Eliot Spitzer’s “reckless efforts to land himself on the front page” with high-profile investigations of America’s financial institutions are “making it harder to do business and create jobs in New York,” according to state GOP Chairman Stephen Minarik.
The line of attack against the state attorney general, a Democrat who plans to run for governor next year, has come to the fore in recent speeches and fund-raising letters from Republican Gov. George Pataki’s hand-picked state party chairman.
The Spitzer camp said the Minarik strategy simply won’t fly and is only hiding another agenda.
“Mr. Minarik is the voice of failed leadership,” said Spitzer spokesman Darren Dopp. “He is defending a party and administration that has been in charge for more than a decade and which has failed miserably to produce jobs or reform state government.”
“Minarik’s attacks will backfire because they beg the question of who has been in charge for the last decade,” the Spitzer aide added. “It’s the executive that is responsible for job growth or the lack of it, for reform or the lack of it.”
Nonetheless, Minarik is trying.
“A job-killer like Eliot Spitzer is no friend to taxpayers!” the GOP leader proclaimed in one recent letter to New York Republicans.
Other than defeating Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton’s bid for re-election next year, Minarik told fellow Republicans the most important task is “preventing Attorney General and Aspiring Governor Eliot Spitzer from moving into the Governor’s Mansion and destroying this state with his dangerous antibusiness practices.”
Spitzer has, of course, gained international attention with his probes into the practices of Wall Street financial houses, mutual fund managers and the insurance industry. He has won multimillion dollar settlements against companies and some former executives have been hit with criminal penalties.
The upshot is that Spitzer has been portrayed in many quarters as a consumer’s champion, defender of the average Joe. Independent polls have him trouncing Pataki, if the governor seeks a fourth, four-year term in 2006.
That leads to the suspicion that Minarik may be seeking to perform classic political jujitsu with a twist by turning lemonade into lemons, or painting an opponent’s positives as negatives.
“Eliot Spitzer has been given a free ride by the liberal media in Manhattan,” Minarik wrote in one fund-raising letter. “We will expose him for the job killer he is.”
That may not be so easy.
Figures put out earlier this month by the Pataki-controlled state Labor Department show that in 2004, the annual average number of jobs in the financial activities industry grew by 0.7 percent while it grew by 1 percent in the professional and business services sector.
And, in December, state Comptroller Alan Hevesi announced that Wall Street’s year-end bonuses were up for a second straight year.
“Just imagine how much better they could be doing,” Minarik aide Ryan Moses said.
But, according to Dopp, the “companies that were the subject of our investigations, such as the investment banks and mutual funds, have emerged stronger after reforms were implemented. Many of these companies have seen record profits, soaring stock prices and increased employment recently.”
“Does Mr. Minarik believe that the attorney general should have allowed millions of Americans to be defrauded?” the Spitzer aide added. “What investigation would he have called off?”
To support his claims, Minarik has been fond of quoting U.S. Chamber of Commerce President Thomas Donohue. At a January news conference in Washington, Donohue was highly critical of Spitzer’s tactics, calling them “the most egregious and unacceptable form ofintimidation that we have seen in this country in modern time.”
In response, Dopp had said: “The chamber should be a proponent of high standards. Instead Mr. Donohue is attacking the one person who has done the most to level the playing field for honest business.”
Minarik aide Moses noted that one major Spitzer target, insurance giant Marsh & McLennan, cut 3,000 jobs last year and announced this month that another 2,500 workers may have to be laid off.
“I don’t think he’s as great a candidate as the Democrats think he is,” Minarik said.
Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. Author Marc Humbert has covered New York state politics for The Associated Press for more than 25 years. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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