Last year, while still rehabilitating his image and plotting a return to politics, Eliot Spitzer wasn’t shy about calling then-presidential candidate Mitt Romney a hypocrite for refusing to disclose his tax returns, then remarking that “47 percent” of Americans weren’t paying their fare share.
“Romney has now made paying taxes the litmus test for good moral standing in our community,” Spitzer said on his Current TV show. “So while I had grown tired and lost interest in Mitt’s tax returns, I have a sudden, newfound interest in examining them. If payment is the ticket to moral uprightness, I want to see if Mitt has punched his own ticket.”
The request was reasonable enough when Spitzer asked it of Romney; candidates for public office should be expected to sate the public’s curiosity about their income and investments. And it’s still a fair question today, with the shoe on the other foot and New York City Comptroller candidate Scott Stringer asking it of Democratic primary rival Spitzer, whose about-face on the issue is especially loathsome in light of his comments last year about Romney.
After pressure from Stringer’s campaign, Spitzer last week released two pages detailing his income from 2012, but not his tax returns.
“The old Eliot Spitzer supported stringent financial disclosure,” Stringer spokeswoman Audrey Gelman said, predictably pouncing on the issue. “Just as we’ve seen on his decision to abandon campaign spending limits he once supported, it’s increasingly clear that Eliot Spitzer believes there are two standards in public life — one for him, and one for everyone else.”
We probably shouldn’t be surprised, as it’s Eliot Spitzer we’re talking about after all. Spitzer himself admitted he’s a hypocrite earlier this month in an interview with public radio’s Brian Lehrer, who noted the hypocrisy of Spitzer prosecuting prostitution rings as attorney general before resigning in disgrace as governor after a prostitution scandal.
“It’s a fair argument,” Spitzer conceded. “Without wading back into that, we enforced the law when I was attorney general, we enforced it when I was governor. … I do not disagree with the arguments that have been made. I’ve never asked that they be disregarded.”
Spitzer hopes voters are willing to look past his flaws as a man. And many believe the private lives of politicians should be off-limits.
But it’s a pretty remarkable display of chutzpah for Spitzer to brazenly flout the ethical standards he would set for other public figures. Then again, we probably shouldn’t be too surprised.