Why should New York taxpayers continue to foot the bill to the tune of millions of dollars for Spitzer to pursue a lame case?

Spitzer’s Overreaching Finally Coming Back to Haunt Him

New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer has made himself the darling of the media and a “hero” for the little guy through years of aggressive legal action against any corporate boogieman he could dredge up and bully into a headline-grabbing settlement. Those who haven’t bought into the Spitzer craze have complained that he has dramatically expanded government, grabbed new power for himself, and supplanted more appropriate regulatory forums all while primping for television cameras and bouncing from one soft-ball interview to another.

Increasingly, however, Spitzer’s bully tactics are coming back to haunt him.

For instance, last year, Spitzer announced that he was going after former New York Stock Exchange Chairman Dick Grasso and Ken Langone, a former member of the NYSE Board and Chairman of the Board’s Compensation Committee, because, Spitzer claimed, the two had somehow duped the rest of the Board into allowing Grasso an overly generous salary, retirement and benefits package.

As always, Spitzer turned to his bully playbook, unveiling his action at a massive press conference and boasting that he didn’t really want a trial, he just wanted Grasso to repay the money.

Unfortunately for Spitzer, Grasso and Langone steadfastly maintained that they did nothing wrong and, unlike some of Spitzer’s previous targets, they weren’t prepared to meekly roll over and submit to the A.G.’s will. They decided to fight back.

All along, Grasso and Langone have said that they carefully apprised the NYSE Board of all the details of Grasso’s compensation package while insisting that they never misled anyone.

This week, evidence began to emerge, in the form of leaked interviews conducted for the NYSE’s own internal investigation, which shows that the Board was, indeed, well briefed. According to Newsweek, “several Board members told [the investigation] they were aware of most, if not all of the pieces of Grasso’s pay, casting doubt on statements by Spitzer and the NYSE that the Board was not fully apprised of the deal.”

This information directly supports critics’ claims that Spitzer has dramatically overreached in his pursuit of Grasso and Langone. And while Spitzer certainly grabbed headlines by putting the NYSE execs in his crosshairs, it’s increasing obvious that his case is full of holes.

Newsweek also reveals that “Several board members were openly critical of former NYSE compensation committee chairman H. Carl McCall, who succeeded Langone. … Several board members told [the investigation] that McCall, a former New York State Comptroller, didn’t do enough work in preparing the committee to vote on the pay deal.”

This revelation adds further weight to critics’ contention that Spitzer’s move against Grasso and Langone was more about self-promotion than the public interest. You see, former Comptroller McCall is a leading Democrat in New York and Spitzer is running for Governor. At the time he brought the suit against Grasso and Langone, the Attorney General was desperately courting McCall’s support for his gubernatorial campaign.

Taken together, this new information severely undermines Spitzer’s case and his motives for bringing it. Perhaps more importantly, it once again unmasks Spitzer for what he really is: a self-promoting, ambitious and duplicitous politician who will do or say whatever it takes to achieve his selfish objectives. It also demonstrates, once and for all, that Eliot Spitzer is not the noble do-gooder that he wants voters to see.

All of this begs the question: Why should New York taxpayers continue to foot the bill to the tune of millions of dollars for Spitzer to pursue a lame case?

Perhaps it’s because New York taxpayers don’t realize that Spitzer is funding his public relations and lawsuit binge with their money. Maybe if his many cheerleaders in the media could detach their lips from his posterior for a moment or two, New Yorkers would begin to understand who Eliot Spitzer really is and what he’s really up to.

February 24, 2005
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