Wednesday, March 12, 2008

The Spirit of '74: an incomplete narrative?

Malcolm does not expect any rush to defend Eliot Spitzer, the disgraced and now ex-Governor of New York State.

The means of his fall, though, demand more enquiry.

There is now a very curious story, further clouding and complicating things, from Brian Ross at ABC News:

The federal investigation of a New York prostitution ring was triggered by Gov. Eliot Spitzer's suspicious money transfers, initially leading agents to believe Spitzer was hiding bribes, according to federal officials.

It was only months later that the IRS and the FBI determined that Spitzer wasn't hiding bribes but payments to a company called QAT, what prosecutors say is a prostitution operation operating under the name of the Emperor's Club...

The suspicious financial activity was initially reported by a bank to the IRS which, under direction from the Justice Department, brought in the FBI's Public Corruption Squad.

So something that started as suspicion of "hiding bribes" becomes an investigation into personal morals. It has so far involved:
  • an unnamed bank;
  • the Justice Department (proprietor: Attorney General Michael Mukasey, of New York, professional and political associate of Rudy Giuliani);
  • the IRS and therefore the Treasury Department (proprietor: Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson, former assistant to John Ehrlichman of Watergate fame).
  • Oh, and the FBI (proprietor: Robert Mueller, strong proponent of wire-tapping)

Over at Harper's Magazine, Scott Horton has a view on all this:

Note that this prosecution was managed with staffers from the Public Integrity Section at the Department of Justice. This section is now at the center of a major scandal concerning politically directed prosecutions. During the Bush Administration, his Justice Department has opened 5.6 cases against Democrats for every one involving a Republican.
Horton makes a further point that:

The prosecution is opened under the White-Slave Traffic Act of 1910. You read that correctly. The statute itself is highly disreputable, and most of the high-profile cases brought under it were politically motivated and grossly abusive.

He then lists a few, of which two notables are:

  • Heavyweight boxing champion Jack Johnson was the first man prosecuted under the act — for having an affair with Lucille Cameron, whom he later married. The prosecution was manifestly an effort “to get” Johnson, who at the time was the most famous African-American.
  • In 1944 Charles Chaplin was prosecuted for having an affair with actress Joan Barry. The prosecution again provided cover for a politically motivated effort to drive Chaplin out of the country.
Could it be that the Lame Duck presidency is out collecting scalps? And using the methods of Tricky Dicky Nixon? Sphere: Related Content

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