Spitzer’s Knew-Nothing Troopergate Testimony

Say one thing for Eliot Spitzer, in light of newly released testimony from the Troopergate affair: He knows how to stick to a story.

The former governor was spared, from a legal standpoint, because, according to the State Commission on Public Integrity: "[t]he failure to supervise subordinates, without more, does not violate the Public Officers Law." (The commission made public some 277 pages of sworn testimony it took from Mr. Spitzer on May 9 in Manhattan, and found that four of Mr. Spitzer’s aides violates ethics law.)

But the documents do show the way in which Mr. Spitzer held fast to his claim, even after he left office, that it was his staff and not he who ordered the state police to create and disseminate travel records of Joe Bruno, who was then majority leader in the State Senate and Mr. Spitzer’s fiercest political rival in the legislature.

Throughout the testimony, Mr. Spitzer, a notorious workaholic, said he did not recall specific conversations with his top aides and claimed not to have read articles about himself and Troopergate by Fred Dicker, the state editor of the New York Post whose coverage of the unfolding scandal helped drive it to its politically disastrous conclusion.

According to the transcribed testimony, Mr. Spitzer was asked about an e-mail he received from an aide after an e-mail from his director of communication, Darren Dopp, was published in the New York Post.

"This e-mail chain seems to indicate there is a fair amount of discussion going on about Darren’s explanations," said Herbert Teitelbaum, the head of the commission.

"My response was, ‘What is that,’" Mr. Spitzer said, which "establishes, as I said, I didn’t read Dicker’s article."

The testimony was given in Manhattan weeks after Mr. Spitzer resigned from office over reports that he was a client of a high-end prostitution ring. Even without the weight of public office or a political future to consider, Mr. Spitzer maintained that it was his staff that raised the notion of publicizing Mr. Bruno’s questionable use of state aircraft for trips to political functions.

At one point, Mr. Spitzer was asked why, if he did not put out the order to begin collecting Mr. Bruno’s travel records, he started receiving notices of when Mr. Bruno was requesting use of the plane. The answer, according to Mr. Spitzer, was that Mr. Bruno had made public remarks "that were by any standard, violative of the civil discourse that we were trying to maintain at a public level."

"And I think somebody said, ‘You want to act the way your predecessor did and take the chopper, or the fixed wing plane away from him?’ and I said no."

This, from the person who admitted to calling himself a "fucking steamroller" during a conversation with a state legislator shortly after taking office.

As fate would have it, Mr. Spitzer’s testimony was released on the day of the annual Democratic County dinner in his home borough of the Bronx. There, politicians who once championed Mr. Spitzer’s rise in politics were reluctant to talk about him.

Former Bronx Democratic chair Roberto Ramiriez, once a paid consultant to Mr. Spitzer, waived away a question about his former client, saying, "You can ask me, but I’m not going to answer."

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver said the lesson of Mr. Spitzer is that "you have to get along with people, and accomplish things with them in that fashion."

State Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, whose report a year earlier had found that three of Mr. Spitzer’s aides had acted wrongly and more or less officially established Troopergate as a full-blown scandal, declined to speak publicly about the former governor. Spitzer’s Knew-Nothing Troopergate Testimony