One of my all-time favorite political campaign slogans – right after, “I’VE UPPED MY STANDARDS, UP YOURS” – was one attributed to former Nevada brothel worker Jessi Winchester, who reportedly told voters during her unsuccessful run for public office, “VOTE FOR ME OR I’LL TELL YOUR WIFE.”
Prior to running for office, the feisty redhead ran for Mrs. Nevada and couldn’t understand why her work in a brothel mattered to pageant organizers.
And…by the way…you can learn more about the infamous Winchester in her book, aptly titled, “FROM BORDELLO TO BALLOT BOX,” available at a bookstore near you.
If Winchester taught us anything, it’s that the line between a prostitute and politician is as thin as a bed sheet.
For proof we need look no further than New York. The former governor of that Empire State is currently running for New York City comptroller, hoping voters have forgotten why he is no longer governor.
And Eliot Spitzer is no longer governor because he thought nobody would notice his penchant for high-priced hookers. He was caught in a federal sting after a bank noticed “suspicious transactions” that turned out to be transfers to an agency fronting as a brothel. Investigators say Spitzer paid up to $80,000 for prostitutes over several years while he was New York’s attorney general and governor.
He would eventually resign and most assumed he would ride off into the sunset, or wherever hooker-loving governors go when they get caught with their pants down.
Knowing voters have short-term memory and fairly low expectations, Spitzer decided to return to New York and run for public office. It could be he chose the office of comptroller because he also knows that nobody really knows what a comptroller does and so it wouldn’t matter who did it.
I’m not sure I know what a comptroller does, or why New York needs one.
Spitzer’s instincts were apparently pretty good, because the latest poll shows him leading his opponent in the September election by a couple of percentage points. Even after admitting that he continued having phone sex after resigning his governor’s post.
Bad habits are hard to break.
As I said, Spitzer’s lead in that race isn’t that surprising. Our standards aren’t that high and our expectations are fairly modest. I lived in California where Arnold The Terminator was governor. We would later learn that he fathered a child with his maid.
Spitzer was reportedly campaigning in Brooklyn last week and got a hero’s welcome entering and exiting the subway.
“Let he who is without sin cast the first stone!” one person shouted.
“Unfortunately, stuff happens and the media blows it out of proportion,” another was quoted as saying.
That one, by the way, isn’t surprising. A governor spends 80 grand on hookers and the media gets blamed. We get blamed for everything, so next time you stay out all night just blame the media.
Personally? I don’t care who a politician sleeps with. I’ll leave the morality policing to others. What I do care about is that we have politicians capable of good judgment. I work too hard for my tax money and I don’t want to put it into the hands of someone who thinks it’s OK to have phone sex from the Oval Office, or spend $80,000 on hookers while you have a wife and kids at home.
I draw the line at cross-dressing and maybe inappropriate texting. I’d like a leader who knows without being told that it isn’t a good idea to take photos of his private parts and e-mail them to anyone, let alone a stranger.
And if you have to be told that it’s possible to trace a bank money transfer to a brothel, you probably aren’t qualified to serve as comptroller, if that job does what I think it does.
I remember when Clinton “didn’t have sex with that woman” Monica. A lot of people came to his defense, suggesting that what he did on his own time was his business. Never mind he was a CEO of the Free World and she was an intern. Never mind it was in the Oval Office, where we thought he was occupied with some high-level stuff, like fighting terrorism, or talking to world leaders.
“What to do today…let’s see…hey, can you send Monica in? And hold my calls.”
Spitzer will very likely be the Big Apple’s next comptroller, where he will serve a term or two before running for higher office and probably win. I’d say there’s a great chance he could even end up back in the governor’s mansion one day and wouldn’t that be a testimonial.
From what I can determine, the only thing he’s learned from the experience is “always pay cash and don’t leave a paper trail.” He already knew that voters don’t care who politicians screw, so long as it’s not them.
• Jeff Ackerman is publisher of The News-Review. He can be reached at 541-957-4263 or firstname.lastname@example.org.