07.01.2008 0

Can Government Control Itself?

  • On: 07/16/2008 15:44:53
  • In: New York News
  • “The truth [is] that all men having power ought to be distrusted to a certain degree.” – James Madison, July 11th, 1787 from his notes on the Constitutional Convention.

    Eliot Spitzer is the poster-child for the need to limit government – not because of his illegally soliciting the services of a prostitute (as bad as that was) – but by improperly wielding New York State’s powers of law to target a political opponent.

    James Madison, the Father of the Constitution, was precisely right in observing that men, when left to their own devices, were prone to vice, and that government was no different. Without strict limits on the powers of the government, government officials are prone to arbitrary, arrant decision-making. The concentration of power in the hands of the few invariably evokes abuse. And Mr. Spitzer, in all of his villainy, is no exception to the rule.

    Yesterday, the New York Times reported that then Governor Spitzer was intimately involved with organizing the State Police to spy on New York Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno (R-Brunswick), and to produce records of Mr. Bruno’s flights on State aircraft.

    Spitzer had previously denied being involved, and instead had suggested that the request for Bruno’s flight records had come from a media FOIL request. The report reveals that Spitzer had ordered Darren Dopp, his communications director, to get a hold of the records and then to have them released to the media, even calling him at home early in the morning to see how the political hit was working out:

    “Mr. Dopp, and his wife, Sandy Dopp, who also met with investigators from [Albany County District Attorney] Soares’s office, said that after the meeting in late June in which Mr. Spitzer angrily urged the release of the records on Mr. Bruno, Mr. Spitzer repeatedly called the Dopp home in the early morning hours checking on the status of the effort to get a story published in The Times Union, when it might be printed and how Mr. Dopp believed the story would turn out… Ms. Dopp said she was struck by how often Mr. Spitzer called Mr. Dopp at home during that time.”

    Albany County District Attorney P. David Soares is leading the investigation into this act of gross abuse of power, which shows more than simply a lapse in ethical judgment by Spitzer:

    “[T]estimony and other information gathered by the Albany County district attorney, P. David Soares, indicate that the governor’s participation was extensive and reflected Mr. Spitzer’s intense desire to damage Mr. Bruno, the people with knowledge of the case said.”

    The State’s Attorney General Office under Andrew Cuomo had released a report on July 23rd which had then concluded that the Governor had misused the State’s powers in going after Bruno. This had not led to any prosecution under Mr. Cuomo’s direction, raising questions over the commitment of Cuomo to go after a fellow partisan politician who had violated his oath of office.

    Clearly, Attorney General Cuomo had fallen asleep at the wheel – while Spitzer steered the car into the abyss. So, Cuomo and his minions deserve no pat on the back for finding wrong-doing and doing nothing.

    In short, one broke the law while the other provided cover. Apparently, Mr. Madison was as prescient as he was precise.

    ALG Perspective: This is a landmark case for why government must be limited in the exercise of its powers. Spitzer’s misuse of State power to conduct opposition research on the Republican Majority Leader of New York was an abhorrent act worthy of impeachment. As bad as Spitzer’s prostitute scandal was and is, his acts as Governor to target political opponents were a worse abuse of power. He should have been removed from office then. And Cuomo should have done his duty and prosecuted this rogue political crony – or resigned from office, allowing his successor to uphold the rule of law.

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