Eliot Spitzer Seeks Political Comeback

Disgraced ex-governor Eliot Spitzer has announced a surprise bid for New York City Comptroller, resulting in general merriment on Twitter and joy in the world of NYC tabloids (as well as more sober political analysis). In all seriousness, some of the prime memories to keep fresh about the 2008 scandal are: 1) Spitzer not only prosecuted those who engaged in the same behavior he was up to, but cynically led a public campaign for longer sentences for “johns”; 2) he engaged in the white-collar offense of structuring or “smurfing,” deliberately keeping financial transactions below a reportable threshold, after prosecuting others based on the same sorts of bank reports; 3) he then used expensive lawyers to beat the rap on both counts, even as smaller fry continue to be convicted for both; 4) from what I can tell – I invite correction if I’m wrong – he’s done approximately nothing in the years since to work toward relaxing or removing legal penalties for small-fry (or for that matter big-fish) johns and smurfers.

More quick resources on Spitzer from me and Cato colleagues:

  • Tim Lynch notes that the wider scandal about Spitzer is the behavior he was applauded for – trashing defendants and the Constitution – rather than the personal failings. Alan Reynolds on Spitzer’s penchant for “trial by press release.” His strange milk-price crusade and his brutalist style in the gunmaker litigation. And much more.
  • In this 2008 National Review article from the height of the scandal, just before he resigned, I recalled how a key part of Spitzer’s “distinctively relentless style” was to demagogically personalize his prosecutions into crusades against “ ‘imperial’ CEOs — he did much to popularize the phrase — [who] had come to feel they were above the law… all talk of forgiveness for momentary lapses in judgment, of deference to uniquely valuable skill sets, and even of basic old-fashioned due process for the accused, were but excuses.”
  • As part of our tag on Spitzer at Overlawyered, we cover the smurfing charges, how Spitzer “curried political favor with anti-libertarian feminist and legal services groups” through his crusade against johns, and his subsequent lectures on (not making this up!) business ethics.