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'Private Failings': The Rise, and Sudden Fall, of Eliot Spitzer

New York's governor built his political life on fighting corruption. He resigns after being identified as a client of a prostitution business. Transcript of radio broadcast:

This is IN THE NEWS in VOA Special English.

This week, America’s attention was directed away from a tight presidential race and troubled economy. The nation watched the fall from power of a politician widely considered a hero.

The news of New York Governor Eliot Spitzer’s use of prostitutes shocked many because of his image as an aggressive crime fighter. He resigned Wednesday, two days after reports linked him to a high-priced sex service.

Last week, the government charged four people with operating Emperors Club V.I.P. Court papers say it operated in Los Angeles, Miami, New York and Washington, as well as London and Paris.

Federal law enforcement officials say the governor was known as "Client Nine" and was recorded on telephone wiretaps. They say he paid to have a twenty-two-year-old woman travel from New York to meet him at a Washington hotel last month.

A century-old law, the Mann Act, makes it a federal crime to bring people across state lines for immoral purposes. But if Eliot Spitzer faces any charges, legal experts say they would more likely involve how the services were paid for, not the services themselves.

Federal officials say they began investigating him after two banks last year reported suspicious activity in the way he was moving large amounts of money around. That investigation, they say, led them to the Emperors Club, where reports say he may have spent tens of thousands of dollars.

Federal prosecutors are said to be investigating whether he used campaign money in connection with his meetings. The New York Times says he has told aides in recent days that he used prostitutes only in the last eight months, and never spent campaign or public money.

The forty-eight-year-old governor made two brief statements to the press, with his wife at his side. The father of three teenage daughters did not discuss what he called his "private failings." But he apologized and announced the end of his political life.

For eight years Eliot Spitzer was New York attorney general, the state's top law enforcement official. He was known nationally as "the Sheriff of Wall Street." He fought corruption in the financial industry. He also brought two major cases against prostitution operators.

The Democrat became governor in January of last year, elected with sixty-nine percent of the vote. Early in his term, he signed a law that increased the punishment for paying for sex. It rose from a possible three months in jail to up to a year.

This Monday, Lieutenant Governor David Paterson will be sworn-in to replace Eliot Spitzer. Mister Paterson will become the state’s first black governor. He is also legally blind. The only other blind governor known in American history, Bob Riley, served for eleven days in Arkansas in nineteen seventy-five. The state of New York faces a deficit, and a new budget must be completed by the end of the month.

And that's IN THE NEWS in VOA Special English, written by Brianna Blake. I’m Steve Ember.