I just heard Adam Davidson on NPR’s "All Things Considered" try to explain the reason that Eliot Spitzer was targeted. He said that after 9/11 banks/law-enforcement came up with software that scrutinized cash withdrawals to look for suspicious patterns. The old Mafia threshhold of $10,000 went out the window. Now a series of 1000 withdrawals of $5, to make $5,000, was a red flag.
Davidson said that another layer of scrutiny was of PEP–"politically exposed persons"–which includes even the relatives of elected officials. Their bank accounts got an even finer-toothed comb. So maybe, Davidson speculated, Spitzer moved around a few sums of $2,000… Davidson presented all this as cutting edge, routine and gee-whiz.
It’s insane. That a man’s withdrawal of hunks of cash to pay a prostitute should attract the attention of law enforcement is brave-new-world. That political people should be scrutinized by banks/law enforcement even more closely is maybe inevitable, but that the financial institutions turn this kind of stuff over to the FBI? Horrifying. Look at Craig’slist–look at all the traffic in prostitution that goes on in New York on a daily basis without the scrutiny of government agencies.
I don’t know how I feel about Spitzer as governor. He’s arrogant, my political friends tell me. Spoiled and rich. But he did a great job taking on Wall Street, and god knows he’s been humbled. Secretly I hope he hangs tough and fights this invasion. Public people have rights too.