Spitzer Donor Sees Albany as Presidential Test

According to one of Eliot Spitzer’s major contributors, the success of the Governor’s reform agenda in Albany could end up being a test run for something much bigger down the road.

“I can certainly see him being a really viable contender for President if he’s able to get all these reforms through,” said Doug Dunham, a major Democratic fund-raiser who is counsel at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom.

By Mr. Dunham’s thinking, Mr. Spitzer needs to succeed in his plan to flip control of the Republican-led State Senate to the Democrats. He would then be able to push through his agenda of reform, and could in turn parlay that into a successful bid for the White House.

“Certainly, reforming Albany was significant for prior Presidents from New York—for Franklin Roosevelt, Theodore Roosevelt and, before that, Grover Cleveland,” he said. “They were all reform-minded Governors who occasionally had to be a little tough but did get reform packages through the State Legislature. Wasn’t always the easiest thing to do, but they succeeded eventually, and that laid the groundwork for giving them national reputations as reformers, setting them up for a Presidential run.”

In 2004, Mr. Dunham co-chaired the Committee of New York Lawyers for Kerry-Edwards, which reportedly raised $2.6 million.

By 2005, when Mr. Spitzer’s campaign was kicking into high gear, so was Mr. Dunham’s level of local contribution. According to state Board of Elections records, Mr. Dunham gave thousands of dollars to both Mr. Spitzer and his running mate, David Paterson.

Not long after Mr. Spitzer’s landslide victory in November, the Governor turned his focus to taking over the Republican-held State Senate. So did Mr. Dunham.

“I’m going to be working toward a fund-raising event in late spring,” Mr. Dunham said. The purpose, he said, is to “raise money for winning back a Senate Democratic majority in ’08.”

When asked for comment, Mr. Spitzer’s spokeswoman, Christine Anderson, e-mailed this statement: “Eliot is entirely focused on doing the job New Yorkers elected him to do. He is working hard every day to pass his budget and wider reform agenda and to bring about real change for the people of the state.”