

Posted by: Tom Monjeau
Posted on:
Well, a sad end to what started out as such an exciting prospect in NYS. I think that Spitzer reaped what he sowed, he was truly hoisted by his own petard... It kind of seems that Spitzer's personal style, or lack thereof, left him no well of sympathy to go to. I really wish that he had thought of the people he could hurt by his behavior, and I can't believe that he (just like a certain ex-president) could not just hold himself to a higher standard, at least until their term was over. Well, in the words of my favorite American author "so it goes..."

But on to what is more the focus of Dan's thoughtful comments, I will add that just because you are paranoid, does not mean that someone is not out to get you.

More to the point, my cynical suspicious old self finds it hard to believe that there was not some kind of wink, wink, nod, nod, nudge, nudge somewhere to put some extra eyes or red flags on any Spitzer transactions. With all of the serious enemies that Spitzer in the financial world from the AG's office(Langone and Greenberg to name two prominent ones that come to mind). What's the chances that an "aggreived" ex Wall Streeter or whatever, does not work for North Fork Bank, or its parent (Capital One I think I heard) or have friends that do. I think they say that revenge is a meal best served cold.

After all, the traders on Wall Street cheered at the news that the guy that stopped them from ripping us all off was crashing and burning. They obviously think that they should still be able to rip us off in their trading practices, and that even tho Grasso was fired as head of the NYSE for lots of good reasons, he should still get his almost a 1/4 billion dollar golden parachute. Sheesh. Have they no shame? (a purely rhetorical question Dan).
Even more interesting is how this investigation revved up from 0-60 in no time, with wiretaps (not so hard anymore I guess), stakeouts at the Mayflower. It seems to me that the Aref entrapment/sting took much longer to set up and the "authorities" considered them as dangerous "terrorists". Why was this put on such a fast track I wonder. Possibilities abound, and yet, it could simply have been bad luck for Spitzer.
Well, as I said, I feel bad for his wife and daughters, and I feel bad for all of us that got caught up in his enthusiasm, and then dropped with a thud.

As to more positive things. I had the chance to meet and speak with David Paterson for 10 or 15 minutes a number of years ago (ironically at a Hevesi fundraiser) and I will say that I took an immediate liking to him. He has that rare ability in an "up there" politician to make personal connections, to actually take an interest in the people he meets. I feel very comfortable with him as the Governor and am very optimistic that he will make some tasty lemonade out of the lemons he just got dealt.

Not surprisingly, I was really impressed with Paterson's speech, in fact I thought it was just about perfect under the circumstances. The humor was funny and non-partisan, the substance and priorities he outlined, albeit briefly and in a somewhat amorphous form, were an excellent start.

What surprised and impressed me most however, was his confronting the budget issue directly, by stating straight out that the revenue projections must be lowered and the budget reworked. Holy crap, he acknowledged reality, what a concept. Of course, how well he can herd those cats in the Senate and Assembly to protect budget priorites will be the real test. I am counting on his personal relationships, sense of humor and that reality concept, to enable him to get our finances on some kind of an even keel.

Well, I started this comment as a way to avoid having to get back to patching cracks in my plaster and finish painting. I think I have procrastinated as long as I can for now and better get back to work.

Posted by: Just some dope...
Posted on:
"So, if Spitzer picks his nose a lot, he might be snorting cocaine. If he favors chicken salad sandwiches for lunch, he might be taking bribes from poultry producers. If he reads accounts of sex crimes on his personal computer, he may be a child molester."

But he didn't pick his nose or read about sex crimes. He laundered money.

Comparing Larry Craig to Eliot Spitzer is an apt comparison. The difference between the two is that Spitzer, in addition to being a shitty governor, was a bully -- and like all bullies, he ran away from a fight. Even his wife wanted him to stand and fight. Craig was man enough to stand up and fight.

Spitzer is indefensible after promising so much and delivering nothing. His biggest accomplishment was a worker's comp bill that had been mostly negotiated by Pataki.

He used his position as a bully pulpit to berate and abusive just about every political figure out there. I was at his inaugural address and cringed as he insulted his predecessor and laid out this vision of reform, high ethical standards and independence from special interests.

All the while shuffling money like a criminal to offshore accounts for hookers. I guess he's going to join Mr. Aref in your patheon of heroes. Good for you.

Posted by: Dan Van Riper
Posted on:

I keep saying I'm not going to post responses, but...

Folks, doesn't anybody actually read what I wrote in the above article?

I developed a low opinion of Spitzer early in his term:

I don't give a crap if he can't keeps his pants on. As a crime, it's penny-ante and not worth more than a passing mention. As for "structuring" or whatever big important name you want to give to it, he tried to hide the payments from his wife. What a dope. But who really cares?

I'm astounded that the posters here don't care anymore about the Bill of Rights. You don't seem to care that the FBI is using the so-called "Patriot" Act to snoop around in YOUR bank records. If you don't see it, it's not happening, right?

If you folks are representative of our society as a whole, then the USA is doomed.

As for Mr. Aref, I recommend reading his autobiography which has just been published:

Read, then judge.

Posted by: AlfredMoisiu
Posted on:
"I'm astounded that the posters here don't care anymore about the Bill of Rights. You don't seem to care that the FBI is using the so-called "Patriot" Act to snoop around in YOUR bank records. If you don't see it, it's not happening, right?"

Why would you be astounded? Post-WW2 America has had no problem giving its rights away -- it's more than a passing fad.

I recall a "60 Minutes" feature in the late 80's about an old black gentleman who owned a nursery in Alabama. He flew to Texas to make his purchases for the coming season and carried $25,000 with him, as he was illiterate and didn't trust banks. He had done this for like 10 years.

He was searched, and airport authorities found the money, seized it and released the man. But not the money -- that property was seized via "asset forfeiture" laws... basically, the money was arrested, and it doesn't have any rights.

I mention this because I was offended and outraged that my government would do such a thing. I shared the story with people, and shockingly, 75% said something to the affect of "That sucks, but we need laws like that to get drug dealers"

We've ceded our freedoms to government in exchange for benefits of dubious value. Government has more power, more money than ever before, and it will not give up such power easily.

Posted by: Roger Green
Posted on:
Oooo, I have to write about the Mann Act. I love the Mann Act! It's been the selective prosecution tool going back to Jack Johnson.

Posted by: one flew east
Posted on:
I love the Patriot Act. And no, I don't care if the FBI looks at my bank records. The only people paranoid about the Patriot Act are liberals and criminals.

Which one are you Dan?

Posted by: Dan Van Riper
Posted on:

Hey there, one flew east.. I'm definitely going to quote your above comment next time I want to show the readers the kind of nonsense one is likely to hear from a dumb dittohead who obeys the corporate media.

At the time I'm writing this, Feb 2009,your comment, which is supposed to be threatening, sounds really, really stupid.

Time to grow up, east my boy.

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