Last Thursday, SFR called State Rep. Ernest Chavez, D-Bernalillo, at home for this week's cover feature [Cover Story: Inside Out]. Three words into the explanation for the call, Chavez cut in with a guess.
"Eliot Spitzer?" the two-term lawmaker asked.
Did Chavez have any political sex scandals to leak?"
"Hee-hee-hee! Not at $5,000 an hour. But I probably know a few at 50 bucks an hour!"
From capital to capital, New Mexico is 7,839 miles from New York. Yet, for all the geographic and cultural differences, the revelation that the incorruptible governor of New York was giving his money (among so-far-undisclosed other things) to a high-class prostitute is enough send even a far-removed New Mexican into puerile giggle fits.
The more mature lament the heart-breaking hypocrisy:"The Sheriff of Wall Street" may be an accomplice to several serious federal crimes.
Indeed, Spitzer had a tough-love relationship with New Mexico, no pun intended.
Spitzer's first real dealings with New Mexico came around 2000, when he led a nationwide litigation effort against the music industry's top labels for allegedly cooperating in a price-fixing scheme with the Sam Goody and Musicland record chains. Former Attorney General Patricia Madrid followed suit, as she and other attorneys general did with a dozen of Spitzer's crusades over the next several years. The team took on the Department of Energy for ignoring power-efficient appliance regulations and demanded the US Department of Justice's Office of Violence Against Women amend its rules to require that hospitals offer emergency contraceptives to rape victims.
In 2005, Spitzer began hounding radio jock Don Imus about his charity-funded ranch in Ribera, NM. According to Santa Fe New Mexican reports, Spitzer was reacting to allegations put forth by Howard Stern that Imus' 14,000-acre ranch was more for the host's pleasure than for terminally ill children. Spitzer eventually dropped the investigation without filing formal charges.
In the summer 2005, when Spitzer began his gubernatorial campaign, New Mexico was a pot of gold.
At the time, Gov. Bill Richardson was chairman of the Democratic Governors Association, which, as a 527 organization, could raise unlimited funds to engage in politics. Internal Revenue Service records show that of the $3 million Richardson helped raise, more than $260,000 went to the New York Democratic Party to support Spitzer.
(A year later, The Santa Fe New Mexican reported that both Richardson and Spitzer each received $50,000 in campaign contributions from billionaire Jeffrey Epstein, who was indicted for allegedly soliciting teenage prostitutes. Both donated the money to charity.)
That summer, Richardson also co-hosted a $500-a-plate fundraiser in Santa Fe at the home of Gerald Peters, owner of the Gerald Peters Gallery, according to the Albuquerque Journal.
"I was very surprised and shocked at the disclosure," Peters tells SFR via e-mail."My heart goes out to the Spitzer family at this difficult time."
It was at that same event that Richardson called Spitzer the "future of the Party."
"I thought he was charming,"? New Mexico Magazine Publisher Ethel Hess says about Spitzer at the 2005 fundraiser. Her daughter, Miriam Hess, was serving as deputy campaign manager for his gubernatorial bid."He said nice things about my daughter and that's all he had to do. When I said to him that he might know my daughter he was effusive about how wonderful and fabulous she was."
As New Yorkers, neither of the Hesses believes he should have kept his job.
"I think that it would've been very difficult to push through programs, especially with the fight with [Senate Majority Leader Joe] Bruno," Hess' husband, real state agent Peter Hess, says. "I was an admirer. He had done good work as attorney general, and I think what has happened now is very, very sad."