Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Was Spitzer targeted?

I stand by everything in this Register editorial on NY Gov. Eliot Spitzer, who resigned today, but I'm starting to wonder whether he was a victim of the same kind of stretching of the original purposes of laws that he employed when he was a grandstanding, bullying NY attorney general. There would be a certain karmic fitness to that, but it could still very well have been an abuse of power.

I noted previously that there's no good reason for prostitution to be a criminal act. The laws through which Spitzer was ensnared are also of dubious purpose and provenance. The law requiring banks to report transactions of $10,000 or more had their origin in the drug laws, which are also unjustified (and in my view unconstitutional). When people found ways around that, they passed a new law outlawing what is called "structuring," which applies to transactions of less than $10,000 that are close together and might be ways to get around the $10,000-transaction law. It's not something that's ever been applied to me (alas!) though I still have dreams of cashing large checks in connection with my next book, though the previous books have not led to such problems.

Anyway, it seems the feds got onto Spitzer when he moved money around from one account of his own to another (he's heir to a substantial fortune) to conceal the large sums he was paying to prostitutes. Some now want to call this money-laundering, which also has no business being a crime. I remember years ago being appalled at reading about the number of "economic crimes" in the old Soviet Union, which made perfectly ordinary economic activities criminal. Thanks to the War on Drugs, we now have similar crimes in the "land of the free."

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