Thursday, July 14, 2011

Spitzer's Shame Deficit

Disgraced ex-New York governor Eliot Spitzer's certainly made his fair share of mistakes in life. Yet I only seem to recall him apologizing for one. The others he'll never apologize for, seeing as he views them as his greatest accomplishments (namely, turning New York's attorney general's office into the official micro-manager of the global financial industry -- never mind the billions in market capitalization destroyed as a result).

Writing today in, the recently fired CNN host is now calling on Attorney General Holder to take out Rupert Murdoch:
The Murdoch empire is falling apart—criminal behavior and disregard for basic ethics having permeated its highest ranks. News Corp. executives' claims of a full and thorough investigation and that there were only a few bad apples have been exposed as feeble and false. The pseudo-investigations conducted by Scotland Yard are likewise proving to be corrupt and unreliable. Meanwhile, Prime Minister David Cameron's government is running for cover, but it cannot escape the untoward relationship that it had with Murdoch.

So how does all this concern Americans? First, it is hard to believe that the misbehavior in Murdoch's media empire stopped at the water's edge. Given the frequency with which he shuttled his senior executives and editors across the various oceans—Pacific as well as Atlantic—it is unlikely that the shoddy ethics were limited to Great Britain.

Much more importantly, the facts already pretty well established in Britain indicate violations of American law, in particular a law called the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. The Justice Department has been going out of its way to undertake FCPA prosecutions and investigations in recent years, and the News Corp. case presents a pretty simple test for Attorney General Eric Holder: If the department fails to open an immediate investigation into News Corp.'s violations of the FCPA, there will have been a major breach of enforcement at Justice. Having failed to pursue Wall Street with any apparent vigor, this is an opportunity for the Justice Department to show it can flex its muscles at the right moment.
Are you man enough, Eric? Spitzer may as well call him a pussy, punch him in the face, and launch the investigation himself. That is his style, after all.

Only Spitzer could suggest an attorney general engage in blatant prosecutorial overreach while feigning devotion to the cause of justice. As everyone in New York is well aware, The Post -- one of Rupert Murdoch's prized holdings -- savages Spitzer with regularity and evident delight. Smelling blood in the water, Spitzer wants revenge. Using the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act in a way so utterly unrelated to its original purpose recalls Spitzer's serial abuse of New York's Martin Act. Many years ago, AIG's founder and then-CEO Hank Greenberg audaciously spoke out against Spitzer's politicization of NY's AG office. Spitzer responded by using his beloved Martin Act to force AIG to depose its leader, thereby initiating the company's lengthy, expensive, and widely destructive downfall. The re-insurance industry may have been destroyed in the process, but at least Eliot got his guy.

Speaking of serial abuse, if Salon's going to permit Spitzer to publish on its site, the least it can do is impose a quota on the word "should" -- perhaps one of the most obnoxious words in the English language. Example:
If DoJ does investigate and if a court were to find News Corp. liable, the penalties should extend beyond the traditional monetary fine. News Corp. should also have its FCC licenses revoked. Licensure and relicensure by the FCC require that the licensee abide by the law and serve the public interest. News Corp. appears to have blatantly violated this basic standard. Its licenses should be pulled.
There are many things Eric Holder SHOULD do. Listening to Eliot Spitzer is not one of them.

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