Friday, March 14, 2008

Selective Prosecution of Spitzer?
Mike Rappaport

Alan Dershowitz makes a pretty strong point:

Even if Mr. Spitzer's derelictions were serendipitously discovered as a result of routine, computerized examination of bank transactions, the dangers inherent in selective use of overbroad criminal statutes remain. Money laundering, structuring and related financial crimes are designed to ferret out organized crime, drug dealing, terrorism and large-scale financial manipulation. They were not enacted to give the federal government the power to inquire into the sexual or financial activities of men who move money in order to hide payments to prostitutes.

Once federal authorities concluded that the "suspicious financial transactions" attributed to Mr. Spitzer did not fit into any of the paradigms for which the statutes were enacted, they should have closed the investigation. It's simply none of the federal government's business that a man may have been moving his own money around in order to keep his wife in the dark about his private sexual peccadilloes.

But the authorities didn't close the investigation. They expanded it, because they had caught a big fish in the wide net they had cast.

In this case, they wiretapped 5,000 phone conversations, intercepted 6,000 emails, used surveillance and undercover tactics that are more appropriate for trapping terrorists than entrapping johns.

If the federal government really wanted to shut down these operations, they could easily do it without a single wiretap or email intercept. All they would have to do is get an undercover agent to answer the ads, arrange for the "escort" to go from New York to New Jersey and be arrested. But many in law enforcement would much rather reserve these statutes for selective use against predetermined targets.

I would ordinarily be convinced except that we know that if Eliot Spitzer were the prosecutor and he had caught the Governor of New York in his net, what the result would have been.  Spitzer played fast and loose with his power, and it is only appropriate that he got the same treatment. 

Megan McCardle argues that " I think maybe we should spy on our politicians, all the time. I think it's entirely appropriate that the anti-corruption police watch politicians like hawks. They've chosen public office; that conveys a lot of responsibility to the public, including assuring them that your votes aren't being bought outright. I also think that politicians, when caught in a crime, should automatically get the maximum penalty; if they think the law is such a good idea, they ought to suffer heartily when they disregard it."

Well, I have a lot of sympathy with that sentiment, but I am concerned about getting good people to run for office, and such spying would deter both the good and bad ones.  Now perhaps you could convince me it would deter more of the good ones, but I need to be convinced.

| Permalink

TrackBack URL for this entry:

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Selective Prosecution of Spitzer?
Mike Rappaport


Yep. Cause the Governor of New York, former AG of New York to boot, transferring large sums of money to a criminal enterprise is nothing to be concerned about. It's not like he could be blackmailed. And even if he was, I'm sure he doesn't have access to sensitive information about our responses to a terror attack.

Yep, Alan, it's all about sex.

If this is what "serious" liberals are putting out, they are so not ready for primetime.

Posted by: unhhyphenatedconservative | Mar 13, 2008 10:54:30 PM

How very appropriate it would be were this to be a selective prosecution. That was Spitzer's specialty.
Any law-enforcement official who goes out of his way to break the law should definitely be selected for prosecution. And to ignore him would require far more selectiveness yet. But I don't suppose this is a man who has made any friends.
I heard Dershowitz speak to the issue on the fly, and it was the only time I've heard him sound positively ridiculous, incoherent, and contradictory. This made me wonder if he were speaking about himself and his own private life.

Posted by: james wilson | Mar 14, 2008 6:42:58 PM

I've long wondered whether Dershowitz is in the employ of an anti-semitic conspiracy.

Posted by: dearieme | Mar 15, 2008 12:56:17 PM

The thing about having "good" people run for office is that you can inspect all their doings and you won't find any crime. That's why we call them "good."

If by good people, however, you mean competent managers, who may be crooks, well, you can have them. Sensible people are with Megan 100% on this one.

Posted by: JohnF | Mar 15, 2008 2:45:10 PM

Yes Dearieme, Dershowitz is part of an anti-semitic conspiracy, but they don't pay themselves. They're called suicide Jews, and they do it just for the left-wing pleasure of it.
Lenin called them useful idiots, and Stalin executed them one by one right down to his bolshevik inner circle. They stepped into the noose compliantly for the good of the revolution.
Dershowitz, unlike many, has claimed a willingness to fight, but it does no good when you bring the plague inside the gates.
Anyway, Spitzer. It has done conservatives great credit in the past to dump their turkeys, and also much good. The Dershowitz opinion on the character of public men indeed fits with what we see in them.

Posted by: james wilson | Mar 15, 2008 5:58:09 PM

If we could dissuade a larger percentage of the bad guys from running, more good ones would. I think the ordeal a person has to put him(her)self and his(her) family through to run is a much bigger impediment to getting good people to run. Weed out more of the bad ones, and more good ones would be willing to run.

Posted by: krome | Mar 17, 2008 10:35:45 AM