As Spitzer Steps Down, GOP Steps Up Attacks on His Campaign Donations

By Mary Ann Akers And Paul Kane
Thursday, March 13, 2008

Even though New York Gov. Eliot L. Spitzer (D) resigned in disgrace yesterday, House Republicans still have him to kick around.

The National Republican Congressional Committee is not backing off its efforts to bash New York Democratic lawmakers and candidates for the thousands of dollars in campaign contributions that they have received from Spitzer.

"New York Democrats should resign themselves to giving up the disgraced Governor's sleazy cash before it's too late and they find themselves being escorted out of office by the voters in November," said NRCC spokesman Ken Spain.

Even after Spitzer resigned, the NRCC sent out a news release bashing three-term Rep. Timothy H. Bishop (D-N.Y.) for taking a $2,000 campaign donation from Spitzer.

"Will Tim Bishop Return Spitzer's Sleazy Money?" the headline blared. Noting that Bishop ran on an ethics reform platform, the GOP release asked, "Will Democrat Tim Bishop live up to his promise of holding elected officials to a higher standard or will he run and hide from his campaign promises once again?"

Bishop quickly gave the money to charity, and in a statement said he was livid at Republicans for making Spitzer's donations a campaign issue.

"That the NRCC is attempting to link this shocking and disturbing situation to individuals who clearly had nothing to do with it points to their utter desperation," Bishop said. "If such smear campaigns are all they have to offer, then they are destined to remain in the minority for a long time."

Earlier this week, the NRCC attacked three freshman New York House Democrats -- Reps. Michael Arcuri, Kirsten Gillibrand and John Hall-- and two New York Democratic House candidates, Dan Maffei and Eric Massa, for taking money from Spitzer.

Massa returned the cash but only after the NRCC circulated three freeze-frame photos of Massa and Spitzer together, taken from one of Massa's own campaign ads, which featured the words "trust," "integrity" and "respect."

Massa is running for a second consecutive time against Rep. John R. " Randy" Kuhl Jr. (R-N.Y.), who is no stranger to controversy himself. Kuhl's sealed divorce records were leaked weeks before the 2004 election, when Kuhl was elected for the first time. Kuhl's now-ex-wife alleged that Kuhl pulled not one but two shotguns on his wife at a dinner party and threatened to shoot her, according to media reports at the time.

Spitzer's Last Stand

Speaking of Spitzer on Capitol Hill, this great line from the soon-to-be-ex-governor might have brought down the House if only the lawmakers knew what had happened the night before Spitzer's Valentine's Day testimony.

"Now, let me explain why I'm here testifying on this issue . . .," Spitzer said well into his testimony on the subprime mortgage crisis.

As our colleague Jonathan Weisman confirmed Monday, Spitzer's Feb. 14 testimony before the House Financial Services Committee's subcommittee on capital markets came not at the request of the top lawmakers on the panel. Reps. Paul E. Kanjorski (D-Pa.) and Deborah Pryce (R-Ohio) were happy to have the state's superintendent for insurance, Eric R. Dinallo.

But, no, Spi tzer really wanted to come testify. He called to insist on coming down, and the committee pushed back the New York insurance superintendent to make room for the governor's last-minute appearance.

Spitzer may have been "Client-9" the previous night at the Mayflower Hotel but was completely technical in his testimony. It was all about mortgage markets and whether the federal government should take a greater role in overseeing insurance markets.

Pretty dull stuff, overall. In conclusion, he said: "We cannot afford to let this valuable discussion degenerate into the kind of blame and finger-pointing that damages our ability to focus on the essential immediate task. I welcome your questions."

Well, we have a few questions we'd like you to answer, Mr. Governor.

Where Are They Now?

Gary Hart's name has been cited all week in news stories recalling past political sex scandals. And, lo and behold, he was spotted in the flesh yesterday on Capitol Hill.

The former Democratic senator from Colorado and two-time presidential candidate was at Cups, the Senate-side coffee shop, about 30 minutes before all eyes turned to the television to watch Spitzer announce his resignation with his wife by his side.

The "standing-by-her-man" element has been a big part of why Hart's name has been dredged up in recent days.

Hart's wife, Lee, stood by her husband when he withdrew from the 1988 Democratic presidential race after his affair with model Donna Rice was exposed. (Who can forget the famous photo of Rice sitting on Hart's lap near the yacht "Monkey Business" on which they took an overnight cruise?) So what was the former sex-scandal-plagued senator doing in town on a sex-scandal-plagued Wednesday? Nothing scandalous, we're told.

He was meeting with members of Congress to discuss nuclear issues in his capacity as chairman of the anti-nuke, antiwar Council for a Livable World, according to his assistant at the University of Colorado at Denver, where Hart is a scholar in residence.

Further proving that there is life for politicians ruined by sex scandals, the former senator has written a number of books and essays since disappearing from public office in 1988, including his most recent book, "Under the Eagle's Wing: A National Security Strategy of the United States for 2009."

According to his bio on the university's Web site, "Since retiring from the United States Senate, Gary Hart has been extensively involved in international law and business, as a strategic advisor to major U.S. corporations, and as a teacher, author and lecturer."

As well as watching Spitzer with a knowing eye.

Senate Deadbeats?

Membership has its privileges in the Senate. Here's an example: Senators and ex-senators can go months without paying their bills to the exclusive Senate Dining Room or other cafeterias and sundry shops around the chamber.

Our friends at the Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call reported on a Government Accounting Office audit of the Senate Restaurants, the internal division of Congress that runs those food shops. It showed that more than $50,000 in 2007 was billed to senators, former senators and top chamber officials.

Most of those elite customers were very prompt about paying their bills -- almost 95 percent of the debt was paid within 30 days. But it took some members of the world's greatest deliberative body at least 60 days to pay up, with $2,286 coming in during that time.

The rest -- $288 -- took as long as 90 days to come in. The restaurant service, which faced a $1.3 million deficit in fiscal year 2007, is being privatized, and a contract is likely to be hatched with Restaurant Services, the go-green company that is running House-side food services.

Sadly, a GAO aide told us that the identities of the lawmakers who delayed paying up for the longest time would not be revealed.

View all comments that have been posted about this article.

© 2008 The Washington Post Company