At the Mayflower, Client 9's Sinking Ship

By Dana Milbank
Tuesday, March 11, 2008; A02

The woman accused of running a prostitution ring allegedly patronized by Eliot Spitzer told one of her call girls that the New York governor had been known to "ask you to do things that, like, you might not think were safe."

But whatever Spitzer -- or, in the language of a federal court filing, "Client-9" -- did with a petite brunette nicknamed "Kristen" on the eve of Valentine's Day last month at Washington's Mayflower Hotel, it probably wasn't as monstrous as what he asked his wife to do yesterday.

In the grand tradition of Larry Craig, David Vitter and Jim McGreevey, Spitzer dragged his partner of 21 years before the television cameras at his offices in New York to announce that he was "disappointed" in himself for unspecified sins.

Silda Wall Spitzer looked like a victim of food poisoning as she stood by her man's side. She cast her eyes downward at the 183-word statement while he read it. She raised her glance only briefly, when the governor admitted he had "acted in a way that violates my obligation to my family," when he offered an apology "to the public, whom I promised better," and again when he pledged to "dedicate some time to regain the trust of my family."

The silent Mrs. Spitzer -- Harvard law school graduate, corporate lawyer, nonprofit founder and mother of the governor's three daughters -- then led Client 9 away from the lectern.

Fortunately for Mrs. Spitzer, the ordeal lasted only 67 seconds, and the governor, his forehead shining under the TV lights, took no questions. Unfortunately for Mr. Spitzer, this left unchallenged a rather lurid account of the events of last month at the Mayflower in the federal prosecutors' filing; indeed, Spitzer admitted that he violated "any sense of right and wrong."

You're not kidding, Governor. Client 9 didn't even splurge on the Acela for the prostitute.

The filing indicates she took the 5:39 p.m. regional Amtrak down from Penn Station on Feb. 13 for her rendezvous with Spitzer in Washington. But Kristen -- described in the court papers as a "very pretty brunette, 5 feet 5 inches, and 105 pounds" -- forgave the governor for this slight. Calling in to her, uh, dispatcher just after midnight on Valentine's Day, she reported that Client 9 had given her $4,300 for the session and down payment toward the next. Spitzer had used just two of his four allotted hours; he had to testify the next morning before a House Financial Services subcommittee on the "State of the Bond Insurance Industry."

Spitzer evidently had a reputation with the service for being "difficult" -- a sentiment shared by many Wall Street executives he prosecuted -- but Kristen was philosophical. "I'm here for a purpose. I know what my purpose is," she said in a phone call recorded by the feds. "I am not a . . . moron, you know what I mean. So maybe that's why girls maybe think they're difficult."

And besides, Kristen went on, "I have a way of dealing with that. . . . I'd be, like, 'Listen, dude, you really want the sex?' "

Thrice in his brief statement, Spitzer spoke of his affection for his home state: his desire to "bring real change to New York," to "rebuild New York" and to do "what is best for the state of New York." Even in scandal, he sought to patronize New York products, working with a New York company to have Kristen exported.

Yet Spitzer, in risking scandal in a hotel room, also had the good sense to take his business to a city famous for such activities. In selecting the Mayflower, he chose the same hotel believed to have been used for assignations by John F. Kennedy, and the very place where Monica Lewinsky stayed when she testified about her tryst with Bill Clinton. A couple of blocks in either direction are the Jefferson, where Clinton adviser Dick Morris met a prostitute, and the Westin Grand, where defense contractors were said to have provided prostitutes to government officials.

Franklin Roosevelt liked the Mayflower, too, albeit for more legitimate pursuits; he is said to have written the line "We have nothing to fear but fear itself" in Room 776, one flight down from Spitzer's room, 871. (The New York Times discovered that Spitzer had booked the room under the name of George Fox, one of his donors.)

Client 9 was having a bit of a credit problem with the service, the court filing shows. His "package" -- cash payment -- hadn't arrived and, for obvious reasons, he preferred not to "do traditional wire transferring."

Just in time, the package arrived, and Spitzer, told that his visitor was Kristen, replied, "Great, okay, wonderful." The service "asked Client-9 whether he could give 'Kristen' 'extra funds' at this appointment in order to avoid payment issues in the future," the prosecution filing says.

In extensive detail, the prosecutors' filing notes the financial arrangements ("Client-9 would be paying for everything -- train tickets, cab fare from the hotel and back, mini bar or room service, travel time, and hotel") and the meeting logistics for Room 871 ("Client-9 explained that the door would not be visibly open, but if someone pushed it, the door would open").

By late afternoon yesterday, the Mayflower had stationed a security guard on the eighth floor to keep the scandal-minded at bay. Some of the camera-toting tourists had already dubbed it the "Spitzer Hotel." But Kristen and Client 9 were long gone. In their place, reporters arriving on the scene encountered a bit of fitting imagery for the New York governor: a meeting of the National Funeral Directors Association.

Staff writer Petula Dvorak contributed to this report.

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