The case against Eliot Spitzer did not start with the report of a crime. Rather it started with a decision to look into Spitzer’s financial dealings to see if any dirt could be spotted and then developed into something consequential. It was not the amount of money being transferred that triggered interest. What triggered not just interest but action was the person initiating the transfers, for he was a powerful Democratic governor who just might be, by this means, removed from office.
Several reports about this case have suggested that it is somehow routine for prosecutors to go through the financial records of public officials to look for evidence of corruption. But in the absence of specific grounds justifying the investigation (for instance, an informant complaining about a bribe), prosecutors have no such authority. Investigators in this case appear to have been investigating Spitzer in the hopes of finding something compromising. Nailing Spitzer had become a politically-based priority.
By contrast, in the case of Republican Congressman David Vitter, federal prosecutors had proceeded against a prostitution ring yet showed little interest in the customer list that included a former high-ranking Bush Administration official (Randall Tobias, director of the U.S. Agency for International Development) and a U.S. Senator (David Vitter, Republican of Louisiana). In fact, the prosecutors' conduct in the "D.C. Madam" case was remarkably deferential to the public figures involved. Vitter got a slap on the wrist and that was the end of it. So why the double standard when it’s a Democrat that gets caught in the net?
The feds had built their case against the prostitution ring and were ready to make arrests, but it seems they held back in hopes they could get enough incriminating evidence to maximally slam Spitzer. They could have gone with the announcement about the prostitution ring back in January. But they didn’t. They waited until they could get permission from Attorney General Mukase to tap Spitzer’s phone calls – they got that permission that same month – and then proceeded to get enough on Spitzer to remove him from office.
“Spitzer was caught on a federal wiretap discussing plans to meet a high-priced prostitute in Washington, D.C. The news was first reported Monday afternoon.”
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