A new variation on an old story

It’s an old tale — a politician gains high office running as an indefatigable opponent of corruption and cover-ups but, upon gaining power, eventually succumbs to temptation and engages in the very practices he had denounced. Several pieces in the Washington Examiner suggest that this story is being played out in New York, minus the “eventually” part, by the state’s new governor Eliot Spitzer.
Spitzer was elected governor in the fall of last year. Already, he faces substantial accusations of covering up actions by two of his most trusted aides who used the state police to falsely accuse Republican New York state senator Joseph Bruno of misusing official transportation resources. Spitzer denied the Post report, but New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo released a report that described how his aides — chief of staff Richard Baum and longtime communications director Darren Dopp — had indeed sought to use state police resources against Bruno.
Spitzer’s fall-back position then became that he did not know his aides were engaging in this improper inactivity. But a Sienna Institute poll taken last week found that more than half of the 600 New Yorkers interviewed do not believe Spitzer’s oft-repeated claim of innocence. According to The Examiner, Spitzer has helped fuel skepticism through various tactics he utilized during the investigation by Cuomo. These include designating as special counsels two aides who “debriefed” Baum and Dopp. This meant that the attorney-client privilege applied to these conversations, thus preventing Cuomo investigators from questioning Baum and Dopp about details of their debriefing conversation.
Meanwhile, The Examiner notes that Spitzer is gearing up for his 2010 re-election campaign, having already raised $5.6 million and spent $4.3 million. Most of the expenditures have gone to a high-powered communications group, but the campaign has also spent $100,000 to retain Acorn Associates, a Brooklyn-based lobbying group associated with ACORN, a radical left-wing community group that developed out of the National Welfare Rights Organization. With the election more than three years away, that’s a lot of “walking around” money.
Moreover, as Mark Tapscott of the Examiner explains, Spitzer’s methods of raising money for 2010 contradict his promise as a candidate that he would unilaterally disarm” from big money contributions. In fact, New York State Board of Elections records show that Spitzer has received at least 226 donations of $10,000 or more from a variety of influential New York individuals, law firms, corporate partnerships, political action committees and labor unions. Thus, Spitzer’s only departure from “business as usual” in New York politics consists of seeking money from interests groups much earlier than normal.
Tapscott argues that the clean government approach is “to put off launching a re-election effort as long as possible to avoid the inevitable ethics [issues] that come when there is even a hint that policy and [campaign contributions] go together.” But ex-good government crusader Spitzer has adopted precisely the opposite approach.
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