Eliot Spitzer’s involvement in a prostitution scandal spelt the end of his career in active politics. As a New York governor, Spitzer had been able to cut a niche above the rest with his dedicated belief in instilling a high level of ethics. He violated the confidence that the public had in him. He had sacrificed honesty, integrity and transparency for owns personal fulfillment.
Eliot Laurence Spitzer has recently resigned from office after being embroiled in a scandal with a high flying prostitute. This has come as a big surprise to many considering the high moral standpoint that he had stood on and his tireless efforts to instill ethics and professionalism in the states public offices. Elliott Spitzer’s actions were both illegal and unethical.
Before the scandal came out Spitzer had a good career and his popularity was soaring. Born in June 10, 1959, his campaign for office was built on a pledge to reform and change the ethics in administration. On March 10 th 2008, the New York Times first broke out the story to the public that Spitzer was involved in a high flying ring of prostitution scandal prompting calls for his resignation and threats of impeachment. He announced his resignation two days later on March 12 th
It is apparent that in addition to Elliot Spitzer violating the law, he also went against the expectations of the public and ethical settings of his office as a governor and also as a leader. It is true that not everything that is unethical is illegal, but his reputation and professionalism remains permanently tainted. He went against the expected personality and character in such an office of high stature.
Leaders are bound by a code of conduct, a code that dictates their actions in relation to the law and to the society. Ethical issues such as integrity, honesty, accountability, transparency, impartiality among others also are supposed to be upheld by leaders in a public office. Just because someone is in power should not be used as an excuse to engage in excesses and infallible behaviors. A leader’s first duty is to the society, the people that put him into office (John C. K., Jimmy C., 2006).
Elliot Spitzer had set the bar high as far as morals, ethics and integrity are concerned, both in his career and private life. This is what had led many to believe that he was destined to go far. He was being touted as the future leader of the Democratic Party. The violation of same ethics and standards he set out to instill and that he purported to practice would lead to his down fall (Alberts, Sheldon, 2008).
The magnanimity of Spitzer’s ethics violation is best discerned by looking at the social and political stature of his office as a governor of New York. This is an office the public expects much from. In one of his press conferences, when he was announcing his resignation, he said that he had not measurable to the publics’ expectations. He was a leader holding public office and it was the public that had bestowed him with a responsibility to lead and uphold the moral standing of the office.
One value that a leader is supposed by the society to uphold is integrity. Integrity revolves around a set of values, values that are recognized by the society. The same values that the public based its judgment on when putting Spitzer into office. Visitation to a high flying prostitute by such a notable public official questions ones integrity and the ability to make the right decisions in office (Joanne B, C., James M. B., 2004).
As noted, Elliot Spitzer had built an impressive profile out of prosecutions of wrong doers including prostitution rings. It was utterly unimaginable that he would be caught doing contrary to his beliefs. This is what would lead to his downfall. His involvement in such a scandal put into question his ability to lead impartially. How would he be able to net prostitution rings while he himself was deeply embroiled in one.
Another issue that comes up is impartiality. Professional and leadership ethics require individuals, especially public officers, to carry out their duties impartially. Impartiality is an ethical principle that propagates for objective analysis of events and evidence before making a particular decision or taking an action. It is important to note that one factor that led to the discovery of Eliot Spitzer’s improper behavior was as a result of the transfer of huge amounts of money to the Emperors Club from his account. This attracted the attention of investigators. The Emperor Club was also under investigations on the suspicion that it was involved in a prostitution ring. Ethics revolve around conscience. Prostitution is regarded to be ethically and morally wrong. It has also to be noted that Eliot Spitzer had made his name out of arresting people that engaged in high ring crimes such as extortion and organized crime. It hence would have been in doubt as to whether he could have led an investigation into the activities of the Emperors Club VIP, a place suspected of engaging in crime even before the scandal itself broke out (Kessler R., 2008).
It is important for a public leader to be accountable, transparent and honest in their official as well as in their private deeds. This is in recognition of the bearing that personal and private matters have on a person’s public performance. How would Spitzer be expected to continue upholding transparency and be meting out justice impartially? To the basic standards of American society, prostitution though highly prevalent and predominant, remains frowned upon. The religious foundations upon which societal beliefs, practices and values stems from, are against prostitution. There is a direct relation between societal values and leadership ethics. Spitzer’s actions were both in violation of societal and political expectations (Alberts, Sheldon, 2008).
It is important to note that a debate on Spitzer’s case and his ethical failings is not an evaluation of whether his actions are illegal or not. It is all about examining the acceptability of his actions in the public eye and whether his misdeeds warranted his resignation. Libertarians could argue out that practices such as prostitution are within an individual’s liberties and the law or ethics have no business interfering with ones preferences and tastes. They would go ahead and argue that as long as it is consensual, it is acceptable. What is important to note here is that Spitzer’s position as a governor puts him in a position that should be beyond reproach. He should lead by example. Whether prostitution is legal or not is a non issue, what is worrisome is that such an act can jeopardize his ability to make hard choices without fear of intimidation or contradiction. By engaging in such a scandal, he not only contradicted his leadership and professional ethics but also made himself a soft target for blackmail. There usually exists an overriding fear that with such an incident, especially when it is not known to the public, he could have become a easy target for blackmail, forcing him to make decisions that goes against his office expectations.
The question of transparency lingers on when such a scandal blows out. With the scandal out in the open, it became apparent that his moral standing had been put into disrepute and also his honesty. By taking a vow to serve the people of New York as a governor, his moral and ethical practices had to be in tandem with the expectations of the public. Being embroiled in a prostitution ring is a contradiction to this. It shows that Spitzer was unwilling to be transparent in his persona and private life as he had been able to conceal his misdeeds for long. His leadership hence would be lacking in transparency. This scandal went a long way in putting into disrepute his own solid standing and his credibility both in the public and in the family. It is essential to note that though the scandal was able to put to an end and crumble a career that seemed to be built on a solid foundation, he has been hailed for having taken responsibility of his actions and for indicating that there were no sacred cows in justice (Alberts, Sheldon, 2008).
What has been the focus of many commentators and political analysts has been the unethical nature of his actions and how his whole leadership had been founded on a rocky foundation driven by hypocrisy. Elliot Spitzer had made a great name for himself as a leader who treaded where others failed to go in the process of rooting out crime. He had demonstrated willingness and dedication towards reducing organized crime in New York, but he was blindly unaware of the fact that his own actions would betray the cause that he himself had set out to accomplish. There is a popular religious saying that advises people to remove the log in their eyes first before proceeding to clear the specks in their neighbor’s eyes. This though does not mean that Spitzer had not done good deeds in office, led by his unshakeable belief and determination to eradicate crime. His unethical deeds watered down all that he could have purported to stand for and it was only honorable for him to resign. His unethical behaviors had led his own downfall.
Joanne B , Ciulla, James MacGregor Burns, 2004. Group Ethics, the heart of leadership. Greenwood Publishing.
Alberts, Sheldon, 2008. Spitzer resigns amid sex scandal, Canwest News Service, The Gazzette.
Kessler, Robert, March 11, 2008. Eliot Spitzer met with call girls 7 or 8 times. Newsday.
John C. Knapp, Jimmy Carter, 2006. For the common good: The Ethics of Leadership in the 21 st century. Greenwood Publishing Group