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Spitzer

You know you want it...

Not to be foily, but Jane does have just a few questions, and alert reader Steve-AR sets up an obvious alternative narrative:

After reading that, it is starting to look as if they caught him in a wiretap and then reversed “engineered” the criminal charges to get the Dem.

No! They would never do that. I mean, it's not like they would ever watch everything! Oh, wait...

Because remember this?

McClatchy:

In a policy reversal, President Bush has agreed to sign legislation allowing a secret federal court to assess the constitutionality of his warrantless domestic eavesdropping program, a senior Republican senator announced Thursday.

By having the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court conduct the review instead of a regular federal court, the Bush administration would ensure the secrecy of details of the highly classified program. The administration has argued that making details of the program public would compromise national security.

However, such details could include politically explosive disclosures that the government has kept tabs on people it shouldn’t have been monitoring.

Hmmm.... Way back in 2006....

And why should Spitzer have to resign, when Diaper Davey Vitter's still in the Senate?

And while we're at it, if Spitzer was Client #9, who were clients 1-8, clients 10...n? How many others have $5000/hour to help support the world's oldest profession besides politicians and the press?

NOTE Personally, I think it's a sighting shot for 2008. I mean, do you imagine the Republicans play cleaner the closer they come to losing power? Didn't think so.

UPDATE From the latest AP, this little detail:

"Client 9" insisted on paying in cash.

Maybe that's what they don't like; cash isn't traceable. And as we know, they want to trace everything. Which is unfortunate, since in the event of a bank run, lots of us are going to want cash.

UPDATE Greenwald weighs in. Who cares? And the excellent Scott Horton has a remarks as well:

(3) The resources dedicated to the case in terms of prosecutors and investigators are extraordinary.

(4) How the investigation got started. The Justice Department has yet to give a full account of why they were looking into Spitzer’s payments, and indeed the suggestion in the ABC account is that it didn’t have anything to do with a prostitution ring. The suggestion that this was driven by an IRS inquiry and involved a bank might heighten, rather than allay, concerns of a politically motivated prosecution.

All of these facts are consistent with a process which is not the investigation of a crime, but rather an attempt to target and build a case against an individual.

And interesting, isn't it, that this whole story, that starts with a wiretap, breaks the same day and completely buries a story on how these guys can wiretap entire cities whenever they fucking want. Odd, that.

One can't help but think that many of those piling onto Spitzer are doing so because they're hoping to get a break from the Stasi on whatever's in their own files.

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Joebasic's picture
Submitted by Joebasic on

I can tell you that the media here has gone over-the-edge crazy.
Spitzer came in and took over and the republicans in the State Senate absolutly hate and despise him.
Add this to the rather inconvinient fact that, with the election that was just held that reduced the Republican majority to one seat, and one can reasonably ask a lot of questions about what actually went down here.
It does not look good for Mr Spitzer however..but the point is well taken about our dear diapered Mr. Vitter.
Tomorrow will be an interesting day in these parts.
Joebasic
Recovered DU member

Submitted by lambert on

Just asking....

[x] Any (D) in the general. [ ] Any mullah-sucking billionaire-teabagging torture-loving pus-encrusted spawn of Cthulhu, bless his (R) heart.

Joebasic's picture
Submitted by Joebasic on

But I used to be a chef at a local private next to the NY Legislature..and lets just say..those boys know how to party.
Joebasic
Recovered DU member

BDBlue's picture
Submitted by BDBlue on

I just posted this over at FDL in Jane's questions thread, but here's how Spitzer could have easily come to the attention of a New York US Attorney's Office (why they pursued a prostitution case is a different question). Specifically, I tried to answer Jane's question one:

1. Why would the bank tell the IRS and not Spitzer himself if there was a suspicious transfer? Spitzer is a longtime client, a rich guy and the governor. We're talking thousands of dollars here, not millions. It doesn't make a whole lot of sense that they spotted a "suspicious transfer" made by the governor, and that this is how things began. It's possible it was just ordinary paperwork the bank had to file with the government whenever some particular flag was raised, but if that's the case, why did the DoJ go to DefCon 3?

Jane has misunderstood what is meant when the government refers to suspicious activity reports, also known as SARs. SARs are required to be filed by banks with a small Treasury agency, the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network ("FinCEN") whenever a bank see what seems to be suspicious activity occurring within an account. Federal law (31 U.S.C. 5318(g)(2)) prohibits the notification of any person that is involved in the activity being reported on a SAR that the activity has been reported. This prohibition effectively precludes the disclosure of a SAR or the fact that a SAR has been filed. So the bank could not have notified Spitzer that it had filed a SAR (but it could raise the issues of Spitzer's activity with him without telling him about the SAR).

As for spotting Spitzer's SAR among all of the others, New York U.S. Attorneys' Offices have a history of using SARs as part of their efforts to combat financial crimes. In many USAOs, there is a SAR review team. SAR review teams are inter-agency law enforcement teams, usually coordinated by an Assistant United States Attorney, that sit down and review every SAR that was filed in a judicial district to see if any investigating agency is interested in looking into it further. Whether an investigative agency is interested in pursuing a SAR is going to depend on how suspicious the activity appears to be, the magnitude of the activity, and the jurisdiction and resources of the various agencies. IRS would take a SAR that reported suspicious activity that looked like tax fraud. Customs would take one that looked like smuggling. The FBI would take one that looked like terrorism.

So it's not hard to see how a SAR filed on Elliot Spitzer might have gotten some attention or at least a curious agent or AUSA interested in looking into it further.

It's also not hard for me to see how he might have engaged in suspicious activity if he was using cash. While it's true $5,000 isn't a lot of money to Spitzer and other millionaires, it is a lot of cash since most folks pay for larger purchases these days with credit cards or other forms. Very few people, even millionaires, walk around with thousands of dollars in their pockets.

I should add that as someone who has done a lot of counter-money laundering work, SARs are extremely helpful not only in helping target criminal activity but also in protecting financial institutions. SARs came about because of concerns that large financial institutions were taking criminals' money with a blind eye, which not only facilitated the criminal activity, but had a corrupting effect on the financial institutions themselves as they became more and more dependent on the criminal proceeds. In addition, it seemed more reasonable to target accounts that had suspicious transactions than it did to put in broader sweeping rules similar to the Currency Transaction Reports that required forms to be filed for anyone who deposited more than 10,000 - a big net that swept up a lot of people. The idea behind SARs is that it would narrow the number of people being looked at by having the folks who knew them as customers identify activities that were suspicious for that type of customer, as opposed to simply looking at everyone.

Of course, as with every government reporting or surveillance program, even the decent ones, it has grown over the years and is subject to abuse. And my work in the anti-money laundering area pre-dates the current Administration, so I'm unsure what may have changed since 9/11 changed everything.

And, of course, none of this means that Spitzer wasn't wrongly targeted by the DOJ for prosecution (even if the SAR review team uncovered his SAR, the decision to investigate it might've been made for political reasons) or that this particular prosecution isn't a political witch hunt or was a good or typical use of DOJ resources (it does seem like an awful lot of resources). Just because a SAR is typical, doesn't mean this prosecution is.

For more information on SARs and the required reporting under the Bank Secrecy Act, see FinCEN's website at www.fincen.gov.

Submitted by lambert on

... in the Senate, not to mention Ted Haggard still walking the streets (as it were), Spitzer should resign why? Oh, wait. Spitzer's a Democrat. I forgot. Sorry. (Dick Morris doesn't count, right?)

[x] Any (D) in the general. [ ] Any mullah-sucking billionaire-teabagging torture-loving pus-encrusted spawn of Cthulhu, bless his (R) heart.

chicago dyke's picture
Submitted by chicago dyke on

will be if he can say that or not, to members of the press asking him about resignation. from now on, every sentence he constructs about this matter should end in something like, "...but multiple marital indiscretions and living with gays didn't stop julie annie from running for president" or "vitter and craig continue to serve with distinction, according to my republican friends' silence on their adulteries."

there's no reason for him to resign, in the age of the Two Wetsuit party. still, can i just have my WTF moment? no person is worth 4K for a single encounter. that's one good sales job, convincing him that there is some piece worth that price. men are so fucking stupid. way to throw away the presidency for some tail, dickhead. what, you couldn't get what you wanted for free from some lobbying chippie or wonky fan? i doubt that. no, this was all spitzer's ego. "i'm so rich and powerful i can fuck this ultrasuperspecial ho that only the richest and most powerful men fuck." whatever.

seriously, even if money is like toilet paper to you, 4K? again, that's a great con job or a really stupid and insecure client/john, or both. i'll tell you in case you haven't heard: you can't pay for the best in sex. it has to be shared, freely. if you're paying for it, you've already stepped down from the Top.

Submitted by lambert on

As I just commented over at TalkLeft:

My point is not that Spitzer is not hypocritical.

However, in the Village, innocent bystanders are in short supply. And surely Spitzer is not the only member of the New York-Washington, DC axis taking advantage of Amtrak's fine, and DHS-free, Northeast Corridor service for an out-of-town tryst.

And I would bet that many Villagers who are Shocked, shocked! today are at the same time checking their own personal phone, email, and financial records very, very carefully, especially those involving out of town stays, and double especially those during this campaign season. Eh?

Or did I not get the memo that power was no longer an aphrodisiac? We're an empire now. Let's try to behave like it, shall we?

[x] Any (D) in the general. [ ] Any mullah-sucking billionaire-teabagging torture-loving pus-encrusted spawn of Cthulhu, bless his (R) heart.

chicago dyke's picture
Submitted by chicago dyke on

as you say, lambert, too many Villagers and courtiers are utter hypocrites when it comes to sexual fidelity issues. and yes, i bet there's a clear line between some Wall St powerfirm he was investigating/pressuring and republicans in charge of surveillance programs. oh well. i just can't muster that much sympathy for him (i'm still pissed at him for being so stupid).

when are democrats going to learn? if you want to live like republicans, live like fucking republicans. flaunt the rules openly, and with contempt for them. people respect that. it's why they let republicans get away with so much. people don't respect those who choose to make a career out of Standing Tall for Moral Values and then prove to be little, tiny egos who honestly believe 4K is a good idea for one night.

any dem who doesn't understand the true price of taking it out of his pants is just a fucking moran. erm, i'm getting really angry about this and should go take a breather. our "heroes" suck. can we just flush the entire party clean of all of them, and start over?

BDBlue's picture
Submitted by BDBlue on

Spitzer needs to learn from Vitter and Craig and, yes, Clinton and delay. As I said at Talk Left, if Spitzer knows he's going to be charged, that's one thing, but if he isn't then he needs to delay making any decision. Let the initial outrage play out. Find out more about the circumstances of the investigation.
See if he can regain his footing with time.

He may yet need to resign, but I don't like it when Democrats cave immediately, it only encourages Republican witch hunts of Big Democrats.

And, yes, Spitzer is an idiot for thinking he could get away with something, but he's not the first rich and powerful person to think he's different from the average joe. He's also not the first person to be an idiot about sex.

Spitzer was always a state prosecutor, right? Because I wonder how much of his problem is his failure to realize the potential federal jurisdiction? In my experience even the good state prosecutors know shit about federal crimes and law enforcement. So he may have thought the only people he had to worry about were State officials - probably more likely to give the Governor a break.

cenobite's picture
Submitted by cenobite on

I'm disappointed, but I can't really condemn him.

I've made some pretty poor choices myself because of sex, and I'm a very smart man normally. I honestly don't know how lonely or desperate he was, but I know from personal experience that's a heavy load to carry.

It's easy for me to understand why he thought going to a pro was a safer option than an affair with a "lobbying chippie or a wonky fan", which would have been a lot more likely to blow up in his face later. He's a wealthy man, so the money's not a big deal to him, but discretion is.

DCblogger's picture
Submitted by DCblogger on

CNet

The National Security Agency was once known for its skill in eavesdropping on the world's telephone calls through radio dishes in out-of-the-way places like England's Menwith Hill, Australia's Pine Gap, and Washington state's Yakima Training Center.

Putting it hear because I wasn't sure if it merited its own post or not.

DCblogger's picture
Submitted by DCblogger on

I think it was a case of the GOP was out to get him and they got him. But I hope it wakes up Democrats as to the seriousness of the US Attornies scandal and the seriousness of FISA abuse.

BDBlue's picture
Submitted by BDBlue on

I have no confidence that this will lead to Democrats scrutinizing the investigation or further investigating the politicization of DOJ.

In response to these kinds of things, Dems have a habit of tsk-tsking the accused, distancing themselves as fast as possible, and then throwing the fallen Big Dem under the nearest bus. Rinse. Repeat.

And perhaps Spitzer deserves to be thrown under a bus, but nobody knows that for sure right now, nobody knows anything about the circumstances around the investigation, and, yet, I bet there will be plenty of Dems only too happy to encourage Spitzer to step down for the "good of his party." A lot of Democrats would've been thrilled if Clinton had resigned immediately, but it wouldn't have been good for the party to capitulate to the Republican coup. So long as Democrats run whenever there is a scandal, you can bet there will always be more scandals.

Submitted by lambert on

Funny how the battles of the '90s keep coming back.

And proving, once again, that to Republicans, abuse of power is just as good as sex. Or perhaps is sex, I'm never sure which.

Really, I'm almost hoping Spitzer goes "we'll just have to win, then."

Because does anybody imagine this will be the last scandal? With the warrantless surveillance program, they've got ratfucking material that Nixon never dreamed of...

[x] Any (D) in the general. [ ] Any mullah-sucking billionaire-teabagging torture-loving pus-encrusted spawn of Cthulhu, bless his (R) heart.

BDBlue's picture
Submitted by BDBlue on

Republicans celebrate abuse of power, but sex, now there's something a politician should be driven from office over (provided, of course he is a democrat, absent a felony conviction Republicans can always stay in office).

That the Dems continue to want to give more surveillance authority to these fuckers, tells you how stupid Dems are. How much evidence do they need that the Republican Party is not - and has not been for decades - interested in:

1) Working with democrats to solve America's problems;
2) Solving America's problems; or
3) Being in any way, shape or form honest brokers that Democrats can deal with (sure there may occasionally be one Republican here or there who is but what Dems fail to realize is that it is that Republican who is the exception that proves the rule).

Despite these three obvious things, Democrats time and time again treat Republicans as if they are people who should be dealt with instead of a political party who should be crushed. They side with them in scandals over their fellow Democrats. They try to strike compromises on important legislation only to have Democratic legislation stymied by filibusters and vetos. They approve their cabinet and judicial nominees with fingers crossed hoping for the best. And every single time the Democrats come out looking like the dumb fuckers they apparently are.

There can be no Unity with Republicans, they aren't interested in working with Democrats, they are interested in destroying them. It's a dog eat dog world and instead of trying to be the hunter instead of the prey, Democrats spend all of their time searching for some imaginary Unity Pony.

sTiVo's picture
Submitted by sTiVo on

1. Less coverage of the circular firing squad aka Hillary/Barack. Last night I came to the realization that I need to give to the DNC now instead of buying bullets for the squad.

2. There's at least a smidgen of hope that this might make some fence-sitters on the whole spying/eavesdropping issue see what's at stake.

True, Wall Street is up to its neck in Schadenfreude (see today's WSJ) but hell, maybe blogistan can make THAT an issue. Spitzer may be a hypocrite but that doesn't mean all these assholes were right all along.

DCblogger's picture
Submitted by DCblogger on

If I had disposable income I would feed the CorrenteWire hamsters or some of my other favorite bloggers.

The business community knows the Republicans will not be in power again for years, so they are throwing money at the Democrats.

Sarah's picture
Submitted by Sarah on

I keep hearing how there's never been so much as a whisper about Spitzer before this, and this is about one encounter on 2/13/2008.

My WTFmeter is overloaded already, but kids, this sets off every bozo circuit on the planet.

bringiton's picture
Submitted by bringiton on

Read couple of longer essays, more for a sense of attitude than for content, but the buzz is that he's done it seven or eight times at least with this outfit. For him to trip the SAR system would have likely taken more than one event even if the evil ones were watching every move, and repeated large cash withdrawals by a major public figure would draw some scrutiny regardless of who they might be.

Had he been willing to settle for the ladies who worked the Potomac Lounge, he'd have saved himself some scratch and probably never been caught.

hobson's picture
Submitted by hobson on

They just announced on NPR that he's resigning. But no one knows what is actually going to happen. The AP is reporting that he will resign effective Monday.

He didn't get much positive press in his first year. Wayne Barrett of The Voice said that he really shook things up in Albany but the only press he got was for going after the Assembly head with state troopers.

Barrett said that this all happened so fast it was like an assassination. He has no support among Dems here. Barrett is also saying there were no hints, unlike a lot of other pols, about his having a secret sex life.

Barrett is also talking about the investigation. He finds it strange that the US Attorney's office took down the wires that they had just gotten a 30 day extension on. He is saying that Spitzer was apparently the target and that they didn't want to get too many other "big" people caught up in the net.

Barrett is saying that he feels no doubt that if this had been a Republican, it would not have happened in the same way.

It is really disappointing. It seemed that he was going to be such a change from 12 years of Pataki. But I began to wonder about him after seeing him at the Public Democracy Forum around 3 years ago. He was an impressive speaker but when you listened to the content, it sounded much like other pols including Pataki.

I have no idea what David Paterson will be like.