Last updated: March 12, 2008 11:42 pm

Spitzer forced out by sex scandal

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Eliot Spitzer on Wednesday resigned as governor of New York in the wake of allegations that he spent tens of thousands of dollars on ­prostitutes, ending the ­political career of a man who rose to power as a crusader for higher ethical standards on Wall Street and in ­government.

Mr Spitzer’s departure came two days after the disclosure of his involvement with a prostitution ring that is the subject of a federal criminal investigation.

Mr Spitzer could still face charges of violating interstate anti-prostitution laws and rules against splitting up bank transfers to avoid legal scrutiny. However, legal experts said charges against customers were un-usual in prostitution cases.

Mr Spitzer’s lawyers had worked to arrange a deal under which the governor would resign in return for leniency from prosecutors. Michael Garcia, the US attorney in Manhattan, issued a statement on Wednesday saying there was no agreement with the governor relating to his resignation.

A person close to the Spitzer camp said efforts to negotiate a plea deal fell through because the authorities viewed his resignation as a given, rather than a concession.

Mr Spitzer will officially step down on March 17, 441 days after taking office.
He will be succeeded by David Paterson, lieutenant governor, who will become the first African-American governor of New York.

In a news conference in Manhattan, Mr Spitzer, a Democrat, calmly apologised to his wife, family and the people of New York.

“In the past few days I have begun to atone for my private failings, with my wife, Silda, my children and my entire family,” Mr Spitzer said, his wife standingnext to him. “The remorse I feel will always be with me. Words cannot describe how grateful I am for the love and compassion they have shown me.”

Many on Wall Street who felt the sting of Mr Spitzer’s tactics as state attorney-general rejoiced in his demise. However, some Wall Street historians suggested that the dismal end to Mr Spitzer’s public life should not obscure his accomplishments.

“He has had a lasting impact on the financial services industry and by and large it has been a good one,” said Samuel Hayes, professor at the Harvard Business School. “He stumbled into an era when there were real abuses taking place and he recognised them. His process, his own personal arrogance, were negatives, but one can’t argue with the existence of the abuses and his forceful intervention.”

Mr Spitzer said he looked at his brief time in office with a sense of “what might have been”. Mr Spitzer, who has three daughters, said that after leaving office he would spend time healing himself and his family and then seek to work for the common good “outside ­politics”.

Mr Spitzer’s wife and some of his staff had hoped he would stay on as governor, but he faced pressure from both Republicans and Democrats to resign.

In a snap poll taken after his resignation by SurveyUSA, 85 per cent of New Yorkers said he was right to step down and 64 per cent said he should be charged with a criminal offence.

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