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Calls mount for New York Gov. Spitzer to resign
Wednesday, Mar 12, 2008 5:19AM UTC
By Ellen Wulfhorst
NEW YORK (Reuters) - New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer faced growing pressure to resign on Wednesday after becoming entangled in a sex scandal linking him to a high-priced prostitute.
State Republicans threatened to impeach the Democratic governor if he did not quit over the scandal that raises the possibility of criminal charges and the end of the political career of a man once considered a rising star in his party.
Several local media cited sources saying that Spitzer, 48, who is married and has three daughters, would resign as early as Wednesday. Unidentified aides told The New York Times his wife, Silda Spitzer, was urging him not to step down.
Public opinion was heavily in favor of the governor leaving office, according to a WNBC/Marist poll that found 70 percent of registered New York voters wanted Spitzer to quit.
"It's a big thumbs-down from New York voters," said Lee Miringoff, director of the Marist Institute for Public Opinion in Poughkeepsie, New York. "He's in a politically untenable position as far as public opinion is concerned."
Legal observers speculated Spitzer, the state's former chief prosecutor who built a reputation fighting white-collar crime on Wall Street, hoped to reach a deal with prosecutors over possible criminal charges before leaving his post.
Although clients of prostitutes typically are not charged with crimes under state laws, the Spitzer case is in the hands of federal authorities. He could face charges of structuring, which entails payments of money made in such a way as to conceal their purpose and source.
The scandal erupted after The New York Times said Spitzer hired a $1,000-an-hour prostitute and was caught on a federal wiretap arranging to meet her at a Washington hotel.
Spitzer apologized on Monday for what he called a "private matter." He said nothing about resigning nor did he confirm or deny the report.
He retreated to his Manhattan apartment building and has not appeared in public since.
PUBLIC SPLIT ON POSSIBLE PROSECUTION
Spitzer was elected with nearly 70 percent of the vote in 2006 following a stint as state attorney general, when his high-profile financial probes attracted publicity but also resentment on Wall Street.
New Yorkers were split on what should happen to Spitzer, with roughly half saying he should face criminal charges and half saying he should not, the WNBC/Marist poll said.
If Spitzer does not resign, 66 percent said the state Legislature should impeach him, the poll said.
On Tuesday, James Tedisco, head of the Republicans in the state Assembly, said if Spitzer did not resign in 24 to 48 hours, they would prepare articles of impeachment.
At the heart of the scandal is a criminal complaint unveiled last week charging four people with running a prostitution ring dubbed The Emperors Club.
Spitzer was identified as Client 9 in court papers in that case, according to the Times. Client 9 arranged to meet with "Kristen," a prostitute who charged $1,000 an hour, on February 13 in a Washington hotel and paid her $4,300, the papers said.
Unidentified sources told New York's Newsday that Spitzer had as many as seven or eight liaisons over the past several years with prostitutes supplied by an international call girl ring based in New Jersey. For each encounter, Spitzer paid several thousand dollars, the sources told the newspaper.
The Times, citing unidentified law enforcement officials, reported the investigation began last year during an Internal Revenue Service review of suspicious financial transactions as reported by banks.
(Additional reporting by Claudia Parsons, Christine Kearney, Daniel Trotta, Emily Chasan and Michelle Nichols in New York and Joan Gralla in Albany; Editing by Peter Cooney)
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