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Times Joins the Anti-Corporate Bandwagon

     Democrats need to embrace the lawsuit-happy attitude of New York Attorney General Elliot Spitzer, according to the October 2 New York Times Magazine.

     A pro-Spitzer piece in the Times by Noam Scheiber, an editor for the left-leaning New Republic, whitewashed all of Spitzers numerous lawsuits as simply forcing businesses and their customers to pay the cost of their actions.

     Woefully lacking in the Times piece were the detailed complaints of the industries targeted by Spitzers office. The June 10 Wall Street Journal described the typical Spitzer tactic:  The Attorney General has become famous for assailing a business practice that is either controversial or legally ambiguous, and then using leaks via the media and the threat of indictment or the destruction of an entire company to force his targets to surrender. When Spitzer did take a broker to court, he lost on all 29 counts.

     Spitzer generally takes on large businesses that dont want the negative publicity associated with lawsuits. A former head of Canary Capital paid $40 million to make him go away. In a case against power plants, Scheiber took the pro-Spitzer approach that all in all it looked more like a sting operation than an environmental case. Several of the companies eventually backed down.

     Spitzers office has gone after numerous businesses including Moodys credit ratings; Wall Street research practices; and the insurance industry. He had a well-publicized battle with former NYSE Chairman Dick Grasso when he claimed Grasso earned too much money. Scheiber left out the hypocrisy of the parade of million-dollar cases that perfectly coincides with Spitzers own plans to run for New York governor.

     Scheiber raised the question Spitzerism: Is a prosecutor's zeal what the Democrats need? but he already had his own answer. In the Times article he discussed the positive influence that Spitzer is having on Democrats, while ignoring his negative effects on everyone else.

     And this wasnt the first time Scheiber praised Spitzer. In a December 2002 New Republic article, Scheiber cited the attorney general as pragmatic and a centrist with a pro-consumer agenda who knows exactly what he's doing.

     Scheiber also knew exactly what he was doing. He stated that although Spitzerism has infuriated Republican critics and helped individual Democrats win statewide office, so far it hasn't meant much to the Democratic Party as a whole. He then asked the question more Democrats are asking: is Spitzerism useful only in the narrow context of Democratic law-enforcement officials running for higher office? Or is there, lurking somewhere in Spitzer's experience, an approach that Democrats around the country could mine for political success?

     The thrust of the article wasnt whether Spitzer was applying the law, but whether his unique interpretation could somehow benefit Democrats.