54th Governor of New York
January 1, 2007 – March 17, 2008
|Preceded by||George Pataki|
|Succeeded by||David Paterson|
January 1, 1999 – December 31, 2006
|Preceded by||Dennis Vacco|
|Succeeded by||Andrew Cuomo|
|Born||June 10, 1959
The Bronx, New York
|Spouse(s)||Silda Wall Spitzer|
|Residence||Manhattan, New York|
|Alma mater||Princeton University
Harvard Law School
Eliot Laurence Spitzer (born June 10, 1959) is an American lawyer and former politician of the Democratic Party. He served as the 54th Governor of New York from January 2007 until his resignation on March 17, 2008 in the wake of the exposure of his involvement as a client in a high-priced prostitution ring. Prior to being elected governor, Spitzer served as New York State Attorney General.
Spitzer was born and raised in The Bronx, to Jewish real estate tycoon Bernard Spitzer and Anne Spitzer, an English literature professor. He attended Princeton University for his undergraduate studies and Harvard Law School for his Juris Doctor. It was there that he met his future wife, Silda Wall. After earning his Juris Doctor degree, Spitzer joined the law firm of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison.
Two years later, he joined the Manhattan District Attorney's office, headed by Robert M. Morgenthau, to pursue organized crime. He launched the investigation that brought down the Gambino family's control over Manhattan's garment and trucking industries. In 1992, Spitzer left to work at the law firm of Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom and, later, Constantine and Partners.
In the 1998 election, Spitzer defeated incumbent Republican Dennis Vacco by a slim margin to become New York State Attorney General. His campaign was financed by a controversial multi-million dollar loan from his father. As attorney general, Spitzer prosecuted cases relating to corporate white collar crime, securities fraud, internet fraud and environmental protection. He most notably pursued cases against companies involved in computer chip price fixing, investment bank stock price inflation, predatory lending practices by mortgage lenders, fraud at American International Group, and the 2003 mutual fund scandal. He also sued Richard Grasso, the former chairman of the New York Stock Exchange, claiming he had failed to fully inform the board of directors of his deferred compensation package, which exceeded $140 million.
In 2007, Spitzer was inaugurated governor of New York after defeating Republican John Faso in the November election. During his time in office, he proposed a bill to legalize same-sex marriage in New York and issued an executive order allowing illegal immigrants to be issued driver's licenses, which have both attracted controversy. In July 2007, he was admonished for his administration's involvement in ordering the State Police to record the whereabouts of State Senate majority leader Joseph L. Bruno.
On March 10, 2008, The New York Times reported that Spitzer was a client of a prostitution ring under investigation by the federal government. Two days later, he announced his resignation as governor of New York, effective March 17, citing "private failings."
Eliot Spitzer was born on June 10, 1959 in the Bronx, the son of Anne (née Goldhaber), a former teacher; and Bernard Spitzer, a real estate mogul. Both sets of grandparents immigrated to New York City in the 1920s. His paternal grandparents were Galician Jews born in Tluste, Poland. His maternal grandparents were born in the 1890s in Palestine. Spitzer is the youngest of three children. He was raised in the affluent Riverdale section of The Bronx in New York City. His family was not particularly religious and Spitzer did not have a bar mitzvah.
He is a graduate of Horace Mann School. After allegedly scoring 1590 on the SAT exam, Spitzer attended Princeton University and majored in the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs. At Princeton, he was elected chairman of the undergraduate student government, and graduated in 1981. He claims he scored a perfect score on the LSAT, and went on to Harvard Law School, where he met and married Silda Wall. They married on October 17, 1987, and together they have three daughters. Spitzer was an editor of the Harvard Law Review. As of now he works at The City College of New York in Harlem. He teaches a class in political science.
Upon receiving his Juris Doctor (J.D.) degree, Spitzer clerked for Judge Robert W. Sweet in Manhattan, then joined the law firm of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison. He stayed there for less than two years before leaving to join the Manhattan District Attorney's office.
Spitzer joined the staff of Manhattan District Attorney Robert M. Morgenthau, where he became chief of the labor-racketeering unit, spending six years pursuing organized crime. His biggest case came in 1992, when Spitzer led the investigation that ended the Gambino organized crime family's control of Manhattan's trucking and garment industries.
Spitzer devised a plan to set up his own sweatshop in the city's garment district, turning out shirts, pants and sweaters, and hiring 30 laborers. The shop manager eventually got close to the Gambinos, and officials were able to plant a bug in their office. The Gambinos, rather than being charged with extortion – which was hard to prove – were charged with antitrust violations. Joseph and Thomas Gambino, the latter being an extremely high-ranking member, and two other defendants took the deal and avoided jail by pleading guilty, paying $12 million in fines and agreeing to stay out of the business.
Spitzer left the District Attorney's office in 1992 to work at the law firm of Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, where he stayed until 1994. From 1994 to 1998 he worked at the law firm Constantine and Partners on a number of consumer rights and antitrust cases.
In 1994, Spitzer put aside his private practice to concentrate on attaining the elected office of New York State Attorney General. He lost in the 1994 election but was elected in the next election in 1998. He went on to become one of New York's most recognizable Democratic politicians. On November 7, 2006, he was elected Governor of New York.
In 1994, long-serving Democratic New York State Attorney General Robert Abrams decided to leave office after having unsuccessfully challenged Al D'Amato for the seat of U.S. Senator from New York in 1992. Several Democrats saw weakness in Abrams' replacement as Attorney General, G. Oliver Koppell, and ran for the party's nomination, Spitzer among them. At the time, he was young and unknown, and, despite heavy funding from his own family, his campaign ended when he placed last among four candidates for the nomination. Judge Karen Burstein won. Burstein subsequently lost to Republican Dennis Vacco in the general election, part of a Republican sweep that included the election of Governor George Pataki.
That election of a Republican in 1994 allowed Spitzer to run again in 1998. Now more experienced in party politics, he won the Democratic primary, defeating Koppell, State Senator Catherine Abbate, local representative Jeff Orlick, and former Governor's Counsel Charles Davis. He went on to defeat the incumbent Vacco by 48.2 percent of the vote to Vacco's 47.6 percent. He ran for re-election in 2002, opposed by Republican Judge Dora Irizarry. Spitzer won re-election, this time with 66 percent of the vote.
In 2004, The Nation endorsed Spitzer as a possible Democratic candidate for vice president, stating that he was 'the single most effective battler against corporate abuses in either political party'. He was, however, not chosen.
On December 8, 2004, Spitzer announced his intention to seek the Democratic nomination for governor of New York. While long rumored, Spitzer's announcement was unusually early—nearly two years before the election. As a result of Spitzer's relative speed in bringing state Democrats to his side, he gained the respect of Democratic leaders nationwide. New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson dubbed Spitzer the "future of the Democratic Party" at a fund raiser held in June 2005 for Spitzer's gubernatorial campaign.
In January 2006, Spitzer selected New York State Senate minority leader David Paterson as his choice for Lieutenant Governor and running mate. After announcing his candidacy, Spitzer was endorsed by numerous New Yorkers, including state Comptroller Alan Hevesi and two former New York City mayors, David Dinkins and Ed Koch. On May 30, 2006, Spitzer and Paterson won the endorsement of the New York State Democratic party. A June 2006 Quinnipiac University poll showed him leading Nassau county executive Thomas Suozzi 76-13 percent. On July 25, 2006, he faced Suozzi in a gubernatorial debate held at Pace University in Manhattan, discussing issues such as public authorities and Medicaid. When asked about marijuana, Spitzer stated that he disagrees with medicinal use of the drug, claiming that other medicines were more effective. In the Democratic primary held on September 12, 2006, Spitzer handily defeated Suozzi, securing his party's nomination with 81 percent of the vote.
As Attorney General, Spitzer stepped up the profile of the office. Traditionally, state attorneys general have pursued consumer rights cases, concentrating on local fraud while deferring national issues to the federal government. Breaking with this traditional deference, Spitzer took up civil actions and criminal prosecutions relating to corporate white-collar crime, securities fraud, Internet fraud, and environmental protection.
A number of experts, including economists, lawyers, and political analysts have commented on Spitzer's active role in public policy debates. The New York Attorney General's office has Wall Street (and thus many leading corporate and financial institutions) within its jurisdiction. Also, the New York Attorney General wields greater than usual powers of investigation and prosecution as to corporations under New York State's General Business Law. In particular, under Article 23-A, § 352 (more commonly known as the Martin Act of 1921), the New York Attorney General has the power to subpoena witnesses and company documents pertaining to investigations of fraud or illegal activity by a corporation. Spitzer used this statute to allow his office to prosecute cases which have been described as within federal jurisdiction. In January 2005, the president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce described Spitzer's approach as "the most egregious and unacceptable form of intimidation we've seen in this country in modern times".
Spitzer used this authority in his civil actions against corporations and criminal prosecutions against their officers. It proved its usefulness in the wake of several U.S. corporate scandals that began with the collapse of Enron in 2001. Several of these corporations, as well as the brokerage houses that sold their stock, were accused of having inflated stock values by unethical means throughout the 1990s. When inquiries into these allegations by the SEC and Congress failed to gain traction, Spitzer's office used its subpoena power to obtain corporate documents, building cases against the firms both in courtrooms and in public opinion.
In addition to prosecutions and civil actions in the financial sector, Spitzer has pursued cases in both state and federal courts involving pollution, entertainment, technology, prostitution, corruption, occupational safety and health and other fields in which New York plays a part in setting and maintaining national standards of conduct.
The New York State Senate Investigations committee is considering investigating a controversial multi-million dollar loan the governor’s father Bernard Spitzer gave him when he ran for attorney general in 1998, a loan the younger Spitzer has acknowledged not being truthful about. Senate Investigations Committee Chairman George Winner told The New York Post that subpoenas should be used to find out about the loans. Winner wrote to Senate Elections Committee Chairman Senator Joseph Griffo that an article profiling Spitzer in New York Magazine "outlined what may have been a willful effort by Eliot Spitzer and his father to circumvent campaign-contribution limits in New York state law and then conceal their actions." In 1998, Spitzer claimed that he secured the $5 million loan by mortgaging apartments his father had given him, but later revealed that his father was actually paying off the loans and, therefore, financing his campaign.
At the traditional midnight ceremony, Spitzer was sworn in as governor of New York on January 1, 2007. A public ceremony was held at 1 p.m. on the same day which featured brass and percussion players from the Empire State Youth Orchestra Bucking tradition, the ceremony was held outdoors – the first outdoor inauguration ceremony in New York for over a century. After taking the oath of office, he attended a concert at the Times Union Center in his honor, headlined by James Taylor and Natalie Merchant.
|The Spitzer Executive Chamber|
|Governor||Eliot Spitzer||2007 – 2008|
|Lieutenant Governor||David Paterson||2007 – 2008|
|Secretary to the Governor||Rich Baum||2007 – 2008|
|General Counsel||David Nocenti||2007 – 2008|
|Communications Director||Darren Dopp||2007 – 2007|
|Christine Anderson||2007 – 2008|
|Director of State Operations||Olivia Golden||2007 – 2008|
|Paul Francis||2008 – 2008|
|Chief of Staff||Marlene Turner||2007 – 2008|
|Office of the Attorney General||Andrew Cuomo||2007 – 2008|
|Office of the Inspector General||Kristine Hamann||2007 – 2008|
|Office of the Comptroller||Thomas Sanzillo (Acting)||2007 – 2007|
|Thomas DiNapoli||2007 – 2008|
|Department of Agriculture and Markets||Patrick Hooker||2007 – 2008|
|Department of Banking||Richard H. Neiman||2007 – 2008|
|Department of Civil Service||Nancy G. Groenwegen||2007 – 2008|
|Department of Correctional Services||Brian Fischer||2007 – 2008|
|Department of Environmental Conservation||Alexander Pete Grannis||2007 – 2008|
|Department of Education||Richard P. Mills||2007 – 2008|
|Department of Health||Richard F. Daines||2007 – 2008|
|Department of Insurance||Eric R. Dinallo||2007 – 2008|
|Department of Labor||M. Patricia Smith||2007 – 2008|
|Department of Motor Vehicles||David Swarts||2007 – 2008|
|Department of Military & Naval Affairs||Maj. Gen. Joseph J. Taluto||2007 – 2008|
|Department of Public Service||Patricia Acompora||2007 – 2008|
|Garry A. Brown||2008 – 2008|
|Secretary of State||Lorraine Cortés-Vázquez||2007 – 2008|
|Department of Taxation & Finance||Robert L. Megna||2007 – 2008|
|Department of Transportation||Astrid C. Glynn||2007 – 2008|
Spitzer's reform-based platform, and his pledge "to change the ethics of Albany", hit an early roadblock when his ideas on how to fill vacancies in the executive department were defeated by the state legislature. According to the New York State Constitution, it is the duty of the state legislature to fill executive vacancies. The governor was criticized as unreasonable for admonishing the legislature when it took constitutional actions. The appointment of state assemblyman Thomas DiNapoli to succeed the disgraced Alan Hevesi as Comptroller of the State of New York was a serious blow to the new governor. Spitzer had backed an outside panel to draft a list of qualified candidates; the legislature resisted Spitzer's desires when these included no legislators. Some Assembly Democrats were alienated over the incident, and questioned Spitzer's refusal of extending patronage to party members seeking local political appointments.
Spitzer's choice was New York City Finance Commissioner Martha Stark, who was selected by a panel that consisted of former State Comptroller Edward Regan, former State Comptroller Carl McCall and former New York City Comptroller Harrison J. Goldin. On February 7, 2007, when the Legislature voted, Stark was one of two names put into nomination, along with Assemblyman Thomas DiNapoli of Long Island, Assembly Leader Sheldon Silver's choice. The final vote was 150 for DiNapoli and 56 for Stark. Stark's main support came from Democrats in the Senate, along with Republicans in both chambers.
Spitzer traveled to the home districts of Democratic assemblymen William B. Magnarelli and George S. Latimer (in Syracuse and Westchester County respectively), and publicly criticized them for their votes on DiNapoli; he had plans to exert similar pressure on other of his party's legislators.
One of Spitzer's key campaign pledges was to reform the state budget process. While the state did pass a budget on schedule in 2007, the ultimate results fell short of what many reformers hoped Spitzer would achieve. The New York Post opined, "Spitzer promised reform, and delivered something completely different" and termed the budget itself "bitterly disappointing."
Spitzer's budget quickly turned into a deficit, as by the end of October it was projected the state would run a deficit exceeding $4 billion for the year. During Spitzer's first year the state payroll increased, aggravating budget problem. Despite increasing the public sector payroll, in late 2007 New York State started leading the nation in lost jobs. The 2008-09 budget includes measures to counter financial effects of the crisis in the financial sector starting in the second half of 2007.
Spitzer was criticized by members of the New York State Legislature for failing to compromise on issues during his first few months as governor. In one exchange, according to The New York Post, Spitzer told New York State Assembly Minority Leader James Tedisco: "Listen, I'm a f - - -king [hyphens sic on Post website] steamroller and I'll roll over you and anybody else", although they reported that neither party had provided the confirmation the Post sought. Spitzer's reputation as a "steamroller" was shared by a plurality of New Yorkers in a Quinnipiac University poll, but by a 3 to 1 margin they believed the tactic had been unsuccessful and had only added to political gridlock.
Tedisco later accused Spitzer of cutting $300,000 of state funding for health care and education grants in the Schenectady area as retaliation for Tedisco's opposition to the Spitzer plan to allow illegal immigrants New York State driver's licenses. Tedisco accused the Governor of "dirty tricks" and "bullying".
In the wake of the controversy involving the "troopergate" scandal involving Bruno, Spitzer was accused of pandering to special interest groups to solidify his base of support. "The governor who took office vowing to clean up Albany has lost so much public support that he is reduced to feathering the nest of the unions and other liberals", wrote Michael Goodwin of the Daily News.
In April 2007, Spitzer proposed a bill that would legalize same-sex marriage in New York. State Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno announced his opposition to the proposal. This legislation passed in the State Assembly on June 19, 2007, but was denied in the State Senate and was returned to the Assembly.
On July 23, 2007, New York State Attorney General Andrew Cuomo's office admonished the Spitzer administration for ordering the State Police to keep special records of Senate majority leader Joseph L. Bruno's whereabouts when he traveled with police escorts in New York City. At the direction of top officials of the Spitzer administration, the New York State Police created documents meant to cause political damage to Bruno.
A 57-page report issued by the Attorney General's office concluded that Spitzer engaged in creating media coverage concerning Senator Bruno's travel. The investigation looked into both Bruno's travel and the Senate leader's allegation that Spitzer used State Police to spy on him. Cuomo concluded that "These e-mails show that persons in the governor's office did not merely produce records under a Freedom of Information Law request, but were instead engaged in planning and producing media coverage concerning Senator Bruno's travel on state aircraft before any FOIL request was made." It also suggests that the governor's staff lied when they tried to explain what they had done and forced the State Police to go far beyond their normal procedures in documenting Bruno's whereabouts.
The report cleared Bruno of any misuse of the state's air fleet, which had been alleged. The report criticized Spitzer's office for using State Police resources to gather information about Bruno's travel and releasing the information to the media. The findings of the report were endorsed by Spitzer’s own Inspector General, Kristine Hamann.
Spitzer responded at a July 23 press conference that "As governor, I am accountable for what goes on in the executive branch and I accept responsibility for the actions of my office" and that his administration had "grossly mishandled" the situation. Spitzer subsequently announced that he would indefinitely suspend his communications director, Darren Dopp, and reassign another top official. When questioned about his promise to bring ethical responsibility to state politics, Spitzer responded by saying "I will not tolerate this behavior", "ethics and accountability must and will remain rigorous in my administration," and that "I have always stated that I want ethics and integrity to be the hallmarks of my administration. That is why I requested that the State Inspector General review the allegations with respect to my office, and that is why we have fully cooperated with both inquiries."
The investigations of the event, dubbed "Troopergate" by media outlets, have not been affected by Spitzer's resignation. As of March 2008, four probes by the state Attorney General's office, the State Senate Investigations Committee, the Albany County District Attorney's Office, and the New York Commission on Public Integrity are ongoing.
On September 21, 2007, Spitzer issued an executive order directing that state offices allow illegal immigrants to be issued driver's licenses effective December 2007. Applicants for driver's licenses would not be required to prove legal immigration status and would be allowed to present a foreign passport as identification. After meeting with the Department of Homeland Security in October 2007, Spitzer altered the plan so that licenses issued to migrant workers would look different from other licenses and that the new licenses would not allow access to airplanes and federal buildings.
On October 21, 2007, the State Senate voted to oppose the Spitzer plan by a 39–19 vote. Eight Democrats from moderate districts broke with Spitzer on the vote. After the vote, The New York Times called this issue "Mr. Spitzer’s single most unpopular decision since he took office."
Following the State Senate's vote, Spitzer revised his plan again, proposing the issuance of a third type of driver's license. This driver's license would be available only to United States citizens who are New York State residents, and would be valid for crossing the Canadian border. Spitzer also announced that the expiration dates of temporary visas would be printed on the driver's licenses of individuals living in the country with them.
On November 14, the day following the release of a poll showing the proposal as extremely unpopular with voters, Spitzer announced he would withdraw the plan, acknowledging that it would never be implemented. The decision drew derision from the press, as the Associated Press termed this reversal a "surrender." WCBS-TV labeled him "Governor Flip-Flop." State Senator Rubén Díaz of the Bronx said he was "betrayed" by Spitzer's abandonment of the plan.
As of November 13, 2007, Spitzer's approval rating as Governor was 33 percent, a further decline from his 44% approval rating of October 24, 2007. A later poll showed that New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg would defeat Spitzer were he to seek reelection. Two polls in December 2007 showed further erosion in Spitzer's public standing.
On March 10, 2008, The New York Times reported that Spitzer had previously patronized a high-priced prostitution service called Emperors Club VIP and met for over two hours with a $1,000-an-hour call girl going by the name Ashley Alexandra Dupré (legal name Ashley Rae Maika DiPietro, born Ashley Youmans). This information originally came to the attention of authorities from a federal wiretap. Spitzer had at least seven or eight liaisons with women from the agency over six months, and paid more than $15,000. According to published reports, investigators believe Spitzer paid up to $80,000 for prostitutes over a period of several years while he was Attorney General, and later as Governor. Spitzer first drew the attention of federal investigators when his bank reported suspicious money transfers, which initially led investigators to believe that Spitzer may have been hiding bribe proceeds. The investigation of the governor led to the discovery of the prostitution ring.
In the wake of the revelations, Spitzer announced on March 12, 2008 that he would resign his post as Governor effective at noon of March 17, 2008, amid threats of his impeachment by state lawmakers.
"I cannot allow for my private failings to disrupt the people's work," Spitzer said at a news conference in New York City. "Over the course of my public life, I have insisted– I believe correctly– that people 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."
Since resigning, Spitzer has become a regular columnist for Slate but has otherwise kept a relatively low profile. Close friends have stated that Spitzer spends most of his time with his family, and regularly meets with lawyers in his father Bernard's real estate office in Manhattan. Spitzer and his wife have entered couples therapy.
On July 16, 2008, The New York Times made public that Spitzer used campaign funds to pay for two Mayflower Hotel bookings, $411.06 apiece, where he was suspected to have met with prostitutes. While it remains unclear if Spitzer actually stayed in the hotel on the nights he booked, The Times has stated that Spitzer met with prostitutes in early 2008. Spitzer declined to comment on the issue.
According to an article published on July 23, 2008 in The New York Times, the state ethics committee is continuing their investigation into his administration's handling of travel records. If found guilty of wrongdoing, he faces a maximum $10,000 fine. The Times also reported that federal investigators are still debating on whether or not to bring about criminal charges against Spitzer for his involvement in the prostitution scandal. Spitzer has declined to comment on the recent developments.
In November 2008, prosecutors in charge of the case announced that Spitzer would not face criminal charges for his involvement in the sex ring citing they found no evidence of misuse of public funds and therefore pressing charges would not serve the public interest. Spitzer offered an apology for his conduct saying "I appreciate the impartiality and thoroughness of the investigation by the U.S. Attorney's Office, and I acknowledge and accept responsibility for the conduct it disclosed."
Later in the month, The Washington Post published a Spitzer opinion piece conveying his analysis of the financial crisis of 2008 and suggested remedies. Spitzer concluded the piece by saying that he hoped the Obama Administration would make the right policy choices, "although mistakes I made in my private life now prevent me from participating in these issues as I have in the past."
On December 3, 2008, Slate magazine published the first of a new column by Spitzer dedicated to the economy. In March 2009, Spitzer was interviewed by Fareed Zakaria, the discussion centered around the 2008 financial crisis. Spitzer argued that as attorney general he was active in pursuing white collar crime and that he had investigated many of the investment banks that have been blamed for contributing to the crisis.
On April 7, 2009, it was announced that Spitzer's first scheduled extended public-speaking engagement would be a discussion with the New York chapter of the Entrepreneurs' Organization to take place on June 17. 
On February 2, 2010 he appeared on The Colbert Report and commented on the economy and banking crisis.
On February 11, 2010 he appeared at Syracuse University and spoke about the economy. In which he emphasized his prosecution of investment banks during his tenure as Attorney General and the need for government regulations in the market place.
Biographies and profiles:
Critics: Greg Palast
|New York State Attorney General
|Governor of New York