Politics & Policy

How to Stop Spitzer?

Who stands between Client #9 and control of New York City’s pension funds?

It looks as if the only thing standing between Client #9 and his control of New York City’s five pension funds is a last-minute effort by African-American officeholders to convince their constituents that Eliot Spitzer’s abuses of power make him unfit to be their city’s comptroller.

Eliot Spitzer has spent millions from his family fortune to build a lead in the September 10 Democratic primary, which would make him a clear favorite in the November election over the Republican, Wall Street executive John Burnett.

In the most recent Quinnipiac poll, Spitzer leads Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer 56 percent to 37 percent in the Democratic primary, with all of his lead coming from his 68 percent to 21 percent edge among African-Americans. Among white voters, Stringer leads by ten points. “Everyone seems to be against former governor Eliot Spitzer except the voters, especially black voters,” says Maurice Carroll, director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute. “Spitzer is all over the TV screens, building on his better name recognition.” Tellingly, a July Quinnipiac poll found 66 percent of white voters thought Spitzer’s scandals were a legitimate issue in the race, as opposed to 43 percent of black voters.

#ad#There are lots of theories for Spitzer’s strong black support. One is that Stringer has been largely invisible until lately. Another is that “the African-American community tends to support people who are under attack,” as former New York governor David Paterson, who replaced Spitzer after his prostitution scandal, put it this month. He has nonetheless endorsed Stringer.

Jelani Cobb, an African-American history professor, wrote in The New Republic last week that another reason is, “crucially, a deep suspicion toward the media and political establishments that have publicized the candidates’ failings.” Indeed, former governor Paterson says of the media; “The more they bash Eliot Spitzer, the more they bring out votes for him.”

That’s why Stringer’s campaign has been careful to steer away from Spitzer-bashing. Instead, it has recruited a dozen black and Hispanic lawmakers to record robocalls with positive messages about Springer. The roster is impressive: members of Congress Charles Rangel, Yvette Clarke, Nydia Velazquez, Gregory Meeks, and Jose Serrano, among others.

But that doesn’t mean there won’t be anyone recalling Spitzer’s dark side. I’m told that independent expenditures do more than merely remind voters that his prostitution scandal involved more than just spousal and family betrayal, along with poor fashion sense involving black socks. Spitzer laundered money under a false name to pay for his trysts; he used a state plane to fly to Washington to see a prostitute; and he made himself vulnerable to blackmail while he was New York State’s top law-enforcement official.

And that’s not even half of his record. As the self-styled Sheriff of Wall Street, Spitzer abused his power as state attorney general from 1999 to 2007 to pursue a variety of figures, many of whom were acquitted or never saw charges brought against them. As governor, he used state police to spy on and smear political opponents.

There is evidence that the sheer weight of his scandalous past may finally be catching up with Spitzer. This month, one of his few prominent African-American political backers bailed out on him. Floyd Flake, a former congressman and senior pastor at the Allen AME Cathedral of Queens, said he could no longer support Spitzer. Outraged members of his congregation are said to have played a role in the decision.

The polls also may be overestimating Spitzer’s lead. A poll taken for a labor coalition opposing Spitzer called Progress NYC found that the former governor has only a six-point lead, with a whopping 28 percent of the electorate still undecided. “Public polling is inaccurately measuring the few voters who are likely to come out — and among the so-called super-prime voters, Stringer is doing far better,” a Progress NYC polling memo states. “Stringer also leads by 14 percent among those who have ANY opinion on both candidates (positive or negative) — indicating that Eliot Spitzer’s lead is very much a measure of higher name recognition.”

A Spitzer victory would represent more than just a deplorable reward for bad behavior. As the Wall Street Journal points out, “If he becomes overseer of the city’s five pension funds, Mr. Spitzer has made it clear that he intends to use the funds’ ownership stakes in public companies to pursue his political agenda and seek changes in corporate governance.”

Should Spitzer win the Democratic primary, there is one more hurdle he has to clear — a general election in which he would be opposed by Republican John Burnett. In a city that’s 7 to 1 Democratic, that race would normally be a cakewalk, but Burnett — with the help of city matching funds to buy ads — could make a race of it.

Burnett isn’t your ordinary Republican. Born in 1970, he grew up in East New York. He got his undergraduate degree at New York University by taking night classes while already working on Wall Street, and then got an MBA from Cornell. His Wall Street experience includes everything from work as a margin analyst at Dean Witter to a job as a global wealth portfolio manager at Morgan Stanley. He is also a member of the board of the Urban Resource Institute and has served as treasurer of New York’s subcommittee of the Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial Foundation.

As an African-American who has overcome adversity, Burnett might stand a chance to break into the black vote, appeal to Stringer supporters, and have a chance at victory. It’s good that black politicians have come out in a united front to stop Eliot Spitzer, but what will they do if he wins the primary anyway? Will they support Client #9 in November or break ranks and endorse of at least nod favorably toward John Burnett? As John F. Kennedy once observed, “Sometimes party loyalty asks too much.” Isn’t the prospect of Eliot Spitzer returning to high office one of those occasions? If not, what is?

— John Fund is national-affairs columnist for NRO.

 

 

Most Popular

U.S.

Men Literally Died for That Flag, You Idiots

The American flag’s place in our culture is beginning to look less unassailable. The symbol itself is under attack, as we’ve seen with Nike dumping a shoe design featuring an early American flag, Megan Rapinoe defending her national-anthem protests (she says she will never sing the song again), and ... Read More
Politics & Policy

He Just Can’t Help Himself

By Saturday, the long-simmering fight between Nancy Pelosi and her allies on one side and the “squad” associated with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on the other had risen to an angrier and more destructive level at the Netroots Nation conference. Representative Ayanna Pressley, an African-American Massachusetts ... Read More
Books

The Plot against Kavanaugh

Justice on Trial, by Mollie Hemingway and Carrie Severino (Regnery,  256 pp., $28.99) The nomination and confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court was the political event of 2018, though not for the reasons anyone expected. All High Court confirmations these days are fraught with emotion and tumult ... Read More
Politics & Policy

Ilhan Omar Is Completely Assimilated

Beto O’Rourke, the losing Texas Senate candidate who bootstrapped his way into becoming a losing presidential candidate, had a message for refugees who had come to America: Your new country is a hellhole. The former congressman told a roundtable of refugees and immigrants in Nashville, Tenn., last week: ... Read More
White House

On Gratitude and Immigration

Like both Rich and David, I consider it flatly inappropriate for the president of the United States to be telling Americans -- rhetorically or otherwise -- to “go back where you came from.” In consequence, you will find no defense of the president from me, either. What Trump tweeted over the weekend was ... Read More
Sports

We All Wanted to Love the Women’s Soccer Team

For the first time in my life, I did not root for an American team. Whatever the sport, I have always rooted American. And if those who called in to my radio show were representative of my audience, many millions of Americans made the same sad choice. It takes a lot for people like me not to root for an ... Read More
U.S.

The ‘Squad’ Gives a Gift to Donald Trump

On Sunday, Donald Trump gave the Democrats a gift -- comments that indicate he thinks native-born congresswomen he detests should “go back” to the countries of their ancestors. On Monday, the four congresswomen handed Trump a gift in return, managing to respond to the president’s insults in some of the most ... Read More