Eliot Spitzer Biography

U.S. Governor (1959–)
Former governor Eliot Spitzer had a promising career until his frequent use of prostitutes was discovered, forcing him to resign.


Born June 10, 1959, Eliot Spitzer attended Harvard Law School and worked his way up in the Manhattan District Attorney's office. He was elected New York Attorney General in 1998. Known for his strict ethics and persistence, Spitzer was elected governor in 2006. But in 2008 the press revealed that Spitzer made frequent use of an escort service. The scandal forced him to resign from office.


Politician, attorney and former Governor of New York Eliot Laurence Spitzer was born June 10, 1959, in the affluent Riverdale section of the Bronx borough of New York City. His father, Bernard, was a self-made wealthy developer of apartment buildings while his mother, Anne, was an English literature professor.

After graduating from Princeton University's Woodrow Wilson School of Public & International Affairs in 1981, Eliot Spitzer enrolled at Harvard Law School. There, Spitzer worked for famed law professor Alan Dershowitz and served as Editor of the Harvard Law Review. After law school, Spitzer clerked for U.S. District Judge Robert W. Sweet. He also worked for the law firms Paul, Weiss, Rifkind; Wharton & Garrison; and Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom. Spitzer found his niche in 1986 when he joined the Manhattan District Attorney's office, where he spent six years doggedly pursuing organized crime figures.

State Attorney General

In 1994, Spitzer ran as a Democrat for the state attorney general post. He lost, but came back in 1998 and defeated incumbent Republican Dennis Vacco. Spitzer was re-elected in 2002. As attorney general, Spitzer made a name for himself as a crusading prosecutor. Not only did he lock horns with the Gambino Mafia crime family, he also became known as the "Sheriff of Wall Street."

In May 2002, Spitzer won a spectacular victory when he uncovered emails revealing that Merrill Lynch was riddled with financial conflicts of interest that affected its advice to customers. Merrill Lynch settled out of court for $100 million.

Governor of New York

Spitzer, who made cleaning up the ethics of state government a priority, was elected governor of New York in 2006, winning 69 percent of the vote. His hard-charging ways quickly put him at odds with the powerful Republican leader of the state Senate. Two aides were disciplined for using the state police to track the movements of Spitzer's chief political rival, Joe Bruno. Spitzer was also forced to withdraw a plan to grant driver's licenses to illegal immigrants.

Spitzer's political career took a scandalous turn on March 10, 2008, when The New York Times reported that a wire tap had caught Spitzer arranging to spend thousands of dollars on a high-end prostitute at a fancy Washington hotel on February 13. Spitzer's call was believed to have been made to an exclusive prostitution service known as the "Emperor's Club VIP," which was dissolved on March 7 by New York authorities. According to prosecutors, the ring operated in cities across the United States and in London and Paris, and employed more than 50 prostitutes. The employees charged clients fees ranging from $1,000 to more than $5,500 per hour.

A criminal complaint filed by prosecutors said Spitzer, identified as "Client 9," paid $4,300 to have a prostitute named Kristen brought from New York to Washington, where Spitzer was to address Congress. Spitzer allegedly used two rooms at the Mayflower Hotel, one for himself, the other for the prostitute, sneaking away from his security detail. "Kristen" was identified by The New York Times as 22-year-old Ashley Youmans, now known as Ashley Alexandra Dupre. Described as a Jersey Shore girl who left a broken home at age 17 to work New York City nightclubs as a rhythm and blues singer, she declined comment when asked when she first met Spitzer and how many times they had been together.

The complaint also indicated that Spitzer had previously used the prostitution ring's services. A law-enforcement official stated that Spitzer had spent as much as $80,000 on Emperors Club VIP going back 10 years to his time as New York state attorney general.

The case against Spitzer started when his bank branch in Manhattan noticed frequent cash transfers from several accounts and tipped off the Internal Revenue Service. Spitzer allegedly transferred $10,000 by breaking it into smaller amounts, and then asked the bank to remove his name from the transactions.

As the truth emerged, Spitzer apologized to his family and the public, but stopped short of resigning from office. "I have acted in a way that violates my obligations to my family, that violates my or any sense of right and wrong," he told reporters, with his wife Silda at his side. "I apologize first and most importantly to my family. I apologize to the public, whom I promised better," he said. "I must now dedicate some time to regain the trust of my family."

Spitzer began to feel the threat of impeachment. His resignation was effective on March 17, 2008. That same day, Lieutenant Governor David Paterson became New York's first black governor—as well as the first legally blind one—in the United States.

Return to the Limelight

In December 2008, Spitzer began a cautious return to the limelight, writing a column about the economy for Slate magazine. In October 2010, Spitzer began co-hosting the primetime CNN discussion show Parker Spitzer with conservative journalist Kathleen Parker. After reports of infighting between the hosts, Parker left the show in February 2011. Renamed In the Arena, the show received poor ratings, but was seen by critics as contributing to the rehabilitation of the ex-governor's public image. On July 6, 2011, CNN announced that it was canceling the show.

Spitzer made headlines again in July 2013, when he announced plans to run for the position of New York City comptroller in 2013. "There's substantial authority here that I think can be used in exciting ways," Spitzer stated in an interview shortly after his announcement. "I have looked voters in the eye, walked on the street, and I think people are willing to give me a shot ...And I think it is based on the record I built when I was attorney general, when I was governor, when I was assistant district attorney, a prosecutor of organized crime. ...Not everybody knows every piece of this, of course, but I think there's a sense of somebody who fought, who fought hard and tried hard." According to the Washington Post, Spitzer must obtain 3,750 signatures before he can be placed on the ballot for the September 2013 primary.

Personal Life

Spitzer married Silda Wall on October 17, 1987. She is a fellow Harvard Law graduate and founder of Children for Children, which helps children volunteer to benefit other children. The Spitzers have three teenage daughters.

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