Depending on where you sit, Gov. Eliot Spitzer's apparent downfall is either distressing or a source of rich if unpleasant irony. For a look at the hopes he carried and the enemies the governor made, Renee Montagne talks with Steve Fishman, contributing editor for New York magazine. Fishman wrote about Spitzer for the magazine last summer.
Depending on where you sit, Governor Spitzer's apparent downfall is either distressing or a source of rich, if unpleasant, irony. For a look at the hopes he carried and the enemies the governor made, we're joined by New York Magazine contributing editor Steve Fishman. He wrote a profile of Eliot Spitzer for the magazine just this last summer. Good morning.
Mr. STEVE FISHMAN (Contributing Editor, New York Magazine): Good morning.
MONTAGNE: What was your reaction when you heard this news?
Mr. FISHMAN: Oh, I was shocked. I think everybody was shocked. I think that was one of the things that registered most vibrantly. People who knew Eliot didn't expect this, even people who knew him closely. With many other cases that we've had around the country, whatever it was that came to public, confirmed rumors that had been heard for a long time. That was not the case in this situation.
So I think that with almost no exceptions, people are shocked.
MONTAGNE: Because you read about him as he was or presented himself - a crusader, the man of high moral character that demanded sometimes angrily from others those same high standards.
Mr. FISHMAN: That's correct. He was a man who was swept into office. Seventy percent of the vote - seems a long time ago now - but he was the man who had a mandate for change, and that mandate was based on the belief that he was the person who could effectually change. He was somebody - not only in whose policies they believed, but they believed that his character, his penchant for rectitude, his penchant for making the right moral judgment was just the person that would need it.
MONTAGNE: And what has been the reaction on Wall Street, where there were many targets of the then Attorney General Spitzer?
Mr. FISHMAN: As attorney general - he was attorney general for two terms, eight years. He went after a number of high profile targets. The first one and the one that made the biggest impact that he went after a number of Wall Street investment firms who were hiding information from the public, among other things. And that earns him a number of those vociferous enemies. And it was those enemies and generally the people that they worked with who actually cheered on the floor of the stock exchange when they heard the news.
MONTAGNE: Now, there would never be a good time for this news. But at the moment, it is particularly complicated given that New York is looking at a four - nearly $4 and a half billion deficit and shortly needs to complete a budget for the coming year. The governor would obviously be right at the heart of that.
Mr. FISHMAN: That's correct. And that's going to complicate that exercise enormously. I think the other change worth bearing in mind is that New York, for too long, has been considered widely a dysfunctional government. Eliot Spitzer responded to change that. And despite a very rocky start, he seemed on a point of effectuating some change. The elections were coming up. The Republican held a one-seat majority which it looked like under the leadership of Governor Spitzer would change. It seemed fairly sure that Governor Spitzer would have Democratic majority in both the House and the Senate and for the first time, really be able to move forward with his program.
MONTAGNE: As Margot just noted, Governor Spitzer spoke in the past tense yesterday at his very, very brief news conference. Will he resign?
Mr. FISHMAN: I don't believe there's any other possibility but resignation. His status as politician is no longer tenable. It would be an enormous distraction both to him, to the party, to anything he wants to get done.
We've been through this kind of psycho drama in the country, neighboring states. Nobody wants a reason of exactly this kind of distracting, destructive drama. And I'm sure that Spitzer knows that. He has to be in his last days of figuring out how he's going to do it. There is some question as to whether he could be charged for some of the things he's accused of doing and whether that figures into his calculation about how and when he might step down.
MONTAGNE: And then, if that's the case, the lieutenant governor, David Paterson, that he would do something that's for the record books in New York.
Mr. FISHMAN: He would. He would be the first African-American governor of New York. He's an able person who's been in politics and whose family has been in politics a very long time. His views certainly align with the affiliates of Governor Spitzer. And in some ways, he would be a, perhaps, a more harmonizing character.
MONTAGNE: Thank you very much for joining us.
Mr. FISHMAN: Thank you.
MONTAGNE: Steve Fishman of New York Magazine speaking to us from New York.
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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.