Why Bush Watergated Eliot Spitzer
By F. William Engdahl, 17 March 2008
A useful rule of thumb in evaluating spectacular scandals around prominent public figures is to ask what and who might want to eliminate that person. In the case of Governor Spitzer, a Democrat, it is clear that the spectacular “leak” of government FBI wiretap records showing that Spitzer paid a high-cost prostitute $4,300 for what amounted to an hour’s personal entertainment, was politically motivated. Why?, is the interesting question.
Spitzer became Governor of the State following a record as a relentless State Attorney General going after financial crimes such as the Enron fraud and corruption by Wall Street investment banks during the 2002 dot.com bubble era. He was bitterly hated on Wall Street for that. He had made his political career on being ruthless against financial corruption. Most recently, from his position as Governor of the nation’s second largest state, and home to its financial industry, Spitzer had begun making high profile attacks on the complicity of the Bush Administration in covertly arranging bailout if its Wall Street financial friends at the expense of ordinary homeowners and citizens, paid all with taxpayer funds.
Curiously, Spitzer, who had been elected governor in 2006 defeating a Republican winning nearly 70 percent of the vote, has been not charged in any crime. However, New York Assembly Republicans immediately announced plans to impeach Spitzer or put him on public trial were he to refuse resignation. Spitzer could be asked to testify in any trial involving the Emperors Club prostitution ring. But so far he hasn’t been charged with a crime. Prostitution is illegal in most US states, but clients of prostitutes are almost never charged. The Spitzer case is in the hands of Washington and not state authorities, underscoring the clear political nature of the Spitzer “Watergate.”
The New York Times said Spitzer was an individual identified as Client 9 in court papers filed last week. Client 9 arranged to meet with "Kristen," a prostitute who charged $1,000 an hour, on February 13 in a Washington hotel and paid her $4,300, according to the court documents. The case is clearly political when compared with more egregious recent cases involving Republicans. Republican Mark Foley was exposed propositioning male interns in Congress and Rudolph Giuliani was discovered cheating on his wife but no Republican calls for resignations.
Why the attack now?
Spitzer had become increasingly public in his blaming the Bush Administration for the nation’s current financial and economic disaster. He testified in Washington in mid-February before the US House of Representatives Financial Services subcommittee on the problems in New York-based specialized insurance companies, known as “monoline” insurers (monoline Versicherung). In a national TV interview the same day, he laid blame for the crisis and its broader economic fallout on the Bush Administration.
Spitzer recalled that several years ago the US Office of the Comptroller of the Currency went to court and blocked New York State efforts to investigate the mortgage activities of national banks. Spitzer argued the OCC did not put a stop to questionable loan marketing practices or uphold higher underwriting standards.
"This could have been avoided if the OCC had done its job," Spitzer said in the interview. "The OCC did nothing. The Bush Administration let the housing bubble inflate and now that it's deflating we're dealing with the consequences. The real failure, the genesis, the germ that has spread was the subprime scandal," Spitzer said. Fraudulent marketing and very low “teaser” mortgage rates that later ballooned higher, were practices that should have been stopped, he argued. "When mortgages are being marketed, there is a marketplace obligation to ensure the borrower can afford to pay back the debt," he said.
That TV interview was only one instance of Spitzer laying blame on the Bush Republicans. On February 14, Spitzer published a signed article in the influential Washington Post titled, “Predatory Lenders' Partner in Crime: How the Bush Administration Stopped the States From Stepping In to Help Consumers.”
That article appeared the day after his ill-fated tryst with the prostitute at the Mayflower Hotel. Coincidence? Spitzer wrote, “"In 2003, during the height of the predatory lending crisis, the OCC invoked a clause from the 1863 National Bank Act pre-empting all state predatory lending laws, thereby rendering them inoperative. The OCC also promulgated new rules that prevented states from enforcing any of their own consumer protection laws against national banks.”
In his article Spitzer charged, "Not only did the Bush administration do nothing to protect consumers, it embarked on an aggressive and unprecedented campaign to prevent states from protecting their residents from the very problems to which he federal government was turning a blind eye." Bush, said Spitzer right in the headline, was the "Predator Lenders' Partner in Crime." The President, said Spitzer, was a fugitive from justice. And Spitzer was in Washington to launch a campaign to take on the Bush regime and the biggest financial powers on the planet. Spitzer wrote, "When history tells the story of the subprime lending crisis and recounts its devastating effects on the lives of so many innocent homeowners the Bush administration will not be judged favorably."
With that article, some Washington insiders believe, Spitzer signed his own political death warrant.