Eliot Spitzer prostitution scandal

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Eliot Spitzer in 2004

On March 10, 2008, The New York Times reported that Governor of New York Eliot Spitzer had patronized a prostitution ring run by an escort agency known as Emperors Club VIP. During the course of an investigation into the escort agency, the federal government became aware of Spitzer's involvement with prostitutes due to a wiretap. Following the public disclosure of his actions, Spitzer resigned as Governor effective March 17, 2008.


The investigation of Spitzer was initiated after North Fork Bank[1] reported suspicious transactions to the Treasury Department's Financial Crimes Enforcement Network as required by the Bank Secrecy Act, which was enhanced by Patriot Act provisions, enacted to combat terrorist activity such as money laundering.[2] Spitzer had at least seven liaisons with prostitutes from the Emperors Club over six months, and paid more than $15,000 for their services. Federal agents had him under surveillance twice in 2008.[3][4][5] According to published reports, investigators believe Spitzer paid up to $80,000 for prostitutes over a period of several years – first while he was attorney general, and later as governor.[6][7][8] Governor Spitzer, referred to as "Client 9" in an affidavit filed in US Federal Court,[9] arranged to meet at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington on February 13, 2008, with a prostitute named "Kristen". "Kristen" was later identified as 22-year-old Ashley Dupré.[10][11] She intended to travel from New York City for the planned tryst and Spitzer agreed in advance that he "would be paying for everything—train tickets, cab fare from the hotel and back, mini-bar or room service, travel time and hotel".[12] After the meeting on February 13, 2008, Spitzer paid her $4,300 in cash.[13] The payment included $1,100 as a deposit toward future services to be provided by the Emperors Club.[14]

The Mayflower Hotel in Washington.

Room 871 at the Mayflower Hotel was booked under the name George Fox, a pseudonym that was allegedly the name of his close friend, a hedge fund investor.[15][16] Some of this information came to light from a United States Department of Justice wiretap.[17][18][19]

Screenshot of the website of Emperors Club VIP.

According to Newsday, Spitzer wanted to transfer more than $10,000 to a front company for the prostitution ring. However, he broke up the transactions into smaller slices due to federal law requiring the reporting of any transfer of $10,000 or more. When he tried to get his name taken off the wires, the bank refused, saying that the money had already been wired out and that it would be improper to do so in any case. The IRS Criminal Investigation Division then began a probe, initially fearing that Spitzer was the victim of either extortion or identity theft.[20]

Screenshot of the website of Emperors Club VIP showing list of prices for escort services.

North Fork's report in July 2007 went largely unnoticed until HSBC filed a report in the fall that the transactions were going to QAT International and QAT Consulting Group, which were offshore shell companies operating as a front for the Emperors Club VIP.[21]

Later, the IRS contacted the FBI to investigate possible political corruption. The investigation led federal authorities to link the money transfers to the Emperors Club.[22][23] Prosecutors charged the four people operating the escort service with violations of the Mann Act several days prior to the revelations of Spitzer's involvement.[24] On November 19, 2007, Republican operative Roger Stone sent a letter to the FBI saying that Spitzer "used the service of high-priced call girls" while in Florida. Stone provided detail saying that Spitzer wore calf-length black socks while having sex.[25]

In November 2008, the Department of Justice declined to prosecute Spitzer for violating the Mann Act.[26]

Public disclosure and resignation

On March 7, 2008, The New York Times reported that the federal government had arrested four people in connection with an international online prostitution ring run by Emperors Club VIP.[27]

On March 10, the Times reported that Spitzer had been "caught on a federal wiretap arranging to meet with a high-priced prostitute at a Washington hotel".[28] Spitzer was identified as "Client 9", and the Times stated that he had met with a prostitute from Emperors Club VIP at a Washington, D.C. hotel.[28]

Later on March 10, Spitzer held a press conference. At that time, he said:

I have acted in a way that violates my obligation to my family and violates my or any sense of right and wrong. I apologize first and most importantly to my family. I apologize to the public to whom I promised better. I have disappointed and failed to live up to the standard I expected of myself. I must now dedicate some time to regain the trust of my family.[28]

Following Spitzer's March 10 press conference, New York State Assembly Republican Minority Leader James Tedisco and Republican New York Congressman Peter King separately called for his resignation. Tedisco later announced that he would initiate impeachment proceedings in the State Assembly if Spitzer did not resign.[29] Spitzer's office and the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York declined to comment,[16][30][31][32] except to say that "There is no agreement between this office and Gov. Eliot Spitzer, relating to his resignation or any other matter."[33]

In the wake of the revelations, and amid threats of impeachment, Spitzer announced on March 12, 2008, that he would resign his post as governor at noon on March 17, 2008. Spitzer said at a news conference in Manhattan:

I cannot allow for my private failings to disrupt the people's work. Over the course of my public life, I have insisted—I believe correctly—that people take responsibility for their conduct. I can and will ask no less of myself. For this reason, I am resigning from the office of governor.[6][34]

Spitzer's lieutenant governor, David Paterson, succeeded him as governor of New York and served the remaining three years of Spitzer's four-year term.[35]


Spitzer's prostitution scandal became international news.[36][37]

The real George Fox, who is a close friend and campaign donor of Spitzer, issued a statement denying any connection to the scandal beyond the unauthorized use of his name.[38] He said that he was "disappointed and distressed" that Spitzer had used his name as an alias, and confirmed that Spitzer privately apologized to him.[39]

According to Nell Minow, a corporate-governance expert, Wall Street reaction to the scandal was largely positive, due to a general dislike of Spitzer amongst investment professionals.[40] Governor Spitzer made his rise to victory in New York City politics promising "ethics and integrity to be the hallmarks of [his] administration." He had prosecuted several prostitution rings in his career,[41] and his connection with a prostitution ring was felt as a betrayal by some women's rights and anti-human trafficking groups that had previously worked with him.[42]

In an editorial reflecting on the scandal, philosopher Martha Nussbaum wrote "Spitzer's offense was an offense against his family. It was not an offense against the public. If he broke any laws, these are laws that never should have existed and that have been repudiated by sensible nations."[43]

In 2011, The Guardian summarized Spitzer's history as follows:

Long before there was Barack Obama there was Spitzer. While Obama toiled unknown in Illinois, the Bronx-born Spitzer won himself a national reputation as the "Sheriff of Wall Street". He was New York's tough-talking attorney-general, who fought banking corruption, enforced environment law and won rights for low-paid workers. He used that fame to enter politics and in 2006 became governor of New York: a perfect springboard for the White House. Before America fell in love with its first black president, people wondered if it was willing to embrace its first Jewish one. Spitzer could have made history.

Instead he left office in disgrace three years ago amid a flood of tabloid headlines that recounted salacious details from his repeated use of a high-end escort service. Spitzer was dubbed the "Luv Guv" and forced into a political wilderness. Rarely in American politics was a fall from grace so spectacular, so complete and so clearly down to a self-inflicted human flaw.[44]


"Kristen", 22, was an aspiring pop recording artist living in Manhattan whose professional stage name is Ashley Dupré. She was just one of the escorts that Spitzer had liaisons with, but she gained significant media attention following the scandal. After the news broke, she responded that she didn't "want to be thought of as a monster,"[45] and that it had been a "difficult" and "complicated" time for her.[11]

On March 15, the New York Post published an extensive photo shoot showing Dupré in provocative poses.[46] By late October 2008, Dupré's profile on MySpace.com had received nearly 12 million page views.[47]

As a result of the media attention following the scandal, Dupré was offered $1 million by Hustler to pose nude for the magazine, and received unofficial offers from Penthouse, among others.[48] She eventually agreed to pose for Playboy in the May 2010 issue.[49]

Political impact

Overseas, Gerald Cavendish Grosvenor, 6th Duke of Westminster was a high-profile casualty of the scandal when Emperors Club prostitutes alleged that he had been a client. The allegations were followed by Grosvenor stepping down as Assistant Chief of the Defence Staff (Reserves and Cadets) in the British Ministry of Defence.[50]

2013 New York City Comptroller election

Both Spitzer and Kristin M. Davis, another madam caught in the prostitution scandal but unaffiliated with the Emperors Club VIP, ran for New York City Comptroller in 2013. Davis won the Libertarian Party nomination, but later withdrew from the race following a drug arrest.[51] There was some debate as to whether or not Spitzer's name recognition would help him in the election.[52] Spitzer lost the Democratic primary to Scott Stringer,[53] 52.1%-47.9%.[54]

Depictions in media

See also


  1. ^ Richburg, Keith B.; Schmidt, Susan; Johnson, Carrie (March 11, 2008). "FBI Watched Spitzer Before February Incident". The Washington Post.
  2. ^ Hosenball, Mark (March 15, 2008). "Unintended consequences: Spitzer got snagged by the fine print of the Patriot Act". Newsweek.
  3. ^ "Sources: Spitzer used call-girl service at least 8 times". CNN. March 12, 2008. Retrieved March 13, 2008.
  4. ^ Kessler, Robert. "Eliot Spitzer met with call girls 7 or 8 times". Newsday. March 11, 2008.
  5. ^ "GOP Pol: Resign Or Else Archived March 12, 2008, at the Wayback Machine". WNBC. March 11, 2008.
  6. ^ a b Alberts, Sheldon (March 12, 2008). "Spitzer resigns amid sex scandal". Canwest News Service. The Gazette. Archived from the original on March 15, 2008.
  7. ^ Disgraced NY Governor Won't Need New Job, Associated Press, March 12, 2008 Archived March 15, 2008, at the Wayback Machine
  8. ^ 80G 'Addicted to Love' Gov" Archived March 13, 2008, at the Wayback Machine, NY Post, March 12, 2008
  9. ^ United States of America v. Mark Brener, Cecil Suwal, Temeka Rachelle Lewis, and Tanya Hollander (pdf). United States District Court for the Southern District of New York. March 5, 2008. Federal complaint.
  10. ^ Gaskell, Stephanie; Hutchinson, Bill (March 13, 2008). "I'm no monster says New Jersey girl who brought down Spitzer". Daily News. New York.
  11. ^ a b Kovaleski, Serge F.; Urbina, Ian (March 13, 2008). "Woman at the Center of Governor's Downfall". The New York Times.
  12. ^ Westfeldt, Amy (March 10, 2008). "NY Governor Linked to High-end Prostitution Ring". The Denver Post. Associated Press.
  13. ^ "Newspaper identifies Spitzer's 'Kristen'". CNN. March 12, 2008.
  14. ^ Kennedy, Helen (March 11, 2008). "Details of how Eliot Spitzer told the prostitute to meet him in the Washington hotel room for tryst". Daily News. New York.
  15. ^ Feuer, Alam; Urbina, Ian (March 11, 2008). "Affidavit: Client 9 and Room 871". New York Times. Retrieved March 16, 2008.
  16. ^ a b Zambito, Thomas; Benjamin, Elizabeth; Kennedy, Helen (March 10, 2008). "Gov. Spitzer tied to prostitution ring". Daily News. New York. Retrieved March 10, 2008.
  17. ^ Pitney, Nico (March 10, 2008). "Spitzer As Client 9: Read Text Messages From Spitzer To Prostitute". The Huffington Post.
  18. ^ "Online Hooker Ring Busted". The Smoking Gun. March 6, 2008. Archived from the original on July 26, 2010.
  19. ^ "N.Y. governor apologizes after reports tie him to prostitution ring". CBC News. March 11, 2008. Retrieved May 22, 2012.
  20. ^ Kessler, Robert E. (March 11, 2008). "Eliot Spitzer's bank turned him in to the IRS". Newsday. Retrieved March 11, 2008.
  21. ^ "Spitzer Fall Began With Bank Reports". The New York Times. March 13, 2008.
  22. ^ Ross, Brian (March 10, 2008). "It Wasn't the Sex; Suspicious $$ Transfers Led to Spitzer".
  23. ^ Arena, Kelli (March 11, 2008). "Sources: Money transfers spurred Spitzer probe". CNN. Retrieved March 11, 2008.
  24. ^ Weiner, Eric. "The Long, Colorful History of the Mann Act". NPR. March 10, 2008.
  25. ^ "Spitzer Tipster A GOP 'Swinger' Told FBI of Hooker Habit Back In Nov" Archived March 25, 2008, at the Wayback Machine, New York Post, March 23, 2008
  26. ^ "No Federal Prostitution Charges for Spitzer", DANNY HAKIM, WILLIAM K. RASHBAUM. New York Times. November 6, 2008. Retrieved 27 feb 2017
  27. ^ Feuer, Alan (March 7, 2008). "Four Charged With Running Online Prostitution Ring". The New York Times. Retrieved April 24, 2019.
  28. ^ a b c Hakim, Danny; Rashbaum, William (March 10, 2018). "Spitzer Is Linked to Prostitution Ring". The New York Times. Retrieved April 24, 2019.
  29. ^ "Republicans Set Deadline For Governor's Ousting: 'I've Asked Him To Resign'". WCBS-TV. March 11, 2008. Archived March 12, 2008, at the Wayback Machine
  30. ^ "24/7 Cable Eye Turns to New York". March 10, 2008.
  31. ^ Santora, Marc (March 10, 2008). "NY Assembly Minority leader says Gov should resign". Reuters. Retrieved March 10, 2008.
  32. ^ "Spitzer Scandal Reaction". Associated Press. March 10, 2008. Archived from the original on March 14, 2008. Retrieved March 10, 2008.
  33. ^ "U.S. Attorney Says There Is No Deal With Spitzer". The New York Times. March 12, 2008.
  34. ^ "Text of Governor Spitzer's resignation letter". Archived from the original on March 20, 2008.
  35. ^ Harvie, Maureen (June 5, 2014). "Why Have There Been So Few Black Governors?". news.wypr.org.
  36. ^ Perks, Ashley (January 27, 2009). "Maffei's new flack: 'I'm not just a Spitzer sob story'". TheHill.
  37. ^ "FOXNews.com - Mrs. Spitzer a Behind-The-Scenes Force - Local News - News Articles - National News - US News". www.foxnews.com.
  38. ^ Chan, Sewell (March 11, 2008). "George Fox, Spitzer Supporter and Alias, Responds – City Room – Metro – New York Times Blog". cityroom.blogs.nytimes.com. Retrieved March 17, 2008.
  39. ^ Svea Herbst-Bayliss, Reuters, Spitzer's friend Fox upset his name used as alias, Reuters, March 11, 2008.
  40. ^ Blaine, Charley; Strott, Elizabeth (March 11, 2008). "Stocks soar after Fed acts". MSN Money. Archived from the original on March 7, 2011. Retrieved March 11, 2008.
  41. ^ Rashbaum, William K (April 8, 2004). "18 Arrested in Lucrative Prostitution Ring out of Staten Island". The New York Times. Archived from the original on March 14, 2008. Retrieved March 12, 2008.
  42. ^ Bernstein, Nina (March 12, 2008). "Foes of Sex Trade Are Stung by the Fall of an Ally". The New York Times. Retrieved March 15, 2008.
  43. ^ Martha Nussbaum, "Trading on America's puritanical streak", The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, March 14, 2008
  44. ^ Harris, Paul (February 27, 2011). "Eliot Spitzer: Wall Street's fallen angel" – via www.theguardian.com.
  45. ^ One report claims 32. "Eliot Spitzer's 'Kristen' — Actually 32?". New York Magazine. March 14, 2008.
  46. ^ OMG! I JUST DID THE GOVERNOR! SPITZ HOOKER'S DC DISCOVERY New York Post, March 15, 2008. Retrieved on March 15, 2008.
  47. ^ Ashley Dupré Myspace.com Page Archived March 18, 2008, at the Wayback Machine Retrieved on October 22, 2008.
  48. ^ "Prostitute In Spitzer Scandal Scores Million Dollar Offer To Bare All".
  49. ^ Eustachewich, Lia (April 13, 2010). "Ashley Dupre, Eliot Spitzer's former call girl, strips down for Playboy". Daily News. New York.
  50. ^ Roberts, Sam (August 15, 2016). "Gerald Grosvenor, British Duke and Billionaire, Dies at 64". New York Times. Retrieved September 9, 2020.
  51. ^ Nelson, Steven (August 26, 2013). "Spitzer's Ex-Madam Kristin Davis Slips Out of Comptroller Race". US News. Retrieved November 21, 2021.
  52. ^ Barbaro, Michael, Chen, David W. (July 7, 2013). "Spitzer Rejoins Politics, Asking for Forgiveness". New York Times.
  53. ^ Peltz, Jennifer. "Stringer Defeats Spitzer in Comptroller Primary". NBC New York.
  54. ^ https://www.vote.nyc.ny.us/downloads/pdf/results/2013/2013SeptemberPrimaryElection/01013000000Citywide%20Democratic%20City%20Comptroller%20Citywide%20Recap.pdf[bare URL PDF]
  55. ^ ""Spitzer Documentary Premieres at Tribeca Film Festival", Associated Press via Yahoo News (April 25, 2010)".
  56. ^ Trechak, Brad (March 27, 2008). "South Park: Major Boobage". The Huffington Post. Retrieved March 29, 2008.
  57. ^ Ridley, Jane (September 2, 2009). "Pain of Eliot Spitzer scandal for ex-governor's wife Silda recalled in new CBS show 'The Good Wife'". Daily News. New York. Retrieved January 21, 2010.

Further reading

External links