Bribery Case Turned Vice Bust

The way the Eliot Spitzer story unfolded today initially made it sound as if the feds were going about their business busting a prostitution ring for money laundering when they stumbled across the New York governor, at which point they brought in the Justice Department’s Public Integrity Section.

A couple of things seemed off about that narrative.

First, the feds aren’t usually in the business of busting prostitution — a state crime — unless there’s organized crime ties or forced prostitution or some other more serious underlying federal offense. But even assuming they were involved in that kind of investigation, the time frame didn’t seem plausible.

Spitzer’s alleged call to the prostitution service came less than a month ago, Feb. 13. That would have meant the Public Integrity Section prosecutors were brought in, got up to speed on the case, and filed their complaint in less than a month. That’s lightning fast, especially in a case where literally thousands of electronic communications were intercepted. Changing prosecutors midstream can delay a case by weeks or months.

In that sense, ABC’s report that the investigation was triggered by suspicious money transfers by Spitzer and that it was handled by the Public Integrity Section from the outset is a lot more plausible than some scenario where Spitzer stumbled into a prostitution sting.

If ABC’s account is accurate, the whole case is sort of anti-climactic. The feds start out thinking they have the New York governor on the hook for bribery — and instead discover that he’s just skulking around with high-priced call girls.