March 11, 2008
One-eyed Justice

In case you think for a moment that the Feds’ investigation of Eliot Spitzer was just law enforcement business as usual and mighty bad luck for the governor, read this story. Now read it again, substituting Arnold Schwarzenegger for Eliot Spitzer, and ask yourself if an investigation would have even gotten off the ground. Pay particular attention to the moment when it became obvious to the Republican U.S. Attorney that no tax fraud or political corruption was involved.

Addendum: see this for a fuller treatment. The whole mess is starting to “shine and stink like rotten mackerel by moonlight,” as John Randolph of Virginia once said.


Posted by Jerome Doolittle at March 11, 2008 02:42 PM
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Meanwhile, in Italy, a judge decided that it was legal for a woman to lie about adultry.

Posted by: on March 11, 2008 3:29 PM

Scott Horton, a lawyer with the go-to blog (at Harper's) for the case of Don Siegalman, former governor of Alabama now incarcerated, apparently through Rovian machinations, notes that Spitzer is accused of violating the White-Slave Traffic Act of 1910.

The statute itself is highly disreputable, and most of the high-profile cases brought under it were politically motivated and grossly abusive.

Without defending Spitzer, Horton questions the extreme amount of resources poured into the investigation, and says:

Spitzer will be labeled a hypocrite (a charge he can hardly refute).

However, there is a second tier of questions that needs to be examined with respect to the Spitzer case. They go to prosecutorial motivation and direction. Note that this prosecution was managed with staffers from the Public Integrity Section at the Department of Justice. This section is now at the center of a major scandal concerning politically directed prosecutions. During the Bush Administration, his Justice Department has opened 5.6 cases against Democrats for every one involving a Republican. Beyond this, a number of the cases seem to have been tied closely to election cycles. Indeed, a study of the cases out of Alabama shows clearly that even cases opened against Republicans are in fact only part of a broader pattern of going after Democrats.

Posted by: Chuck Dupree on March 11, 2008 5:43 PM

Woops, looks like I forgot to refresh the front page before commenting, so I didn't see the Addendum.

Posted by: Chuck Dupree on March 11, 2008 5:51 PM

No problem. It can't be said too often.

Posted by: Jerry Doolittle on March 11, 2008 5:54 PM

On the one hand, Spitzer did this to himself. On the other hand, he was politically targeted as a Democratic governor beyond question. This administration would do no less and has done so in other cases far less cut and dried, and would not likely have done so to a Republican office holder.

It stinks, but the first point remains.

Posted by: Michael on March 12, 2008 5:00 AM

Disagree strongly with the premise of this post. Law enforcement's nervous system picked up large cash movements by a high public official. Totally kosher to find out what he was moving the money for. Was he breaking the law, or was he just building up his stamp collection with cash purchases? What if he was buying the sex (or drugs, for instance) not for himself, but for a state senator whose vote he needed? This is a legit public integrity inquiry.

When they found crimes, mostly by people other than the gov, it was legitimate for them to carry through with the investigation and prosecute. Anything else, they would have been derelict of duty. Could they have referred the matter to local authorities in NY? They could have, and probably would have had it not been the gov. The end result -- arrest and prosecution of the pimps and outing of the clients -- would have been the same, so this is a distinction without a difference in the event.

Should Spitzer have resigned? No. This was a crime, but not associated with his public office.

Posted by: on March 13, 2008 5:28 PM
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