Spitzer Legacy Will Stay Strong
Transgressions with prostitutes don’t negate the New York Governor and former Attorney General’s success as a crime fighter. Pro or con?
Pro: Accomplishments Will Stand
Eliot Spitzer’s marital infidelity might very well end his public career. And dabbling in illegal behavior hardly bolsters his crime-fighting bona fides. But it simply cannot reverse the legacy of his powerful reforms: rooting out long-tolerated corruption in Wall Street and related white-collar circles.
Equity analysts, for example, cannot and will not go back to selling favorable research for banking fees. The tens of damning press releases that emerged from the Attorney General’s office six years ago will not be invalidated. Though ousted executives might now contend that Spitzer was calling the kettle black the whole time—how dare he moralize to others!—that will not be enough to restore them to their corporate thrones.
If it’s any comfort, Eliot Spitzer was already diminished: His tour as Governor has been a step down in efficacy from his days as a crusading Attorney General. He was a phenomenal Attorney General, but New Yorkers may never know if he would have been a great Governor as well.
Con: A Sorry Record
New York Governor Eliot Spitzer’s tenure will go down in history as one of the most spectacularly ineffectual in the state’s history. As the Governor gets ready to relinquish his post in the wake of admitting he has been a client of a high-priced prostitution ring, it’s difficult to remember the triumphs he claimed as a crusading Attorney General.
Spitzer entered the Governor’s mansion with enormous expectations, driven by his own ambition and rhetoric. And he was seriously considered to have the best chance to become the U.S.’s first Jewish president. Known as “The Sheriff of Wall Street” and even “Eliot Ness,” Spitzer went after white-collar criminals, as well as, yes, prostitution rings.
As Governor, Spitzer hasn’t had time to do much besides alienate Republican rivals in the New York State House with whom he would have to do business to get anything done, and he even presided over staff members who engineered a sophisticated smear campaign against Spitzer’s Republican rival, State Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno.
Governor Spitzer will be judged only as a hypocritical moralizer who self-destructed after just one year as Governor.Opinions and conclusions expressed in the BusinessWeek,com Debate Room do not necessarily reflect the views of BusinessWeek, BusinessWeek.com, or The McGraw-Hill Companies.