Wednesday, March 12, 2008


The Real Scandal

Diomedes has shamed me into reading again property law professor Paul Campos' less than enlightening weekly op-ed in the Rocky Mountain News. This week's piece was particularly lame. You'll recall that Hillary Clinton falsely defended her husband's lies about getting a number of hummers in and around the oval office from Monica Lewinsky, by accusing a non-existent vast right-wing conspiracy, which she called the real story. Now it's the perfessor's turn to accuse unnamed people of a non-existent conspiracy. Let's quote Campos:

...the real Spitzer scandal has little to do with his apparent habit of paying young women for sex. Here's what really needs to be investigated:
Spitzer's fall was triggered not by his visits to prostitutes, but by banks reporting
"suspicious" transactions of his to the IRS.

What? The real scandal is that banks were enforcing the law? What actually is Campos accusing people of?

This [speculation by Campos about what Spitzer did to pay for the prostitutes] raises the possibility that Spitzer's financial activities were being closely monitored.
It's hardly a stretch to imagine that Spitzer, a man with countless enemies in the financial world, would be the target of such a vendetta.

Possibility? Imagine? We have to ask whether there are any actual facts in Campos' accusation. Sadly, no, there are none. Moving on in the speculation about speculations, we come to this paragraph.

At the DOJ, the Public Integrity Section launches an investigation. This unit itself has come under intense criticism during the Bush administration for investigating nearly six times more Democratic politicians than Republicans. Furthermore, many of the section's investigations have seemed timed to coincide with elections and the like.

Any chance that Democrats are more likely to do things worthy of investigation? Just asking. No, answers Campos, it must be that the DOJ is part of the vast right wing conspiracy against the pure and chaste left.

Then there's this final ineffective jab.

With a little digging, the feds soon establish that Spitzer is seeing high-priced call girls. This is a petty misdemeanor in most jurisdictions, but the DOJ goes ahead and constructs an elaborate and costly sting operation, for the express purpose of catching one of the country's most powerful Democratic politicians committing a petty crime.

In the course of the sting, Spitzer makes a really big mistake: He pays a call girl to travel from New York to Washington. This puts him in technical violation of an 85-year-old federal law, the Mann Act, which has a long history of being used for politically motivated prosecutions of the worst sort, such as those of the boxer Jack Johnson and movie legend Charlie Chaplin.

This is rich. First the use of the word 'sting.' It's a sting if the cops get involved in the action, like, in this very context, a pretty policewoman going undercover and pretending to be a prostitute. It's not a sting if the police merely monitor the public actions of a person doing wrong and then arrest him. That's called surveillance.

"Technical violation"? Is that different from a real violation? Is it less? Is it less because Paul Campos doesn't like the law? The questions are nearly infinite here and are all self answering.

Then the irony meter goes into hyperdrive with Campos complaining about Spitzer being caught for violation of the old Mann Act with its colorful history. Spitzer is infamous for his use of the 1921 Martin Act against his political enemies. Good for goose, sauce for gander.

Here is the lesson: When a Republican is caught in a sexual scandal with no sex, the media goes nuts and spills the fault of the particular Republican all over the whole Republican party. When a Democrat is caught in a sexual scandal with sex, the media goes nuts and accuses the Republicans of a non-existent conspiracy that netted the Democrat for merely a silly peccadillo.

This won't be the last time you see it.

UPDATE: Another lefty law professor, Alan Dershowitz, pens a speculative criticism of how Client #9 was treated by law enforcement officials. He calls his piece at the free (today) online version of the Wall Street Journal, The Entrapment of Eliot Spitzer. What?

Entrapment is a recognized defense to criminal prosecution in which the defendant admits the crime but seeks to excuse it by claiming he (or she) was lured into performing a previously uncontemplated illegal act. Entrapment is available as a defense only when an agent of the state or federal government has done the luring. In order to establish entrapment, the defendant has the burden of proving either that he or she would not have committed the crime but for the undue persuasion or fraud of the government agent, or that the encouragement was such that it created a risk that persons not inclined to commit the crime would commit it. It's a tough sell either way.

How this applies to Spitzer is anyone's guess. Oh and speaking of guesses, here's Dershowitz's initial admission of his article's irrelevance: There is no hard evidence that Eliot Spitzer was targeted for investigation, but the story of how he was caught does not ring entirely true to many experienced former prosecutors and current criminal lawyers.

I think Dershowitz meant that the laws are so pervasive and broad that anyone can be prosecuted for the slightest little transgression (more vast right wing conspiracy out to get nearly innocent Democrats). That's the normal lefty line in these circumstances. It was just a peccadillo; why was the federal government making such a big deal?

Our own Tony has the answer for some of Dershowitz's questions in the comments below.

Entrapment! For a decade long user of prostitutes. The left apparently has no lower limits below which they will not dive.



I read Campos and it actually made sense for once. Then yesterday, I spoke w/ my sister, Jane, a NYer.
I asked how it was that Spitzer's banking activity sparked any inquiry as no single transaction was for $10K or more.

She explained that Spitzer was caught by policies he instituted while NY AG. These policies were designed to monitor public officials for frequent shifting of funds between accounts which could be evidence of taking bribes.

So the Governor was hoist w/ his own petard.

Hoist with his own petard, indeed.
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