It’s been more than five years since New York State Governor Elliot Spitzer announced he was resigning the office because he got caught going to hookers. Along with the salacious details and the jokes about client #9 and the former Gov. wearing black socks during his trysts, there were revelations about Spitzer at the time that had nothing to do with the Governor’s use of high-priced women of negotiated affection. The Governor was involved in a “Nixonian” abuse of power targeting political opponents. And the only thing which prevented the ex-governor from doing a perjury-caused “perp walk” was his prior resignation over the sex story.
While Mr. Spitzer was New York Governor, reporters began to ask questions about his use of state aircraft, which is supposed to be for official business. As the New York Post recently revealed, those reporters were right to be skeptical. Turns out that Mr. Spitzer travelled on a state airplane on the infamous 2008 trip to Washington where he had arranged to meet a prostitute.
Anyway, in 2007, Team Spitzer enlisted the state police in an effort to gather information on the use of state aircraft by another politician—[State Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno-R] Mr. Bruno. Mr. Spitzer’s staff then shared with the media the data they dug up on Mr. Bruno.
On July 23, 2007, New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo’s office admonished the Spitzer administration for ordering the State Police to keep special records of Senate majority leader Joseph Bruno’s whereabouts when he traveled with police escorts in New York City. At the direction of top officials of the Spitzer administration, the New York State Police created documents meant to cause political damage to Bruno.
A 57-page report issued by the Attorney General’s office concluded that Spitzer engaged in creating media coverage concerning Senator Bruno’s travel. The investigation looked into both Bruno’s travel and the Senate leader’s allegation that Spitzer used State Police to spy on him. Cuomo concluded that “These e-mails show that persons in the governor’s office did not merely produce records under a Freedom of Information Law request, but were instead engaged in planning and producing media coverage concerning Senator Bruno’s travel on state aircraft before any FOIL request was made.” It also suggests that the governor’s staff lied when they tried to explain what they had done and forced the State Police to go far beyond their normal procedures in documenting Bruno’s whereabouts.
Obviously Spitzer went after Bruno’s travel to get the heat off his own “business” trips.
Cuomo’s report cleared Bruno of any misuse of the state’s air fleet. The report criticized Spitzer’s office for using State Police resources to gather information about Bruno’s travel and then releasing the information to the media. The findings of the report were endorsed by Spitzer’s own Inspector General, Kristine Hamann.
As the smear campaign quickly backfired, Mr. Spitzer claimed to be unaware of the effort and denounced it. Later, in an interview with the District Attorney of New York’s Albany County, Mr. Spitzer denied directing the effort to gather dirt on his rival and also denied ordering its release to the media.
This conflicts with the sworn 2008 testimony of a former Spitzer aide, Darren Dopp, who had been granted immunity. Mr. Dopp said that not only did Mr. Spitzer order the release of the Bruno travel records, but he told Mr. Dopp to “shove it up [Mr. Bruno’s] [expletive deleted] with a red hot poker.”
There’s additional information in a 2008 report from the Albany County DA. The Bruno travel story appeared in the July 1, 2007 edition of Albany’s Times Union newspaper. In the early morning hours of that day, Mr. Spitzer sent an email from his private account to Mr. Dopp. Entitled “TU,” the note said, “Havent seen paper yet. How does i[t] look?”
The DA’s report stated that “If Dopp’s testimony is credited, then former Governor Spitzer’s answers were not truthful. Accordingly, we intended to present these conflicting accounts to a grand jury.”
The DA decided not to proceed after Mr. Spitzer resigned his office. But now he’s seeking another office, as New York City’s comptroller, claiming to have learned his lesson about cavorting with prostitutes while he was the state’s chief law enforcement officer but otherwise defending his record in office.
Why should this be an issue today? Spitzer is running for comptroller of NYC. He has said if he gets elected he will use the City’s investment power, the vast stakes in public companies, to pursue his political agenda and make changes in those companies.
With his track record of abusing his power as governor to go after his political opponents do we really want to give Spitzer the power of the City’s pensions funds to achieve his ends—especially when he has lied to the public over and over? I think not.