Friday, November 13, 2009

Spitzer Lectures On...Wait for it...ETHICS IN GOVERNMENT?!!

(This one really, really does challenge the incredulity-meter folks!)

Disgraced ex-New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer addressed a packed hall yesterday at a Harvard ethics center amid criticism that his hooker-hiring past made him an unfit choice to teach students about corruption. (Ya think?)

(FYI: The ONLY one with any sense in this whole mess is the manager of the brothel where Spitzer hired “call girls.” She basically said it was obscene to pay him to discuss this issue after his sorted past.)

Kristin Davis, a former madam who once lined Spitzer up with high-priced ladies of the night, yesterday was offering students and faculty members $100 to ask the infamous, “Client No. 9” Spitzer about his rationale for participating in an illegal prostitution racket.

“Are we teaching Harvard students how to ethically break laws while pretending to uphold them?” a bitter Davis wrote on her Web site yesterday.

The madam of the prostitution ring that was broken by the FBI had said she sent a protest letter to the Harvard center’s director, Prof. Lawrence Lessig at The Edmond J. Safra Foundation Center for Ethics. In the letter, Davis questioned how Spitzer could be welcomed, while she is serving five years of probation, cannot leave New York during that time, and must register as a sex offender, “for pleading guilty to providing him with call-girls.”

(Me thinks there could be a bit of a double standard at work here – but no, not in OUR society!)

Davis, who writes a blog calling herself, “The Manhattan Madam,’’ said in the letter that, “I deplore hypocrisy and abhor public officials who use their power to commit and cover up their own crimes and to lie and deceive the same public they have promised to protect.’’ (Bravo, m’dear!)

Lessig, who is also a professor at Harvard Law School, said in a statement and to the crowd yesterday that he does not condone Spitzer’s past, but said the former governor was invited to speak at a lecture focusing on finances, “because he has an extraordinary breadth of experience as both a governor and prosecutor involving institutional corruption issues in the financial sector."

Davis said she can't imagine a less qualified speaker.

"I am greatly intrigued as to what Mr. Spitzer could contribute to an ethical discussion when, as [governor], he broke numerous laws for which he has yet to be punished," Davis wrote to Lessig.

"As attorney general, he went around arresting and making examples out of the same escort agencies he was frequenting."

Calling Spitzer a "man without ethics," Davis listed seven reasons why Harvard should reconsider. Among other things, she asked if it was "ethical" to hire a hooker using a fake name or lie about shady campaign loans.

Lessig denied receiving the letter from Davis, but that the invitation to speak at Harvard was unrelated to the actions that forced Spitzer to resign. Spitzer was not giving "a lecture on ethics," Lessig said.

“There should not be any doubt about the behavior,’’ he said. “It was wrong – to himself, to his family, and to supporters. But we’re not asking him to give theories on personal ethical behavior,” Lessig said. (Too bad he didn’t mention that Spitzer also wronged the citizens of NY by breaking the law.)

"He has instead been invited to speak as part of a series on the topic of 'institutional corruption'," the professor said. “Governor Spitzer was invited to speak, as part of the lab’s lectures on the question of institutional corruption, because he has an extraordinary breadth of experience as both a governor and prosecutor involving institutional corruption issues in the financial sector.”

SPRITZ-HER (Sorry, couldn't resist), who resigned as New York’s governor in March 2008 after getting caught having paid flings with Davis’ prostitutes, delivered a lecture titled, “What Should Be the Rationale for Government Participation in the Market?” to a rapt and largely sympathetic audience at the Safra Foundation Center for Ethics.

(Sadly, not one attendee took Davis up on her $100 question offer.)

Before the lecture, Spitzer, who walked to the event with his daughter, Alyssa, a Harvard undergraduate, was asked by the Herald whether he saw any irony in giving a lecture on ethics given his own scandalous past.

“I let people form their own judgments,” Spitzer responded. (Are you FUCKING kidding me?)

During a question-and-answer period after the lecture, one student – in the only reference to the prostitution scandal – asked Spitzer if he thought there was a Wall Street conspiracy to expose him and bring him down. Spitzer rejected the notion, saying what he did was “wrong,” and that he resigned from office because it was, “the right thing to do.”

Davis said yesterday on her blog that Harvard’s invitation to Spitzer “boggles the mind.” She also vowed to enter any political race if Spitzer decides to seek a statewide office next year in New York.

(There has been recent speculation that Spitzer will indeed go for it again – sorry, I mean politics. Spitzer has clearly been trying to remake himself of late. The so-called "Sheriff of Wall Street" has been lecturing on law and public policy at City College and has opined about the economy on TV. By the way, if I lived in NY, Davis would get my vote!)

Before the lecture, students outside Harvard’s Emerson Hall were privately making jokes about Spitzer speaking at the ethics forum, but the Harvard Law School alum also had his share of supporters.

Alex Meletakos, 19, a freshman majoring in economics, said he sees nothing wrong with Spitzer speaking at Harvard, but “it’s kind of funny. He was involved in an ethical scandal, and now he’s giving a lecture on ethical standards. We’ll see how it goes.”

But, there were no protests, or outbursts during the lecture. Spitzer stuck to the basics of his speech: government’s role in enforcing transparency and integrity in the financial markets.

The scores of people in attendance at Harvard University yesterday did pepper the former governor with questions about pubic policy on the open market and the extent to which government should get involved in the private sector.

During the lecture, Spitzer, who gained a reputation as an arch-enemy of Wall Street bigshots when he was attorney general in New York, criticized current government officials, including Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and ex-Harvard president Larry Summers, now a top White House economic adviser, for not moving aggressively enough to force changes on Wall Street.

Spitzer said taxpayers have been harmed and policymakers missed a great opportunity to leverage the financial crisis into real change.

Spitzer, himself a Harvard graduate, has spoken at the university before, and has had a series of articles published recently describing the role government should play in monitoring financial institutions.

Those in attendance, some who acknowledged they attended the event because of the hype beforehand, said Spitzer drew a clear line between personal ethics and public policy. He spoke of government’s failures to foresee the scandals that led to the economy’s collapse, and the role government should play now.

“I thought it was extremely valuable,’’ said Tara Jayaratnam, a student at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. She said society tends to hold public officials to high standards, often overseeing the expertise they may be able to bring to a debate. (Sorry, but he has forfeited any right to bring anything to a publicly sanctioned debate. There MUST be repercussions to politicians who commit crimes.)

“It was good he came, and I’m glad Harvard had the courage to bring him, because we had to hear that voice,’’ she said.

(FYI: I believe in, and strongly support, legalizing prostitution in the US. But, since there are laws prohibiting it, I also firmly believe that all public officials have a moral and ETHICAL duty to abide by that law; especially a former attorney general who prosecuted public officials for doing exactly as he has done in patronizing prostitution, not to mention trying to prosecute escort services. The issue here is NOT prostitution, but hypocrisy and deceipt, and expecting at least a MINIMAL level of integrity in government — The Curator.)

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