Eliot Spitzer wants to return to politics, and if you are a resident of New York City, and you have the ability to vote. Mr. Spitzer would like you to vote for him for comptroller. In formally announcing his attempt at a return to the public arena on July 8, 2013, he needs to collect about 3,800 signatures in just three days to put him on the ballot. I wouldn’t bet against him having the required number way ahead of schedule. One question is – what are the ethical ramifications regarding his return to politics?
Michael Gormley of the Associated Press quoted Mr. Spitzer as saying to the New York Times on July 7, 2013: “I’m hopeful there will be forgiveness, I am asking for it.” According to Gormley, immediately after his announcement Spitzer spoke to CBS television. Mr. Spitzer said he had “sinned,” ”owned up to it” and hopes the public will judge him on his record in public service.
Who is Eliot Spitzer?
At one time, he was New York State’s Attorney General and then in 2006, he became governor of New York State. He resigned from office in 2008 after word got out that in addition to being called governor, he was also known as “Client Number 9,” as a patron of a high-priced prostitution service.
In 2007, prior to the discovery that he frequented the “dating service,” Governor Spitzer was accused of using his influence to spy on rival politicians in a scandal that came to be known as “trooper gate.” Why then, is Eliot Spitzer being given the opportunity to try for a second chance?
He is well-known, that is true, and in politics, given the correct amount of scrubbing by publicists he could become a front runner pretty quickly. However, he was also an effective attorney general and he was not at all intimidated by going after corporations, white collar criminals and especially Wall Street types who were very well compensated. At that time, the market itself was in a free-fall. We blamed banks, insurance companies, CEO’s and the stock market regulators in general. We liked Eliot Spitzer in the role of bulldog. He was a man of means going after those of means; in a sense, he was a wealthy man of good standing up against wealthy who were not so good. One thing seemed true…Spitzer had a pension for pointing fingers at others which effectively kept other fingers from pointing at him.
Nevertheless, Eliot Spitzer had weaknesses and it they caused his downfall. The weaknesses spoke to his base instincts and in regard to “trooper gate,” they spoke to issues of perhaps paranoia.
The Abuse of Opportunity
I frequently talk of ethical lapses occurring when a number of factors are brought together; among these, when they are given the opportunity to make an ethical misstep. They take the opportunity because they feel that they are above the law.
It is difficult to imagine a more powerful position than to be governor of one of the most (if not the most) powerful state in the nation. Mr. Spitzer was a hard-charger; he was given his way because we always wanted him to get his “man.” But he was abrasive. Those who felt his wrath were given the opportunity (again that word) to deliver pay-back; they did.
He hurt his family and friends when he started to frequent prostitutes; he hurt his party and his reputation. However, I don’t think it was his sexual indiscretions that brought him down; it was his arrogance. He might have assumed that just because he could spy on others, that no one would dare spy on him. In a state as powerful as New York, there are so many favors owed and many favors “called-in.” When the wheels were set in motion, the entire system crashed down on him.
I cannot say why Mr. Spitzer chose to abuse his office and its opportunities; but I do know that eventually the consequences of un-ethical behavior will catch up and consume the perpetrator. I am very much for second chances, but –
I have read the articles and I have heard the sound-bites. I have heard the spin and the “bridging” to other issues. Here is what I am waiting to hear: “I am sorry. I failed your trust. I let you down.”
I am not a psychologist, but an observer of ethical behavior. I have heard apologies from CEO’s, middle managers, huge strapping athletes, the very rich and the very powerful. It starts with “I’m sorry.” It is what we learned as children. It is what we expect of the children in our lives. Surely an eloquent 54 year-old man is capable of uttering the same words.
Seems that it takes more than being “sorry” to earn a Second Chance. Of course, considering who I am and my background, I am a proponent of Second Chances. Yet, I know from personal experience that second chances take more than just being sorry. I was sorry soon after my embezzlement was discovered. That meant very little however to those whose trust I broke. Sorry is one thing and a change in behavior is quite another. So perhaps the question that the voters have to evaluate is – Has Spitzer Changed? What has happened to him that demonstrates a changed man…a man now worthy of trust. Am I his judge? Heavens no…all I am is a voice asking the question from a perspective that perhaps can cause those who will judge at the ballot box to probe deeply for their answer.
Your comments are welcome!