Spitzer Has Little Support in Albany

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Democratic Gov. Eliot Spitzer's has only tepid support, even among his allies within New York's political establishment. Some Democratic officials have called for Spitzer's resignation. A Republican opponent has threatened impeachment if Spitzer doesn't resign.

RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

We go now to New York capital, Albany. There the Democratic governor is finding only tepid support, even among Spitzer's allies within the state's political establishment. NPR's Mike Pesca reports.

MIKE PESCA: Two mornings ago the Emperor's Club was an obscure movie starring Kevin Kline and the most exciting thing going on in Albany was a basketball tournament being held at the local arena. The Sienna Saints earned a spot on the March Madness brackets, and the citizens of Albany soon found out that their governor had engaged in some un-saintly behavior.

It turns out that a college basketball analogy may be just the thing to describe Eliot Spitzer's situation. Like a team waiting to see if they get to participate in the postseason, Eliot Spitzer is on the bubble.

It seems so unfathomable, thinking back to the rhetoric of his inaugural address.

(Soundbite of audio)

Governor ELIOT SPITZER (Democrat, New York): Every policy, every action, every decision we make in this administration will further two overarching objectives: we must transform our government so that it is as ethical and wise as all of New York and we must rebuild our economy.

PESCA: Some Democratic officials have called for Spitzer's resignation, and it is difficult for him to find anything other than tepid support within his own party.

His opponents, like Republican Assemblyman James Tedisco, are more full-throated.

Assemblyman JAMES TEDISCO (Republican, New York): We've got to get to work. We've got to forget about this distraction. One man does not make a democracy.

PESCA: If Spitzer won't resign, Tedesco is threatening impeachment. Yes, impeachment as laid out by the framers of the New York State constitution in Articles 32 through 34.

Here's actor Ted Zellner(ph), who performs with the Capital Repertory Theater, breathing life into the 18th century document.

Mr. TED ZELLNER (Actor): And this convention doth further in the name and by the authority of the good people of this state, ordain, determine and declare that a court shall be instituted for the trial of impeachments.

PESCA: Among legislators, the most popular phrase in talking about impeachment is: I don't think it will come to that. The very threat, however, could be a tactic which lights a fire under the governor.

And even Spitzer's supporters do crave an answer, any answer, so the capital doesn't become crippled. Carrie Deo(ph) is an 18-year-old who is visiting the state capital from Bethlehem, New York as part of a church group. She was a fan of Spitzer's, but now thinks he should go.

Ms. CARRIE DEO: I feel like there's always something going on. Like, I remember a year or two ago something happened with the controller. And I feel like there's something always like this happening that sets the government back from what they need to be doing.

PESCA: Albany seems aligned against the governor. Perhaps he has only one constituency left. I spoke with the owner of an Albany escort business listed in the yellow pages as offering no illegal services, just sensual companionship.

The proprietor, who preferred not to use her name, wrote a poem explaining why a man would seek the company of an escort.

Unidentified Woman: It's just a business. His heart is true. At the end of the day he'll be with you. So when he comes home, no need to fight. Just get in bed and say goodnight.

PESCA: But even she did have a problem with Eliot Spitzer's $80,000 D.C. dalliances.

Unidentified Woman: You know, they're always talking about, you know, losing business in New York, having business go to other states. Seems like he would've kept the business in New York somewhere.

PESCA: These past few days have shown that Eliot Spitzer has few friends in Albany, not even the kind you pay for.

Mike Pesca, NPR News, Albany, New York.

MONTAGNE: And there's more coverage of Governor Spitzer at npr.org, including a look at the colorful history of the federal law that he might be charged under. Also, there's a photo gallery showing political wives standing by their men caught in scandals.

Copyright © 2008 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

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Spitzer Resigns After Sex Scandal, Pressure

New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer announces his resignation with his wife, Silda, at his office.

New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer announces his resignation with his wife, Silda, at his office in New York. Timothy A. Clary/Getty Images hide caption

itoggle caption Timothy A. Clary/Getty Images
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The Federal Case

In partial transcripts that include "Client 9," the government details what it says is an interstate sex-for-money scheme.

New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer has resigned, bowing to enormous pressure for him to leave public office in the wake of allegations that he has repeatedly used the services of a high-priced prostitution ring. Spitzer has not denied those allegations.

A somber Spitzer, flanked by his wife, Silda, stepped to the podium to give up the office he assumed just 14 months ago.

"I look at my time as governor with a sense of what might have been," Spitzer said.

"The remorse I feel will always be with me," he told gathered reporters. "I cannot allow for my private failings to disrupt the people's work."

Referring to the high standards he has expected from others, "I can and will expect no less of myself," he said.

The governor's resignation will have an effective date of Monday, March 17, one week after the case first became public knowledge. Lt. Gov. David Paterson, 53, now becomes New York's first black governor. Paterson, who is legally blind, will serve out Spitzer's term, which ends on Dec. 31, 2010.

Spitzer has not been charged with a crime.

In response to media speculation that Spitzer may have been bargaining with prosecutors in the case, Michael J. Garcia, U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, said: "There is no agreement between this office and Governor Eliot Spitzer, relating to his resignation or any other matter."

Michele Hirshman, Spitzer's former deputy attorney general and now a member of a high-powered New York law firm, has been retained to represent the governor.

Speaking an hour before Spitzer's announcement, New York Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno said the governor "must deal with his own problems in his own way."

"But it is time for us, and all New Yorkers, to move forward," Bruno said.

Since acknowledging in a brief statement on Monday that he had acted "in a way that violates my obligations to my family," the first-term Democrat and his family had remained secluded in their apartment on Manhattan's 5th Avenue.

In his long tenure (1999-2006) as New York's attorney general, Spitzer honed a reputation as a hard-charging prosecutor who brooked no compromises when it came to enforcing the law. Along the way, he collected a number of influential enemies, particularly on Wall Street, where Spitzer aggressive prosecuted financial misdeeds.

Spitzer said he is "deeply sorry" that he didn't live up to what was expected of him. He said he "sincerely" apologizes to every New Yorker.

Republicans on Tuesday threatened to impeach Spitzer if he didn't resign. Polls taken immediately after the revelation show that 70 percent of New Yorkers wanted him out of office.

The scandal erupted Monday, when allegations surfaced that Spitzer, 48, who is married with three teenage daughters, was the person investigators identified as "Client 9" — a customer of a call girl named Kristen. The two allegedly met at a swanky Washington hotel on the night before Valentine's Day.

Officials say Spitzer spent up to $80,000 with the prostitution ring Emperors Club VIP.

The investigation was triggered when banks noticed frequent cash transfers from several accounts and filed suspicious-activity reports with the Internal Revenue Service, a law enforcement official told the Associated Press. The accounts were traced back to Spitzer, prompting public corruption investigators to open an inquiry.

Spitzer was then allegedly caught on a federal wiretap. He could now face several charges, which include structuring — shuffling money around between accounts and entities in an attempt to mask a transaction — and transporting prostitutes across state lines.

In an AP telephone poll, 49 percent of New Yorkers said that even if Spitzer resigns, he should face criminal charges. The survey, conducted Tuesday, contacted 624 registered voters; it had a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.

Transcript of the statement Spitzer delivered Wednesday announcing his resignation:

In the past few days I've begun to atone for my private failings with my wife, Silda, my children and my entire family. The remorse I feel will always be with me. Words cannot describe how grateful I am for the love and compassion they have shown me.
From those to whom much is given, much is expected. I have been given much — the love of my family, the faith and trust of the people of New York, and the chance to lead this state. I am deeply sorry I did not live up to what was expected of me.
To every New Yorker, and to all those who believed in what I tried to stand for, I sincerely apologize. I look at my time as governor with a sense of what might have been, but I also know that as a public servant, I and the remarkable people with whom I worked have accomplished a great deal.
There is much more to be done and I cannot allow my private failings to disrupt the people's work. Over the course of my public life I have insisted, I believe correctly, that people, regardless of their position or power, take responsibility for their conduct.
I can and will ask no less of myself. For this reason I am resigning from the office of governor, and at Lt. Gov. David Paterson's request, the resignation will be effective on Monday, March 17, a date that he believes will permit an orderly transition.
I go forward with the belief, as others have said, that as human beings our greatest glory consists not in never falling but in rising every time we fall.
As I leave public life, I will first do what I need to do to help and heal myself and my family, then I will try once again, outside of politics, to serve the common good and to move toward the ideals and solutions which I believe can build a future of hope and opportunity for us and for our children.
I hope all of New York will join my prayers for my friend, David Paterson, as he embarks on his new mission and I thank the public once again for the privilege of service. Thank you very much.

from NPR reports and the Associated Press.

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