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Spitzer’s Legacy

March 8, 2010

What’s the most ill-advised thing Eliot Spitzer did in office? We’re talking official actions now. Alien licenses and Troopergate certainly became media firestorms, but in retrospect, those controversies seem overblown. The fight with the Assembly over comptroller selection process was bad politics, but again, in retrospect, he appears to have been right in thinking that Dinapoli was not the best suited for the position. His budgets in ’07 and ’08 spent too much in face a dramatic slowdown in the economy, but spending is often the only way to get a budget in New York. Some people now say the biggest blunder was picking David A. Paterson as Lt. Governor, but this is Monday morning quarterbacking. At the time, everyone thought Paterson was a brilliant choice.

No, Spitzer’s biggest blunder was something else. It was creating the so-called Public Integrity Commission. This commission was supposed to be an improvement on its predecessor organizations, but it has been an embarrassment.

Spitzer stacked the commission with friends and cronies, and they went into the tank for him during Troopergate. (See IG’s report) It was only later, after Spitzer was gone, that the Commission pretended to get tough with the administration, but it was too late.

The commission did virtually the same thing with Paterson. It gave him a pass on leaking Caroline Kennedy’s personal information to the media. It gave him a pass on the whole AEG matter. It even dawdled with the Yankee ticket matter until it determined that Paterson was going down, and then it advanced a weak case. Again, too little, too late.

The state’s top ethics panel should be above reproach, but almost every thing this commission does raises suspicion. And it all goes back to Spitzer.

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