*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?
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.
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
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
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.
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
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.
Permalink for The Virtual Assassination Of Governor Spitzer
Prior Post * * * Next Post