Elliot Spitzer has been the Attorney General of New York State since 1998.
He has used his position
to prosecute wrongdoing, or what in his opinion is wrongdoing, in several industries, including Wall Street.
Among the cases he has brought is a suit against Richard Grasso, who used to head up the New York Stock Exchange. His beef? Grasso's salary at the NYSE was too high. I think that Grasso
's pay package of $187 million was
excessive. But it wasn't illegal. Grasso has been invited to do a plea deal, but instead is expected to fight.
There's been a lot of press recently on a threat Spitzer made over the phone against John Whitehead
, a former head of Goldman Sachs who now heads the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation.
Whitehead's crime? He wrote an Op-Ed piece in the Wall Street Journal complaining that Spitzer was overzealous.
Whitehead is an 80 year old man, who has an impeccable reputation. He claims that Spitzer called him when Whitehead was traveling in Texas and said " It's now a war between us and you've fired the first shot. I will be coming after you. You will pay the price. This is only the beginning and you will pay dearly for what you have done. You will wish you had never written that letter. "
Spitzer denies saying these things, but two things must be noted. One, again, Whitehead again is a dignified reputation and does not have a history of saying anything extreme or partisan.
Second, Spitzer does have a hair-trigger reputation. And he has a record of aggression, of vindictiveness. Like most bullies, he has made attacked low-level targets for much of his career as AG, destroying the lives of many working class New Yorkers in the process.
But he hasn't beaten any
big names in the courtroom. Not one. When the Grasso case comes to trial, my money is on Grasso.
Spitzer is now running for Governor of New York State. I think that his violent temper makes him a bad choice. He leads the polls by a lot now, but the November 2006 elections are a long time away. I think Spitzer is a Park Avenue punk with a glass jaw, and that he may not even win the Democratic Party primary election. Watch this space. We'll keep an eye on this character.