Has Spitzer Blown It?

Meanwhile, the one man who is perfectly positioned to condemn Shelly Silver for his disastrous impact on New York—his fellow Democrat, Governor Eliot Spitzer—is himself engulfed by troubling questions about abuse of power within his own administration.

Less than one year into his job, having entered Albany on promises of bringing integrity to the corrupt and slothful backwash of the Pataki administration, Mr. Spitzer has lost a staggering amount of ground.

It began with the new governor’s seeming inability to maintain cordial relations with his legislative partners, with a particular animus toward State Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno. The white knight was looking an awful lot like a bully; the reformer looked like he might need a few weeks in reform school.

But that was simply the smoke before the fire, which burst into flames this week with Attorney General Andrew Cuomo’s report that Governor Spitzer’s aides used state police in an attempt to dig up dirt on Mr. Bruno for the purposes of planting stories in the press. Specifically, the governor’s aides are accused of misleading police by claiming the news media was asking for details about Mr. Bruno’s use of state helicopters. They then fed the Times Union of Albany a skewed version of what the police found. (Mr. Cuomo’s report found nothing amiss in Mr. Bruno’s use of the helicopters.)

These were not low-level flunkies toiling in the shadows of the Spitzer administration: The scheme was led by Darren Dopp, Mr. Spitzer’s communications director. Richard Baum, the governor’s secretary, was also in the loop. While the attorney general’s report noted that their actions were “not unlawful,” they were without a doubt despicable.

Governor Spitzer, who has suspended Mr. Dopp, claims he was unaware of the plot. Even if true, the fact remains that officials whom Mr. Spitzer esteemed high enough to place within his inner circle proceeded to operate without the slightest regard for virtue or common decency. Yes, the governor mouthed the obligatory statement—“I accept responsibility for the actions of my office”—but New Yorkers are left with more questions than answers. Including, it must be said, questions about Mr. Spitzer’s past record as a prosecutor: If he’s surrounding himself with unscrupulous advisers today, who’s to say similar dirty tricks were not accepted and even encouraged back then?