As mentioned in the first installment of our 2008 retrospective, 2008 was a year of ups and downs for America. While the “Yes we can” spirit was most certainly a high point, four men in particular showed us the damage the lowest common denominator of humanity can do to others – and to themselves.
Eliot Spitzer, the (now former) Governor of New York, made headlines early in the year when he was linked to a high-end prostitution ring. The former New York Attorney General, Spitzer made a name for himself as a white-collar watchdog, relentlessly prosecuting various financial fraud cases. Indeed, Spitzer was the Governor who was going to bring ethics back to New York State… right up until his own (lipstick-sullied) white collar was grabbed by the Feds after a wiretap recorded him making arrangements to meet a high-priced prostitute at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington, D.C..
Spitzer was known alternatively as “Client 9” and “George Fox” by the Emporer’s Club VIP who serviced him, and used “George Fox” to check into the Mayflower. (The actual George Fox, a friend of Spitzer’s, was less than thrilled at the latter pseudonym.)
As the sordid details of Spitzer’s long, customer-satisfied history with the Emporer’s Club came into the public eye – including the fact that he used taxpayer dollars to fly to and from his appointments – Spitzer decided to take a cue from Snagglepuss and exit, stage left. He resigned on March 12 – 2 days after news of the scandal first broke – citing “personal failings.” (We might note that Rod Blagojevich does not seem to be using the Spitzer Scandal Playbook.)
Although it was a mere 2 days of headlines before Governor Spitzer resigned, in that time we saw a flood of Spitzer t-shirts being created, from off-the-cuff Client 9 and Emporer’s Club designs to interesting political commentary.
Spitzer’s replacement, David Paterson, saved the media the trouble of digging up a scandal by simply admitting that he and his wife had both had extramarital affairs during a rocky point in the marriage. Neither affair involved a business transaction, and this news was treated as a minor bump in New York’s gubernatorial turbulence. Paterson has been at the helm ever since; he’s most recently charged with choosing Hillary Clinton’s Senate replacement. Another bonus: he’s stuck with his habit of avoiding inappropriate financial transactions, a behavior that other Governors would be wise to adopt. And that segues nicely into…
Just when you thought that Spitzer bumped out Larry “Wide Stance” Craig (still in office until 2009) as the disgraced politician least likely to be invited to this year’s neighborhood Christmas party, Rod Blagojevich one-upped Spitzer with a litany of federal corruption charges. Among them:
1) Putting Obama’s Senate Seat for sale;
2) Extorting the Chicago Tribune by offering state help with the sale of Wrigley field in exchange for the dismissal of journalists who’d been critical of him;
3) Shaking down a Children’s Hospital
That last one, however, does make Blagojevich a shoo-in to play “Scrooge” in the Metropolitan Correctional Center‘s production of “A Christmas Carol.”
The 3-year investigation that led to the arrest carries an indictment that lists various other charges and evidence, but Blagojevich has not resigned and, instead, returned to work. He continues to assert his innocence and shows no signs of stepping down; not surprisingly, the influx of Blagojevich t-shirts continues to grow.
While the ImpeachRod.org folks had been calling for Blagojevich’s removal long before news of this scandal hit, the Illinois house has just recently begun looking into impeachment proceedings. One interesting sidenote: with a 20% corruption rate for its senior officials in the past century, Illinois also has sent 3 of its last 7 Governors to jail. If Blagojevich is convicted, Illinois will have a 50% imprisonment rate for its highest official.
Wearing fitted pants isn’t just a fashion tip anymore; as New York Giant Plaxico Burress taught us all during a wild weekend in New York, it’s a good safety tip too.
Burress is in crosshairs other than his own after accidentally shooting himself in the leg in Manhattan’s LQ nightclub, where he’d been detained by security after he’d admitted he was packing heat. Explaining that his bling needed a nickel-plated bodyguard, Burress was allowed to enter the club with his gun.
Unfortunately, Burress ostensibly doesn’t believe in engaging a safety. Nor does he apparently find a gun holster to be a fashionable nightclub firearm accessory, as it would seem he was instead carrying his weapon in his waistband.
Gravity and clumsiness did the rest, as the gun slipped down his pants leg, Burress fumbled to catch it, and he shot himself in the thigh during the process.
On the bright side for Giants fans, Burress is arguably more skilled at handling footballs than he is at handling handguns. On the not-so-bright side, Burress just signed a $35 million dollar contract with the Giants and is now sidelined due to both a pulled hamstring and, more recently, a bullet hole in his leg. As upset as Giants fans may be, Mayor Bloomberg seems even less forgiving.
While his future as a professional football player is unknown, it’s safe to assume that Burress has lost any chance at a celebrity endorsement deal with the NRA.
Wall Street didn’t let politicians, sports figures and the auto industry steal the limelight for long this year. Coming in at the wire, news broke of the largest Ponzi (pyramid) scheme in history, to the tune of $50 billion dollars.
Madoff was turned in by his sons after he admitted to them that his investment advisory business was “a giant Ponzi scheme.” Although both sons worked for Madoff’s company, it seems they were in the dark on the fraud… until Madoff decided to tell them about it, that is.
The list of defrauded investors is as long as it is impressive, including a variety of banks, the owner of the New York Mets, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and Steven Spielberg’s financial advisor. Their actual or intended recourse is unknown at this point, as it will take years to unravel this house of Benjamins. Although most victimes have declined to comment on the scandal, other people are speaking out for them via merchandise.
Many would assume that Madoff would be in custody, but they’d be wrong: he’s back at home in Manhattan with his wife Ruth. But he does have a curfew, so apparently bilking investors for $50 billion dollars gets you the same punishment as taking the skinny kid’s lunch money on the playground. No word on whether he was made to stand in the corner before heading home.