As upsetting and intolerable as Eliot Spitzer’s patronage of high-priced prostitutes was for most New Yorkers, the notion that he may have lied about his involvement in the “Troopergate” scandal — raised by a New York Times story Monday — should be even more infuriating.
And these wouldn’t be little “white” lies concerning minor details of the scandal, in which his aides planted an embarrassing story about Spitzer’s chief political adversary in the Times Union. They would be bald-faced whoppers concerning Spitzer’s fundamental role in the political dirty trick on Senate Majority Leader Joseph L. Bruno.
When the story broke last July and it became apparent that Spitzer aides had set up a hatchet job on Bruno, Spitzer denied knowing about it or having anything to do with it. He maintained a moral high ground, expressing remorse for his aides’ behavior, suspending one and demoting another.
But in recent testimony before Albany County District Attorney David Soares, one of those aides — who was subsequently granted immunity from prosecution and thus has no reason to lie — reportedly said that Spitzer was behind the whole operation; that the then-governor insisted on leaking the damaging information when the aide expressed concern that doing so might start a political war.
It did exactly that, and may have even led to the governor’s downfall: According to a different story in Monday’s Times, Roger Stone, the infamous Republican consultant/dirty trickster, may have been the person who instigated the FBI investigation into Spitzer’s use of high-priced prostitutes. (Stone himself became a casualty of the Spitzer-Bruno war, fired by Bruno last August for allegedly making a threatening phone call to Spitzer’s father.) Stone told the Times that he had his lawyers write the FBI last November, alerting the Bureau to Spitzer’s patronage of prostitutes on trips to Florida.
However morally repugnant, hypocritical and illegal it may have been for Spitzer to do so, it was still a mostly personal matter that had nothing to do with his management of the state. Lying to the public about a very public matter — Troopergate, after all, distracted state government for months — is a different story, even if it turns out that none of the lying took place under oath.
We’ll presumably find out from Soares when his investigation is complete in the next few days, but if it does turn out that Spitzer did lie under oath — Soares interviewed him about Troopergate at one point — he should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law, for perjury.