New York, New York , United States
|| June 10, 1959
Apr 14, 2009 05:25pm
Jewish - Moderate-to-Liberal - Pro-Capital Punishment - Pro-Choice - Pro-Gay Marriage - Married - Judaism - Straight -
|Info||Eliot Laurence Spitzer is a former Governor and former Attorney General for New York State. |
Spitzer was born and raised in the Riverdale section of the Bronx, by observant Austrian Jewish parents (although he is reportedly secular). He is a graduate of Horace Mann School. He attended Princeton University and was elected chairman of the undergraduate student government, graduating in 1981. He then went to Harvard Law School, where he joined the Harvard Law Review and became an editor. At Harvard Law, he met and married Silda Wall. They have three daughters, Elyssa, Sarabeth and Jenna.
Upon receiving his Juris Doctor (J.D.) degree, Spitzer clerked for Judge Robert W. Sweet in Manhattan, then joined the law firm of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison. He stayed there for less than two years before leaving to join the Manhattan district attorney's office.
Spitzer joined the staff of Manhattan District Attorney Robert M. Morgenthau, where he spent six years pursuing organized crime. His biggest case came in 1992, when Spitzer led the investigation that ended the Gambino organized crime family's control of Manhattan's trucking and garment industry. Spitzer left the DA's office in 1992 to join the law firm of Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, where he worked until 1998.
In 1994 Spitzer put aside his private practice to concentrate on attaining the elected office of New York Attorney General. He would fail in the 1994 election, but he reversed this setback by winning in 1998 and becoming one of New York's most recognizable Democratic politicians.
During the 2004 Presidential election he was reportedly top choice to be attorney general in a possible John Kerry adminstration.
In 1994, long-serving Democratic New York State Attorney General Robert Abrams decided to vacate the office after unsuccessfully challenging Al D'Amato for the seat of U.S. Senator from New York in 1992. Perceiving the weakness of Abrams's replacement as Attorney General, G. Oliver Koppell, several Democrats ran for the party's nomination, Spitzer among them. At the time he was young and unknown, and despite a war chest funded heavily by his family's wealth, Spitzer had his campaign ended early by placing last among the four candidates for the Democratic nomination, with Karen Burstein the winner. Burstein eventually lost to Dennis Vacco in the general election, part of a Republican electoral sweep that also elected George Pataki.
The election of a Republican in 1994 allowed Spitzer to seek the Democratic nomination again in 1998. More experienced in party politics, and again relying heavily on family wealth, he won the Democratic primary, then narrowly defeated then-incumbent Vacco, with 48.2% of the vote to 47.6% for Vacco. He ran for re-election in 2002, facing token opposition from Republican Dora Irizarry, and won with 66% of the vote.
As Attorney General, Spitzer has stepped up the profile of the office, taking on cases that an Attorney General would normally avoid. Traditionally, state attorneys general have pursued consumer rights cases, concentrating on fraud that is local and unique, while deferring national issues to the federal government, which traditionally holds jurisdiction over them. Breaking with this traditional deferrence, Spitzer has taken up civil actions and criminal prosecutions of white-collar crime, securities fraud, internet fraud, and environmental protection.
A number of experts, including economists, lawyers, and political analysts have offered explanations for Spitzer's active role in public policy debates. The New York Attorney General's office has the unique advantage of having Wall Street (and thus many leading corporate and financial institutions) within its jurisdiction. In addition to this, the New York Attorney General wields greater than usual powers of investigation and prosecution with regard to corporations under New York State's General Business Law. In particular, under Article 23-A, § 352 (more commonly known as the Martin Act of 1921) the New York Attorney General has the power to subpoena witnesses and company documents pertaining to investigations of fraud or illegal activity by a corporation.
In practice, Spitzer has used this authority as leverage in his civil actions against corporations and criminal prosecutions against their officers. It proved its usefulness in the wake of several American corporate scandals that began with the collapse of Enron in 2001. In these scandals, several corporations, as well as the brokerage houses that sold their stock, were accused of having inflated stock values by unethical means throughout the 1990s. When inquiries into the allegations by the SEC and the Congress failed to gain traction, Spitzer's office used its subpoena power to obtain corporate documents, building cases against the firms both in courtrooms and in public opinion.
Through this public approach, Spitzer has won settlements and plea deals from prospective defendants. The ability of the Attorney General's office to obtain and publicize embarrassing or incriminating internal documents carries with it the implicit threat that a defendant's reputation may be damaged. This has been demonstrated in Spitzer's investigations of public corporations, in which the very issuance of subpoenas have been enough to drive down stock prices of the corporation in question. The daunting prospects of a Spitzer investigation has led corporations facing civil action to choose to settle, and suspects in criminal investigations to seek plea bargains. Supporters have hailed Spitzer's use of this tactic as an innovation in dealing with white collar crime that threatens investor confidence; critics maintain that Spitzer engages in legal blackmail that damages the economy, while only benefitting his own political ambitions.
In addition to prosecutions and civil actions in the financial sector, Spitzer has pursued cases in both state and federal courts involving pollution, entertainment, technology, occupational safety and health and other fields in which New York plays a part in setting and maintaining national standards of conduct.
On December 7, 2004, Spitzer announced his intention to seek the Democratic nomination for the 2006 election for Governor of New York. While long rumored, Spitzer's announcement was nevertheless considered unusually early—nearly two years before the day of the gubernatorial election. Political analysts believe the announcement's timing is due to Spitzer's desire to dissuade fellow Democrats Andrew Cuomo and Charles Schumer from entering the race and forcing a primary election. If this was indeed his intent, Spitzer succeeded: Schumer announced he would maintain his Senate seat, while Cuomo announced his plans to run for Spitzer's vacated Attorney General's seat.
Spitzer won an early vote of confidence in January 22, 2005 by winning the endorsement of the Working Families Party, that has taken advantage of New York's electoral fusion system to act as a kingmaker over Democratic nominees. It is backed heavily by figures from community group ACORN and labor unions, particularly those that broke from the AFL-CIO to form the Change To Win Coalition. In the months after the WFP endorsement, several Change to Win unions have announced that they are endorsing Spitzer under their own name, including UNITE HERE, the Teamsters, and the United Food and Commercial Workers.
In the latter half of 2005, Spitzer sought to further solidify support for his campaign by touring several parts of the state, seeking and giving political endorsements. These included cross endorsements with former-Bronx Borough President Fernando Ferrer in the New York City Mayoral election, and State Senator Byron Brown in the Buffalo Mayoral election. The benefit to Spitzer in these endorsement deals is valuable media attention as he stumped for the candidates.
As a result of Spitzer's relative speed in uniting state Democrats to his side, he has gained the respect of Democratic leaders nationwide. Bill Richardson dubbed Spitzer the "future of the Democratic Party," at a fundraiser held in June 2005 for Spitzer's gubernatorial campaign.
Lacking a credible opponent for a Democratic primary, much of the attention of watchers of New York politics turned to the state Republican Party, especially the future of three-term governor George Pataki. Polling throughout 2004 and into 2005 consistently showed Spitzer defeating three-term incumbent Republican Governor George Pataki in theoretical matchups. Such a scenario may have proved unappealing to Pataki, as he is rumored to be seeking the Republican nomination for the presidency in 2008. Whether or not these rumors are true, Pataki announced on July 27, 2005 that he would not seek re-election and would step down at the end of his term in January of 2007.
The open-seat nature of the election, along with Spitzer's positive poll numbers, has fueled discussion of the Republican leadership's active pursuit of candidates to run against Spitzer. Thus far, only two persons have announced their intent to run for the nomination: New York Secretary of State Randy Daniels, and former Massachusetts Governor William Weld.
An additional consideration for Spitzer is the status of billionaire Tom Golisano, a three-time candidate on the Independence Party line. It is rumored that Golisano may run again, and that Republican Party insiders may seek to nominate him on their own party's line, thus fusing the Republican and Independence tickets for the first time in a gubernatorial election. Golisano recently switched his party affiliation to the GOP.
Future tasks for the Spitzer campaign include his choice of a Lieutenant Governor as a running mate. In New York gubernatorial elections, the most important factor in the gubernatorial candidate's choice of a Lieutenant Governor is the need to "balance the ticket" -- that is, to widen the candidate's appeal, whether by reaching out to someone from a different geographic area, ethnic background, or has a different political base. As Spitzer is widely viewed as a New York City-based politician, it is believed that he is seeking to recruit an upstate or Long Island-based political figure for Lieutenant Governor.
At present, Spitzer holds a comfortable lead in polls of possible scenarios for the 2006 general election. According to an August 26 Rasmussen Reports poll of likely voters, Spitzer holds a 52% to 23% lead against Golisano, and a 55% - 20% lead against Weld. As can be ascertained by the numbers, a sizable portion of voters remains undecided in the early going of the campaign.