New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer apologizes following reports that he was caught up in a high-end prostitution ring. Renee Montange talks with Brooke Masters, a senior business reporter with the Financial Times, about the crime-fighting politcian once known as "Mr. Clean." Masters is the author of Spoiling For A Fight: The Rise of Eliot Spitzer.
It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.
RENEE MONTAGNE, host:
And I'm Renee Montagne.
New York's political world looks different this morning now that the governor known as Mr. Clean has been linked to a high-end prostitution ring. Eliot Spitzer is identified in an affidavit as Client Number 9, hiring a call girl brought from New York to a fancy hotel in Washington, D.C. Governor Spitzer spent eight years as New York's attorney general. He was elected governor a little over a year ago. Here he is delivering his State of the State address.
Governor ELIOT SPITZER (Democrat, New York): We gather here today with the front page stories of scandal fresh in our minds and the minds of all New Yorkers. We are in danger of losing the confidence of those who elected us.
MONTAGNE: The governor, of course, is now in the headlines for a growing scandal. Joining us is Brooke Masters, a reporter with the Financial Times who knows quite a bit about Governor Spitzer. She wrote "Spoiling for a Fight: The Rise of Eliot Spitzer."
Ms. BROOKE MASTERS (Author): Good morning.
MONTAGNE: Let's just begin with the briefest description of how this came out, realizing that there's very little information out there from anybody.
Ms. MASTERS: What there is public is that four people were arrested in connection with a prostitution ring. Authorities somehow got a hold of suspicious transactions connected to Mr. Spitzer - we don't know how - and from there tried to figure out what these transactions, what they were for. And from there they ended up at the prostitution ring.
MONTAGNE: Looking back on Eliot Spitzer's term as New York's attorney general, he was called the Sheriff of Wall Street, Eliot Ness. So considered quite a good guy.
Ms. MASTERS: Yeah, I mean, he really comes across as an incredible straight arrow. When you meet him, he's a guy who talks about his wife and his kids and his office is filled with picture of them.
When I did the book, I interviewed I think four, maybe five ex-girlfriends. They were his college sweetheart, the med student he dated when he was in law school. And they all still liked him. They all pretty much ended the conversations with say hi to Eliot. He had no reputation for taking advantage of women or anything like that.
MONTAGNE: And of course let's remind folks he's been charged with nothing at this point. But given his reputation as a crusader against corruption, how are his colleagues and New Yorkers, for that matter, responding to the scandal?
Ms. MASTERS: Most of them are really, really shocked and disappointed. I mean, this is not what they expected. You know, New Yorkers elected him with a record margin of a vote in 2006 because he pledged to clean up Albany. And I think lots of people were really hoping he would make a difference for a state that's really had a lot of trouble with corruption at the state level.
My e-mails and phones were just packed yesterday with, listen, can you believe this? Including people who had worked with him for, you know, a decade. Like I can not believe this.
MONTAGNE: Is it likely that he will resign?
Ms. MASTERS: You know, it's a tough call. I was struck in yesterday's press conference that he gave that he talked about politics being about ideas, not people. And I think that if he can continue to work on his ideas, maybe he'll stay on. But if he feels he is so tarnished that the ideas and policies he wanted to push - if he can't get anything done, there's no point in being there.
MONTAGNE: It is a fact, though, that it is a crime to engage in prostitution.
Ms. MASTERS: It's worse than that. If what is alleged in the affidavit is true, it's a federal felony, it's a Mann Act violation, it's crossing state lines to engage in prostitution, which is a federal felony which would bar him from office, I believe.
MONTAGNE: So this could be beyond his own control?
Ms. MASTERS: Absolutely. It could be, but he hasn't been charged with anything. And it's a long way from charging to proving, as we all know.
MONTAGNE: Thank you very much for joining us.
Ms. MASTERS: Thanks for having me.
MONTAGNE: Brooke Masters is author of "Spoiling for a Fight: The Rise of Eliot Spitzer."
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New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer stayed out of the public eye Tuesday, a day after allegations surfaced that he spent thousands of dollars for a night with a call girl.
But that didn't stop the increasing pressure for the New York governor to step down. Three New York newspapers want him to resign. And a top state Republican is threatening to push for impeachment if Spitzer doesn't leave within 48 hours.
In order for articles of impeachment to get to the floor, there would first have to be support from the Democratic majority in the state Assembly.
The process would then have to gain at least two-thirds approval of the combined vote of the Republican-controlled Senate and the nine-member Court of Appeals to proceed to trial.
Two Democratic officials close to Spitzer say he hasn't decided whether to resign, and that he hasn't set a timetable for a decision.
A law enforcement official told the Associated Press Tuesday that the case grew out of a public corruption inquiry triggered by Spitzer's movement of cash to bank accounts operated by the call-girl ring.
Speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the investigation, the official said that Spitzer was the initial target of the investigation, and that he was tracked using court-ordered wiretaps.
Investigators said the public-corruption unit of the U.S. attorney's office got involved after the IRS looked into a complaint of a potential violation of the Bank Secrecy Act, the government's main tool against money laundering.
The governor could potentially be charged with a crime called "structuring" — meaning that the payments were designed to hide their actual purpose.
After issuing a brief apology Monday, Spitzer made only a vague mention to his future, saying that he "must now dedicate some time to regain the trust of my family." He did not elaborate.
A Spitzer spokesman said that the governor has retained the Manhattan law firm of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton and Garrison, one of the nation's biggest firms.
Spitzer was allegedly caught on a federal wiretap arranging to meet in a Washington hotel room the night before Valentine's Day with a prostitute from a call-girl business known as the Emperor's Club V.I.P.
The governor has not been charged, and prosecutors would not comment on the case. But he is reportedly identified in an affidavit as Client 9.
Excerpts from the federal complaint that charges four individuals with operating a prostitution ring. The complaint was filed in the Southern District of New York. It is reported that Client-9 is New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer. Temeka Lewis is one of the four defendants. "Kristen" is an Emperors Club prostitute, the document says. QAT, mentioned in section 75, is a bank account customers used for payments.
b. February 13, 2008, Interstate Transportation From New York To Washington, D.C.
73. On February 11, 2008, at approximately 10:53 p.m., Temeka Rachelle Lewis, a/k/a/ "Rachelle," the defendant ... sent a text message ... "Pls let me know if (Client-9's) `package' (believed to be a reference to a deposit of money sent by mail) arrives 2mrw. Appt would b on Wed."
74. On February 12, 2008, at approximately 2:37 p.m., Temeka Rachelle Lewis, a/k/a/ "Rachelle," the defendant ... left a message for "Kristen" that the "deposit" had not arrived today, but that they should be able to do the trip if the deposit arrived tomorrow. ... Lewis and "Kristen" then discussed the time that "Kristen" would take the train from New York to Washington, D.C. Lewis told "Kristen" that there was a 5:39 p.m. train that arrived at 9:00 p.m., and that "Kristen" would be taking the train out of Penn Station. Lewis confirmed that Client-9 would be paying for everything — train tickets, cab fare from the hotel and back, mini bar or room service, travel time, and hotel. Lewis said that they would probably not know until 3 p.m. if the deposit arrived because Client-9 would not do traditional wire transferring.
75. At approximately 8:14 p.m., Temeka Rachelle Lewis, a/k/a/ "Rachelle," the defendant, ... received a call from Client-9. During the call, Lewis told Client-9 that the "package" did not arrive today. Lewis asked Client-9 if there was a return address on the envelope, and Client-9 said no. Lewis asked: "You had QAT ...," and Client-9 said: "Yup, same as in the past, no question about it." Lewis asked Client-9 what time he was interested in having the appointment tomorrow. Clinet-9 told her 9:00 p.m. or 10:00 p.m. Lewis told Client-9 to call her back in five minutes....
(Parts 76-77 refer to discussion of the delay in the "package.")
78. At approximately 3:20 p.m. Temeka Rachelle Lewis, a/k/a/ "Rachelle," the defendant ... received a call from Client-9. During the call, Lewis told Client-9 that they were still trying to determine if his deposit had arrived. Client-9 told Lewis that he had made a reservation at the hotel, and had paid for it in his name. Client-9 said that there would be a key waiting for her, and told Lewis that what he had on account with her covered the "transportation" (believed to be a reference to the cost of the trainfare for "Kristen" from New York to Washington, D.C.). Lewis said that she would try to make it work ...
(Part 78 concludes with a text message to Lewis stating "(P)ackage arrived. Pls be sure he rsvp hotel." Part 79 details train information sent to "Kristen.")
80. At approximately 4:58 p.m. Temeka Rachelle Lewis, a/k/a/ "Rachelle," the defendant ... told Client-9 that his package arrived today, and Client-9 said good. Lewis asked Client-9 what time he was expecting to have the appointment. Client-9 told Lewis maybe 10:00 p.m. or so, and asked who it was. Lewis said it was "Kristen," and Client-9 said "great, okay, wonderful." Lewis told Client-9 that she would give him a final price later ...
(Part 81 includes discussion with Client-9 on payment.)
82. At approximately 8:47 p.m. Temeka Rachelle Lewis, a/k/a/ "Rachelle," the defendant ... received a call from Client-9. During the call, Client-9 told Lewis to tell "Kristen" to go to the hotel and go to room 871. Client-9 told Lewis that the door would be open. ... Client-9 asked Lewis to remind him what "Kristen" looked like, and Lewis said that she was an American, petite, very pretty brunette, 5 feet 5 inches, and 105 pounds. Client-9 said that she should go straight to 871, and if for any reason it did not work out, she should call Lewis.
(Parts 83 and 84 concern "Kristen" telling Lewis that she is in the hotel room, and more discussion of payment.)
85. On February 14, 2008, at approximately 12:02 a.m., Temeka Rachelle Lewis, a/k/a/ "Rachelle," the defendant, received a call from "Kristen." ... Lewis asked "Kristen" how she thought the appointment went, and "Kristen" said that she thought it went very well. Lewis asked "Kristen" how much she collected, and "Kristen" said $4,300. "Kristen" said that she liked him, and that she did not think he was difficult. "Kristen" stated: "I don't think he's difficult. I mean it's just kind of like ... whatever ... I'm here for a purpose. I know what my purpose is. I'm not a ... moron, you know what I mean. So maybe that's why girls maybe think they're difficult..." "Kristen" continued: "That's what it is, because you're here for a purpose. Let's not get it twisted — I know what I do, you know." Lewis responded: "You look at it very uniquely, because. ... no one ever says it that way." Lewis continued that from what she had been told "he" (believed to be a reference to Client-9) "would ask you to do things that, like, you might not think were safe — you know — I mean that ... very basic things. ... "Kristen" responded: "I have a way of dealing with that. ... I'd be like listen dude, you really want the sex? ... You know what I mean." Near the end of the call, Lewis and "Kristen" discussed "Kristen's" departure via Amtrak, the room that Client-9 had provided for "Kristen," and "Kristen's" share of the cash that Client-9 had provided to her.