Spitzer has chance of a political comeback: author

NEW YORK Mon Apr 19, 2010 5:25pm EDT

Former New York Governor Eliot Spitzer makes a point during a panel discussion of the post-crisis economy during a forum entitled 'Inflection Point: Washington & Wall Street in the New Financial System,' presented by The New Republic magazine in Washington, September 14, 2009. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

Former New York Governor Eliot Spitzer makes a point during a panel discussion of the post-crisis economy during a forum entitled 'Inflection Point: Washington & Wall Street in the New Financial System,' presented by The New Republic magazine in Washington, September 14, 2009.

Credit: Reuters/Jonathan Ernst

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NEW YORK (Reuters) - The financial crisis and its aftermath may yet revive the political career of disgraced former New York Governor Eliot Spitzer, the author of a new book about Spitzer says.

Other politicians might have been finished by the scandal surrounding Spitzer, the moralizing former state attorney general who resigned as governor in March 2008, after it was revealed he had been hiring prostitutes.

But Spitzer has two advantages: a personal fortune to finance a future campaign and a history of fighting misdeeds on Wall Street, said Peter Elkind, author of "Rough Justice: The Rise and Fall of Eliot Spitzer," which is due out on Tuesday.

"The financial meltdown has really accelerated the potential speed of his rehabilitation. It's just a horrific disaster and people are looking to see who was on the right side of that issue, and he was as attorney general," Elkind said on Monday.

Spitzer spent some $100,000 on high-priced prostitutes from the Emperors Club VIP, once ordering three women for separate interludes on the same day, the book says in one of the more bawdy details that was not previously reported.

While running for office this year might be too soon -- there has been speculation he could run for state comptroller or United States Senator -- Elkind noted that Spitzer "is not a patient man."

"He won't completely shut the door. It's clear he's itching to get back into it," said Elkind, who spent several hours interviewing Spitzer for the book.

Spitzer, who has fueled speculation of a return with increased visibility in interviews and as a pundit, recently told Fortune magazine that he was "incredibly frustrated" at no longer being governor. "I've never said I would never consider running for office again," he added.

Elkind co-wrote "The Smartest Guys in the Room" about Enron's demise with Bethany McLean.

THE SHERIFF'S RISE AND FALL

In his new book Elkind, an editor at large at Fortune, tells the story of Spitzer's rise from a state prosecutor who took on one of New York's most powerful Mafia families to politics, in which he lost one bid for attorney general before winning the post in 1998.

From there he picked up the nickname "Sheriff of Wall Street" for high-profile investigations into cases such as the $140 million compensation for former New York Stock Exchange CEO Dick Grasso and fraud allegations at AIG years before the giant insurer was bailed out by Washington.

His career crashed to a halt in March 2008, little more than a year after assuming office as governor, when Spitzer's dark secrets came to light. Because Spitzer had made strict adherence to the law the guiding principle of his political career, he had no choice but to resign.

The resignation came days before the collapse of investment bank Bear Stearns, taking the "Sheriff of Wall Street" off duty just as the financial crisis began to unfold.

After resigning Spitzer kept a low profile until the U.S. Attorney's office announced it would not seek charges, which then liberated Spitzer anew to reinvent himself as a television commentator and as a columnist for the website Slate.

"He would like very much to be in the thick of things in trying to sort out how to deal with this crisis. Instead he's reduced to talk-show appearances and writing a column," Elkind said. "He would much prefer to be in public office. If he can figure out a way to make that happen, I think he would try."

A recent poll of New York voters showed 45 percent thought he should run for office some day, but 48 percent said his political career was over.

If Spitzer does re-enter politics, his enemies on Wall Street will be sure to oppose him, Elkind said.

"His enemies remain bitter about him to this day."

(Editing by Mark Egan and Jackie Frank)

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