Last night, former New York governor Eliot Spitzer made headlines when he announced he was returning to politics. What was even more surprising was the fact that Spitzer has decided to run for New York City comptroller — a position certainly not celebrated for its glitz and glamour. While everyone focuses on Spitzer's past sins, it's important to provide some context, and it's even more important that Spitzer's record as it relates to the job he is aiming for is better scrutinized. Such an analysis indicates that despite previous scandals, Spitzer is the man for the job.
By now, most are familiar with Spitzer's past transgressions. It was found through banking transactions that Spitzer was involved with Emperor's Club VIP, an escort agency, arranging meetings with various call girls from time to time.
What's not being talked about is that the very institutions he had taken a more aggressive approach with (at least comparatively speaking), the big banks, had disclosed these transactions under a provision of law that stipulates that banks must disclose suspicious economic activities they come across. It would later emerge that one of the banks that reported on the transactions, HSBC, was involved in some pretty heinous business.
Thanks to a groundbreaking piece from Matt Taibbi, we learned that even after receiving cease-and-desist letters from the Federal Reserve, HSBC continued with their criminal schemes, working with Mexican drug cartels and groups linked with Al-Qaeda in a seemingly-unmatched level of crime and pure hypocrisy that should have resulted in jail time. Suddenly, meeting up with prostitutes appears to be small potatoes. If the media is going to constantly hammer on the point about prostitutes, it better be filling out editorials and commentaries left and right about HSBC and the work it has done.
We ought to be looking at the job function of comptrollers and then make a determination of whether Spitzer's up for the job based on his work in politics. A brief Wikipedia search of the word "comptroller" brings up this definition: a management-level position responsible for supervising the quality of accounting and financial reporting of an organization. In other words, Spitzer would play the role of head accountant. Spitzer's role would be to ensure that the city's financial corruption and accounting regularities are kept to a minimum, so much as he has influence. And as attorney general, Spitzer has extensive experience scrutinizing corruption from price-fixing schemes to corruption involved in the distribution of royalties.
Spitzer may not have been the best governor; he had issues with the New York state legislature, as well as connecting with people. Spitzer is far from an ideal politician. However, this position does not require any of those characteristics, at least to the extent that the gubernatorial or mayoral seat does. The comptroller office not only allows Spitzer to be Spitzer, but encourages him to be the cynical and fastidious person that he is.