A balanced biography from Washington Post reporter Masters of New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, called “Crusader of the Year” by Time in 2002 and a headline-hunting bully who is frequently the target of Wall Street Journal editorials.
Spitzer, like one of his reformer heroes, Theodore Roosevelt, comes from a privileged background yet has earned a reputation as a foe of corrupt financiers. Masters traces the swift ascent of this current Democratic candidate for governor of New York: exclusive Bronx prep school, Princeton, Harvard Law, marriage and family, service in the Manhattan D.A.’s office and runs for the Attorney General’s office (the second try, a squeaker in 1998, put him in office). But most of the book is taken up with Spitzer’s high-profile battles against gun manufacturers, Midwestern power plants, Wall Street research analysts such as Henry Blodgett and Jack Grubman, insurance companies and mutual funds. His inspirations include the Progressive movement of the last century and, more surprisingly, conservatives’ “new federalism,” enabling state officials to move into areas long associated with the federal government. Interviewing associates and adversaries of the politician, Masters recounts the maneuvering behind his public actions: round-the-clock pushes for indictments, innovative use of forgotten legislation, clashes with corporate counsels and leaks of ongoing investigations. Spitzer emerges as a Dewey or Giuliani in Democratic clothing: intelligent, energetic, but also self-righteous and prickly. Although Masters credits Spitzer with standing up for small investors at a time when the federal government laxly enforced regulation of Wall Street, she also finds some substance in conservative laments that he sparked a host of other states’ lawsuits, plaguing companies with competing investigations, paperwork and costs in the millions. That complaint is coupled with another from the liberal side: By favoring the first people to cooperate with his office, Spitzer has sometimes allowed powerful targets to walk away largely unscathed while smaller fries were penalized.
An adept blend of legal, political and business journalism about the man who would be New York’s next governor.