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Spitzer may have spent $80,000

Officials call him repeat customer of prostitutes

Email|Print|Single Page| Text size + By Michael Gormley
Associated Press / March 12, 2008

ALBANY, N.Y. - With pressure increasing on Governor Eliot Spitzer to resign over a call-girl scandal, investigators said yesterday that he was clearly a repeat customer who spent tens of thousands of dollars, perhaps as much as $80,000, with the high-priced prostitution service over an extended period of time.

Spitzer and his family, meanwhile, remained secluded in their Fifth Avenue apartment, while Republicans began talking impeachment, and few if any fellow Democrats came forward to defend him. A death watch of sorts began at the state Capitol.

On Monday, when the scandal broke, prosecutors said in court papers that Spitzer had been caught on a wiretap spending $4,300 with the Emperors Club VIP call-girl service, with some of the money going toward a night with a prostitute named Kristen, and the rest to be used as credit toward future trysts. The papers also suggested that Spitzer had done it before.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, a law enforcement official said yesterday that Spitzer, in fact, had spent tens of thousands of dollars with the Emperors Club. Another official said the amount could be as high as $80,000. But it was not clear over what period of time that was allegedly spent.

Spitzer's vast personal wealth would have made it easy for him to spend thousands of dollars on prostitutes. The scion of a wealthy Manhattan real estate developer, Spitzer reported $1.9 million in income to the IRS in 2006.

Meanwhile, Albany insiders said yesterday that the governor was still trying to decide how to proceed. Options included quitting immediately or waiting to use resignation as a bargaining chip with federal prosecutors to avoid indictment.

Democrats privately floated another option, saying that Spitzer was considering what was almost unthinkable immediately after Monday's bombshell apology: hanging on.

"If the public is fine, he'll stay," said a Democrat who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Still, Spitzer's many enemies from Albany and Wall Street were emboldened, and some of his friends went from shock to outrage.

"Particularly because of the reform platform on which he was elected governor, his ability to govern the state of New York and execute his duties as governor have been irreparably damaged," said Citizens Union, a good-government group that supported the crusading attorney general for governor in 2006 and provided critical support in his effort to reform Albany. "It is our strong belief that it is now impossible for him to fulfill his responsibilities as governor. Accordingly, Citizens Union urges him to resign as governor."

The case against Spitzer, a 48-year-old married man with three teenage daughters, started when banks noticed frequent cash transfers from several accounts and filed suspicious-activity reports with the Internal Revenue Service, a law enforcement official said. The accounts were traced to Spitzer, prompting public corruption investigators to open an inquiry.

The governor has not been charged, and prosecutors would not comment on the case. Michele Hirshman, Spitzer's former deputy attorney general and now a member of the high-powered New York law firm of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind Wharton & Garrison, has been retained to represent the governor.

In Albany, Democratic Lieutenant Governor David Paterson, who would become governor if Spitzer resigned, was talking to legislative leaders about a possible transition.

Reporters, government workers, and the public milled around the state Capitol yesterday, waiting for any developments. News vans lined up around the building, and camera operators sat next to their tripods on the front lawn waiting for something to happen.

Assembly Republican leader James Tedisco warned that if Spitzer did not resign within 48 hours, he would call for impeachment. But any impeachment would face a difficult road in the Democrat-controlled Assembly, where articles of impeachment would require a majority vote to go to a trial. A trial would be decided by a combined vote of the full Senate, which has a slim GOP majority, and the Court of Appeals.

Tedisco was an early target of Spitzer's abrasive and uncompromising style in Albany. In a private call, an angry Spitzer once described himself to Tedisco as a steamroller - he attached a profanity for emphasis - and warned: "I'll roll over you and anybody else."

Privately, several Democrats in the Legislature and in the administration said resignation appeared inevitable. "He's weighing the rest of his life," one Democratic official said sadly.

Late yesterday, freshman Representative Kirsten Gillibrand became the first Democratic member of New York's congressional delegation to mention resignation. "This is very grave and sad news," she said. "If these serious allegations are true, the governor will have no choice but to resign."

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