Tuesday, April 7, 2009
Ashley Dupre (aka "Kirsten") - $4,000 "gremlin"?
Disgraced former New York Governor Eliot Spitzer is working hard to rehabilitate himself publicly. Politico's Ben Smith goes so far as to say that Client Number 9 is "is testing how willing New York, in particular, is to have him back."
Count me as one New York Democrat unwilling to stand by and see this arrogant, bullying, phony sleazeball play any important role in the civic life of the great Empire State again.
Spitzer took his rehab campaign to the "Today" show where he couldn't manage to sound minimally contrite in answering Matt Lauer's questions about his sneaky expensive whoring. "I've tried to address these gremlins and confront them," he told Lauer. The "gremlins" made him do it!
Asked how long and often he'd been patronizing $4,000 hookers, he said, “Not frequently, not long in the grand context of my life. It was an egregious violation of behavior that I fell into for many reasons but none of them an excuse or justifiable.” Ah, whores are but a teensy weensy part of the "grand context" of Spitzer's life. And anyway, he "fell into it." It's not as if he set out to find those "gremlins," they just fell into his lap!
But his whoring is the least of the reasons to be glad Spitzer no longer wields power and want to keep it out of his hands in the future. Last month, Spitzer wrote a piece for Slate pontificating about the "real AIG scandal" -- the pass-through of federal bailout dough to A.I.G.'s counterparties. We're to believe that Spitzer's years as state Attorney General, when he made a reputation as the "Sheriff of Wall Street, make his advice about A.I.G. worthwhile.
The thing is that Spitzer created his own "real A.I.G. scandal." As Attorney General, he routinely tried supposed Wall Street villains in the press. He used the raw power of his office to bring flimsy, but plausible charges, issued a lot of subpoenas and press releases, and threatened to ruin people if they didn't play ball with him. In this fashion, he coerced companies and executives to settle the charges against them to avoid further public pillorying. Then he paraded these scalps to scare the hell out of more targets.
In the case of A.I.G., there is a good argument to be made that Spitzer personally gave that previously sound and successful insurance company the first big push down the hill in 2005 when he went at A.I.G. and its long-time CEO, Hank Greenberg with his usual M.O.
Greenberg, then 80, had run A.I.G. for nearly 30 years and built it from a modest company into a global insurance leader -- an immensely profitable one. He was an old school guy whose reward was tied up in ownership of his company. Indeed, he was by far its biggest owner.
Spitzer brought highly public criminal charges against Greenberg based on supposed accounting chicanery related to dealings with another insurer. He bullied and badgered the company and its board relentlessly, threatening to file criminal charges against the company -- a certain death sentence for an insurance company -- until the board finally agreed under duress to kick Greenberg out and sign one of Spitzer's settlements. Then, the criminal charges against Greenberg were dismissed. Poof! (When former Goldman Sachs Chairman John Whitehead criticized Spitzer's treatment of Greenberg, Spitzer menaced Whitehead, "You will pay the price. This is only the beginning and you will pay dearly for what you have done.")
I not making a brief for or against Greenberg. I have no idea whether or not he did anything wrong. But Spitzer's charges against Greenberg turned out to be mostly hot air. Spitzer was "taking on" the Wall Street fat cats to position himself as the people's savior to run for Governor -- and ultimately for President. (Funny that he never got around to ferreting out Bernie Madoff's Ponzi scheme, which was the kind of fraud that New York law was designed for.)
So what, you ask? AIG's new management will tell you that the credit-default swap-peddling "casino" erected on top of a healthy insurance company was started under Greenberg. Yes, it was, but it also grew tremendously after Greenberg was booted to comply with Spitzer's demand for his head. It was during the period 2005-2007 after Greenberg was ousted that the large-scale reckless gambling in swaps and mortgage-backed securities occurred. Of course, we can't know whether Greenberg would have steered AIG differently. What we do know for a fact is that Spitzer took his axe to the long-established and successful management of a solid company, and then the company went to hell.
Spitzer did not leave his bullying, my-way-or-the-highway antics behind when he became Governor. On the contrary, he misused the State Police to spy on political adversaries. He attacked and strong-armed fellow Democrats in the Legislature for having the temerity to disagree with him. Even before he was felled by his liaison with the fetching "Kirsten," stories were legion about Governor Spitzer screaming uncontrollably and profanely, sometimes spraying spit across the room, at aides, legislators, Republicans, Democrats, anyone he thought might get in his way.
In short, Eliot Spitzer was a man badly in need of a strait jacket. We should ask for a psychiatrist's report before enabling this creep any further.
Check out this update on Ashley Alexandra Duprey -- My favorite part is where she says, "I am proud of myself for surviving." And she's working on a book! I'm sure it will be a page turner, but Ashley may still be best remembered for this.
What do you think about Spitzer's rehab? Post a comment.
Posted by J. E. Burke at 1:13 AM