In case you’ve been asleep the last twenty-four hours, here’s the news: New York’s crusading populist Democratic governor, the once-high-flying Eliot Spitzer, has been identified as “Client Number Nine” in the indictment of an international prostitution ring.

MSNBC is typical in the way it points out the hypocrisy involved: “Spitzer, 48, built his political legacy on rooting out corruption, including several headline-making battles with Wall Street while serving as attorney general. He stormed into the governor’s office in 2006 with a historic share of the vote, vowing to continue his no-nonsense approach to fixing one of the nation’s worst governments. Time magazine had named him ‘Crusader of the Year’ when he was attorney general and the tabloids proclaimed him ‘Eliot Ness.’”

Ah, well. Hypocrisy is almost the only moral storyline the media knows how to present any more, but there is some payback due the man. “Is schadenfreude a sin?” asks the law blogger Stephen Bainbridge . “If so, I’m sinning big time today.”

One under-remarked piece of the story is that Spitzer didn’t exactly get caught in a whorehouse raid. Apparently, the prostitution ring was busted because of Spitzer: His weird financial machinations got his bank transfers reported to the IRS, who told the FBI that they suspected he was paying bribes. The feds then got a wiretap and followed it on to the owners of the prostitution ring, who have now been indicted.

It’s a sad day when surveillance of the customers leads to the arrest of the sellers—when the pimps are more careful than the johns. And somehow, I don’t think the pimps are very happy with Eliot Spitzer right now. Good luck talking them out of testifying against you, governor.

Articles by Joseph Bottum

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