Eliot Spitzer's return to politics would just be comical if he hadn't killed my friend.
Just when you thought Anthony Weiner made New York City look completely stupid, former governor Spitzer surprises everyone and enters the race for city Comptroller. Now the Big Apple looks like it's lousy with worms, with its most ridiculous pervert pols on parade.
Sure, the Governor embarrassed himself, his wife, his daughters, and New York State when he hired high dollar hookers. Few New Yorkers recognize he was prosecuting prostitution at the same time. Hypocrite Spitzer also broke federal law transporting hookers across state lines, but he was never punished.
History also shows his record as attorney general, governor and Steamroller-in-Chief was a failure. This is the only real measure of a public servant. This measure alone disqualifies him.
In hindsight, Spitzer was little more than a schoolyard bully in office. He mangled the Martin Act to force civil settlements on Wall Street companies afraid of costly and damaging litigation. Worse, he trained an army of freshly minted lawyers to use the same tactics on Main Street.
In tiny Orchard Park, New York, Spitzer destroyed the life and hastened the death of a wonderful woman.
Lorraine Biryla was a fixture in this Western New York hamlet. Orchard Park is home to the Buffalo Bills stadium; the village is sleepy but for ten home games a year. She was active in the community in every way possible - in schools, in church, in civic groups. Lorraine was ubiquitous.
Lorraine had an office in the same building as my family's company. As a boy, I saw her nearly every day on North Buffalo Street, Orchard Park's 'Main Street'. She kept candy on her desk for every visiting child and she always had something pleasant to say. Kids were drawn to her; she was an uncomplicated and beautiful person.
I would often see her walking down the street, talking to shop owners, and I would await her at our office front door. I wanted first crack at her candy dish, but I also enjoyed her company. Everybody did.
I grew up and left the state, like most young New Yorkers. I sometimes saw Lorraine on my frequent visits home; she never seemed to age. Then, one day, I heard she was dead. I did not make it home for her funeral.
Later, I heard Lorraine had fallen victim to one of Spitzer's Martin Act witchhunts. A team of lawyers from the attorney general's office had identified the Town of Orchard Park insurance contract as a source of corruption. It was classic Spitzer overreach.
For years, the town empanelled a group of six local insurance agents to advise officials on municipal coverage. As I understand the arrangement, the group was assembled to assure all local insurance businesses knew exactly what was going on with the policy - one way to avoid corruption, in some sense. Instead, the scent attracted Spitzer's dogs.
The Attorney General used the Martin Act to attack the members of the volunteer committee. Each of the locals faced protracted litigation with the State if they didn't settle immediately, ostensibly admitting guilt. Spitzer knuckled down on the locals hard. Lorraine was among them.
The six community leaders on the committee were shocked and scrambled to prove their innocence. Meanwhile, Spitzer's world-class leak machine kicked into high gear. Local network television, the Buffalo News and area weekly newspapers featured Spitzer's charges and spin; the locals were quickly overwhelmed.
Still believing they did nothing wrong, members of the committee settled with the Office of the Attorney General. The fines were steep, and Lorraine, 76 years old and on a fixed income, struggled to pay.
When the legal clouds had passed, the locals were left with the stuffing knocked out of them. Reputations were forever damaged; lives were ruined. Lorraine, once a beloved face on our Main Street, retreated into a more private life.
As negative publicity rained down on the committee members, one died at his desk. He was older, too, but he his health took a turn for the worse during Spitz-kreig. Lorraine failed fast; she was crushed and mortified. Four months after the settlement, Lorraine passed away, far too early and far too quietly.
I was living on a tugboat in Miami when I understood the totality of Spitzer's attack on our family friends. I recognized his pathology - he is a megalomaniac, complete with delusional fantasies of power, relevance and omnipotence. I was powerless to stop him, but I had to do something.
To sting the governor, I started a popular Web site aggregating negative news coverage of Spitzer and emailed negative materials to New York political reporters. Spitzer ruined himself in the end. Still, I enjoyed participating in his demise.
I oppose Spitzer because of the way he governs. He bullied honest people into admitting guilt in politically charged investigations. His abuse of the Martin Act fueled many dubious inquiries. On Main Street in the tiny village I grew up, he destroyed lives.
The Steamroller is already talking about stretching the powers of the New York City Comptroller into some kind of Martin Act gambit. He must be stopped again. I want Eliot Spitzer to crawl back under his rock because he killed Lorraine Biryla and nobody ever calls him on it.