- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 12, 2008

New York Republicans yesterday threatened to impeach Gov. Eliot Spitzer over a call-girl scandal, as federal investigators said the Democrat spent as much as $80,000 for high-priced prostitutes.

Mr. Spitzer, 48, married and the father of three teenage girls, holed up in his Manhattan apartment yesterday, while even state Democrats began to talk openly about his resignation.

“If these serious allegations are true, the governor will have no choice but to resign,” said freshman Rep. Kirsten Gillibrand, who late yesterday became the first Democratic member of New York’s congressional delegation to mention resignation.

Republicans were more pointed in their comments. Assembly Minority Leader James Tedisco warned that if Mr. Spitzer did not resign within 48 hours, he would call for impeachment, saying New Yorkers “cannot have this hanging over their heads.”

In Albany, the state capital, Democratic Lt. Gov. David Paterson, who would become governor if Mr. Spitzer resigned, began talking with legislative leaders about a transition.

On Monday, when news of the scandal broke, Mr. Spitzer made only a brief statement in which he apologized to his family for what he called a “private matter.” Later that day, he retained a New York City law firm, and he has not been seen or heard from since.

“It may have been the governor’s inclination or his counsel’s inclination to hold off on resigning so he could use that as a chit as he negotiated with prosecutors,” said Cary Feldman, a former assistant U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia.

Indeed, Mr. Spitzer’s attorneys are now in negotiations with federal prosecutors. Because the call girl was paid to take a train from New York to Washington, crossing state lines, Mr. Spitzer faces federal charges.

Law-enforcement sources said yesterday that more exposure, and even felony charges, could develop over a crime called “structuring,” in which a subject seeks to conceal the purpose or source of payments to fund an unlawful activity.

Mr. Spitzer was the initial target when federal investigators began a public corruption inquiry triggered by the governor’s movement of cash from several bank accounts to one that was operated by a call-girl ring.

The governor’s bank contacted the Internal Revenue Service to file a report of suspicious activity, after keeping track of questionable wire transfers in his commercial bank account. The IRS studied the transfers and passed the case to federal prosecutors in October.

Inside the public corruption unit of the federal prosecutor’s office in Manhattan, investigators at first thought Mr. Spitzer might have been taking bribes or kickbacks and was seeking to hide the money. But they discovered that the transfers to QAT Consulting and QAT International paid for prostitution services from Emperor’s Club VIP, which cost as much as $5,500 an hour.

The inquiry, which eventually included wiretaps and interception of text messages, found that Mr. Spitzer was a repeat customer with the Emperor’s Club VIP, according to an FBI affidavit filed last week. The 47-page document — which labeled Mr. Spitzer “Client 9” — details a tryst at the Mayflower Hotel in the District on the eve of Valentine’s Day, when the governor rented a second room for a prostitute named “Kristen” and sneaked past his State Police detail to get to her room.

In Room 871, he paid Kristen $4,300, which included $2,000 as credit for another tryst, the affidavit said. The two-hour assignation amounted to more than $1,000 an hour for the prostitute.

This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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