March 14, 2008

Don Van Natta on Spitzer today! EXTRA!! EXTRA!!

Maybe all these Guyz are scientologists.

They all seem to belong to the Church of the Credit Card.

Ain't capitalISM the bee's knees, folks??

When do we get to see the VIDEOTAPE?

Ain't Cheney having fun NOW??


U.S. Is Examining Spitzer’s Funds

Published: March 14, 2008

ALBANY — Federal prosecutors are investigating whether Gov. Eliot Spitzer used campaign funds in connection with his meetings with prostitutes, including payments for hotels or ground transportation, three people with knowledge of the investigation said.

Prosecutors have asked the governor’s lawyers about the travel arrangements for three trips, including his Feb. 13 rendezvous with a prostitute at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington. The United States attorney’s office in Manhattan has also asked about the governor’s use of car services during trips to Washington.

The governor’s lawyers have begun consulting with a campaign finance expert who has long worked for Mr. Spitzer’s political organization to see whether campaign money was spent on the trips, including some as recently as last month, a person briefed on the investigation said.

The governor, in the two brief statements he made this week as his political career ended, has not directly addressed the allegations concerning his use of prostitutes. But he has told his aides in recent days that he used prostitutes only in the last eight months and never spent campaign or public money in that regard, according to several of the aides. He reaffirmed that position to his lawyer during a meeting at his Manhattan apartment on Tuesday, others present said.

If campaign money was involved, it would expand the scope of a criminal inquiry, because it is illegal to use campaign money for personal expenses. Mr. Spitzer, a Democrat, has championed a campaign finance reform proposal for much of his tenure and often excoriated Republicans, saying their fund-raising practices were responsible for the “haze and smog surrounding the capital.”

Several people involved in the campaign said on Thursday that they did not believe campaign money had been misused. Jonathan Rosen, a spokesman for Spitzer 2010, the governor’s campaign committee, and the Excelsior Committee, his political action committee, said neither organization had received subpoenas from federal authorities.

One of Mr. Spitzer’s lawyers, Michele Hirshman, did not respond to requests for comment.

A person briefed on the inquiry said on Thursday that investigators pursuing the case discovered something last fall that raised suspicions that Mr. Spitzer may have used campaign money to pay for transportation or hotel rooms for trysts with prostitutes.

It was not clear what two other trips investigators had requested records for from the campaign. Earlier this week, a person with knowledge of the escort service’s operations said that Mr. Spitzer had had an encounter with a prostitute in Dallas, and a law enforcement official said another prostitute had met with Mr. Spitzer in Florida during the past several months.

Mr. Spitzer traveled to West Palm Beach last month for several events, including a scheduled Feb. 29 fund-raiser for local Democrats at which he and Representative Charles B. Rangel of New York were the featured guests. Organizers canceled the event after Mr. Rangel could not attend. But Mr. Spitzer said he would come to Florida anyway, local organizers said, and attended a reception they organized for him, as well as a separate State of Israel Bonds luncheon and another reception.

Campaign finance records showed that Mr. Spitzer also attended a fund-raiser in October in Dallas, where he raised money during a reception at the Hotel Crescent Court.

A Congressional staff member said that Mr. Spitzer’s appearance before a House subcommittee on Feb. 14 came at his request, not theirs. Mr. Spitzer traveled to Washington the night before and engaged, according to an affidavit filed in federal court, in a tryst with a 22-year-old woman at the Mayflower Hotel.

Ms. Hirshman spent several hours at the United States attorney’s office in Manhattan on Tuesday listening to evidence that prosecutors had amassed during their six-month inquiry. Ms. Hirshman, who was Mr. Spitzer’s deputy in the attorney general’s office, has also worked in the United States attorney’s office for the Southern District of New York. While in that office, her posts included service as the chief of the Public Corruption Unit.

A person with knowledge of her meeting with Mr. Spitzer on Tuesday said that she had asked him whether he had ever used public money, or campaign money, in any visits with escorts, and that he said he had not.

Hours after Mr. Spitzer’s resignation on Wednesday, Michael J. Garcia, the U.S. attorney, said in a statement: “There is no agreement between this office and Gov. Eliot Spitzer relating to his resignation or any other matter.”

Lawyers for Mr. Spitzer continued to have discussions with prosecutors on Thursday, said a person who was briefed on the matter. A spokeswoman for Mr. Garcia’s office declined to comment.

A person close to Mr. Spitzer said that prosecutors told Ms. Hirshman this week that they would be more inclined to pursue a criminal case against Mr. Spitzer if he remained governor because of the violation of public trust.

“The message was, ‘We’d be less inclined to press a case if he’s just a private citizen,’ ” a friend of Mr. Spitzer’s said in a telephone interview Wednesday night.

In the last few months of 2007, the last period for which records are publicly available, records for Spitzer 2010 showed payments of between $5,000 and $40,000 a month to American Express. It is unclear how many people working on the campaign had access to credit cards associated with the account.

Two people briefed on the investigation said that one of the money laundering laws that prosecutors are trying to determine whether Mr. Spitzer broke prohibits “the intent to promote the carrying on of the specified unlawful activity.”

Charles H. Grice, a banking expert, said that statute was hardly ever used. “This is extremely arcane stuff,” he said.

A friend of Mr. Spitzer’s, who spoke on condition of anonymity, reacted with fury at the news that prosecutors appeared to be widening their inquiry to include money spent on campaign trips that may have involved trysts with prostitutes.

“At some point, this becomes piling on,” the friend said. The friend said that he would be stunned if “a judge or jury would convict a man for something like this. It’s very low grade,” adding, “Why would prosecutors pursue this?”

Danny Hakim reported from Albany, and Don Van Natta Jr. from New York. Jo Becker, Russ Buettner and Ray Rivera contributed reporting from New York.

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