Enough is enough: Feds probe Spitzer's records back to 1999
The feds are launching a massive investigation into Eliot Spitzer's finances, going back to 1999. They say they're looking for more evidence of "structuring."
"Structuring" sounds sinister, but it just means breaking a large transaction into several smaller ones in order to skirt reporting guidelines. It's not money laundering. It's not public corruption. You can "structure" while buying legal goods and services with your own money.
Structuring is a thought crime. If you calibrate the size of your transactions in order to avoid federal scrutiny, you're guilty. Yet the exact same transactions could be perfectly legal if you made them with "pure" intentions. Structuring charges are a way of meting out ad hoc punishment to people who are otherwise adhering to the letter of the law. How dare you prefer not to call attention to yourself?
Bush's Justice Department is using structuring as an excuse to literally make a federal case out of a pretty banal prostitution scandal. A powerful man bought sex with his own money, he got caught, he resigned. In two weeks, nobody but his family and New York political junkies will care.
Unlike pimps and prostitutes, johns are rarely prosecuted unless they get caught in the act. For example, none of the DC Madame's clients are going to jail because their names turned up in her little black book. Buying sex isn't a federal crime, and New York State doesn't give a rat's ass about Spitzer's dalliances, as far as the criminal law is concerned.
So, the so-called Public Integrity Section of Bush's Justice Department is trying to exploit an obscure bit of bank law to destroy Spitzer.
This isn't an isolated incident. The Republicans are using the criminal justice system to pick off rising Democratic stars, one by one.
This isn't just politics as usual. It's no longer about getting the Republicans' enemies out of office, or costing the Democrats the next election. It's about making sure the targets are so thoroughly discredited that they never return to public life. It's about ruining their lives, if at all possible.
Don Siegelman, was a rising Democratic star in Alabama. He was a rare commodity, a Democrat who could win elections in a deep red state. Some people saw a presidential bid in his future. Now, Siegelman is languishing in a federal prison camp, thanks to Karl Rove and the some cooperative US Attorneys. (For more details, see Scott Horton's Siegelman Chronicles.)
Now, the Bush Justice Department is trying finish off Eliot Spitzer, another high profile Democrat who once harbored presidential ambitions.
Our former governor was reckless enough to cause the sex scandal that ended his political career. In any sane world, Spitzer would just slink back into private life in disgrace. If Spitzer's political enemies had any sense of proportion, they'd be satisfied to see him lose his office and his reputation. But that's not good enough for the DOJ. They want to bring Spitzer up on federal criminal charges.
For what, really? For being a little sneaky when he wired his own money to pay for a call girl. Or, maybe for arranging to have a New York escort to service him in DC, in violation of a federal anti-"White Slave trading" statute. The feds can pour on the legal jargon and the righteous indignation, but that's really it.
The message to future reformers is clear: Don't you dare fuck with us.