Tuesday, March 11, 2008

More on Spitzer Political Hit Job

The more I read, the more convinced I am that this was a blatant hit job, directed solely and precisely at Spitzer. Two observations:

1. The investigation is reported by BBC to have commenced against Spitzer in 2007 when banks notified the IRS of some suspicious transactions involving Spitzer's account:
The investigation began last year when banks reported irregular transfers to the Internal Revenue Service, which traced them back to Mr Spitzer and discovered they were made to a high-priced prostitution ring, an unnamed law enforcement official told the Associated Press (AP) news agency.
2. According to the NYT, Spitzer's name was allegedly discovered in court papers filed in the criminal investigation of four individuals allegedly involved with the prostitution ring:
Mr. Spitzer’s involvement with the prostitution ring came to light in court papers filed last week, the officials said, as federal prosecutors charged four people with operating the service, Emperor’s Club V.I.P. Mr. Spitzer was caught on a federal wiretap discussing payments and arranging to meet a prostitute in a Washington hotel room last month. The affidavit, which did not identify Mr. Spitzer by name, indicated that he had used the prostitution service before, although it was not clear how often.
So what was the impetus for the investigation? Did it start by the FBI's investigation into an ongoing prostitution ring, and Spitzer just happened to be swept up in it? Or did the banks' contact to the IRS cause it to begin investigating Spitzer specifically, which in turn led to the investigation of the prostitution ring?

If it began as an investigation of Spitzer, several questions must be answered. First, why is it that any banking transaction was suspect enough to warrant notifying the IRS? Surely $4,000 expenditures every now and then are not so extraordinary that the federal government must get involved. What about the transactions was suspect? Did they think that Spitzer was evading taxes? Surely not, since he's a public official and has significant disclosure requirements above and beyond the average taxpayer.

If it all began as a result of an investigation of the prostitution ring, how and when did the "suspicious" banking transactions become relevant? Did the investigators have some circumstantial evidence that Spitzer was patronizing prostitutes but needed to dig into his financial records to see if any payments confirmed those accounts? If so, wouldn't it be a bit of a twisting of facts to say that the bank brought them to the attention of the IRS, and not the other way around?

That Spitzer made so many powerful enemies cannot be disregarded when looking into this matter. The reality is that an obscene number of lawmakers make use of prostitutes' services on a regular basis, as do corporate heads - if this were not the case then there would be no such thing as $4,000 hookers, much less so-called "high class prostitution rings." That Spitzer is the lone public figure to be fingered in this investigation should speak volumes. The sketchy facts surrounding the origins of this investigation are even more telling.

Again, no defense for his actions, if the allegations are true. However, it is a private misdeed. What is more important: (1) In judging Spitzer's character, how has he conducted himself in office and what he has done to serve the public in his public capacity?; and (2) In judging the events at hand, how was the investigation brought about, how was it conducted, and what are the end results of the investigation in its entirety? The investigation and the results are a public concern because it was conducted 100% with public funds and in the public interest. Spitzer is of interest only because he is a public official and our only interest in him is his conduct in that position.

I hope Spitzer is as wise in confronting this issue as he's been in all of the other tasks before him; I hope he asks the hard questions and finds out how this came about, and defends himself - not defends his actions, but brings light to the unfathomable breach of public trust that was, no doubt, the impetus behind the investigation.

Let's face it - if Spitzer goes down, if he resigns and never again holds public office, we all lose. As common citizens, we will have lost an invaluable insider, one who was willing to stand up to the wealthy and powerful and fight for what was right. If Spitzer resigns, the bad guys will win yet again.