Client 9: The Rise and Fall of Eliot Spitzer
Eliot Spitzer was the hero of the left wing, a modern day untouchable, who, as New York State’s attorney general, led a one man mission to expose political and financial corruption. After he was elected Governor four years ago with the State’s largest ever electoral mandate, few would have bet against his being the next Democratic presidential candidate. And then, out of the blue, the New York Times ran a report linking Spitzer to organised prostitution. Two days later he resigned in disgrace with his political and legal career seemingly at an end.
Spitzer was guilty of gross hypocrisy, a breach of public trust that was incompatible with high office. Having successfully prosecuted a prostitution ring, lust overpowered his better judgement in the most spectacular way and he employed the services of a high-end escort agency paying a staggering $1,000 an hour for the ‘girlfriend experience’. But this was the same politician that not only predicted the credit crunch crisis without the benefit of hindsight but identified the very practices that threatened to make the cyclic downturn of Capitalism far more severe than was necessary.
The prospect of Alex Gibney carrying out a post-mortem was intriguing. Gibney is an investigative filmmaker who throws a very hard punch; few films during recent years have had the jaw dropping impact of his exploration into US sanctioned torture than Taxi To The Dark Side. Even that most conservative of institutions, the American Academy of Motion Pictures, Arts and Sciences awarded it the Oscar for best documentary. And now Gibney was turning his penetrating eye towards one of his own, a flawed hero, somebody worthy of scorn and admiration at one and the same time.
Gibney did not hold back. There was a very thorough investigation into the seedy Spitzer, as the escort agency’s mysterious Client 9. Very striking was the ease with which the agency could sidestep the most probing of questions with a politicians knack for creating a virtual world, one where it was possible to rationalise almost anything. Far more direct though was Spitzer himself. As we might expect from a man metaphorically caught with his trousers down, there were no excuses, but far more surprising, was the omission of any show of remorse. Spitzer clearly distinguished between his ideals and his own failings in a manner that was intellectually ruthless and rather disturbing.
But the investigation did not end there. Gibney picked his way through extremely serious corporate crimes of the kind that eluded most law enforcers but caught the attention of the eagle eyed Spitzer. We were struck by the total absence of corporate governance and statutory control as price rigging, bogus lending and other frauds on Wall Street destabilised world markets on a huge scale. Top of Spitzer’s most wanted list was the v(olat)ile former chairman of A.I.G, Hank Greenberg, who may now regret his contributions to Gibney’s film. Struggling to retain any credibility, we were left wondering whether with this was a major operator who had lost his touch or a former power broker unable to stand on his own two feet without his previous corporate influence.
And then there was the political corruption in Albany. Spitzer had launched a full scale attack on the long-term Republican leader, Joseph L. Bruno for his alleged part in Troopergate, the use of public helicopters for personal use. Bruno, a former boxer and well known political bruiser, proved a formidable opponent and we sense that Spitzer was more effective as an attorney general than a governor.
Spitzer’s enemies were more than willing to participate in talking heads, a ready made opportunity to gloat and dance on Spitzer’s political grave. Ken Langone went further, he had something else on his mind. With a smile as broad as the Hudson River, he sardonically bragged that one of his associates had coincidently stood in a Post Office queue when Spitzer ordered $2,800 worth of mail orders for sending to the escort agency. He may as well have winked at the camera. This former director of the New York Stock Exchange had employed P.I.’s, he had played a key role in Spitzer’s downfall and he wanted us to know. But this raised a whole host of new questions when considered alongside the official investigation of the escort agency, which, strangely, did not seem to focus on its other clients. To what extent did the FBI, the IRS and the Justice Department use public funds Troopergate style to assist influential Wall Street and Albany parasites in ‘whacking’ Spitzer in the political sense? Who employed leading political tactician/destroyer, Roger Stone to run the ‘black socks’ dirty tricks campaign as Spitzer’s final public humiliation? And why were the authorities so keen to investigate Spitzer and not the many sleazebags who had wreaked havoc in the world economy?buy cialis paypal paymentprice of cialis at walgreensgeneric cialis 100mgsildalis cheapgeneric sildalis onlinecheap sildalis sildalis genericsildalissildalis purchasecheap sildalis online
This is distasteful stuff, the dark side of Wall Street and domestic US politics. A telling and engaging account of the decade when the major players lost control of their power games.
- Year: 2010
- Country: USA
- Filmmaker: Alex Gibney
- Screenwriter: Alex Gibney
- Producer: Maiken Baird, Alex Gibney, Jedd Wider and Todd Wider
- Cinematographer: Maryse Alberti
- Editor: Plummy Tucker
- Cast: N/A
- Duration: 117 mins