Disgraced NY Governor Won't Need New Job
By DAVID B. CARUSO 03.12.08, 4:32 PM ET
Eliot Spitzer probably doesn't need to get a day job when he leaves the governor's office next week.
The scion of a wealthy Manhattan real estate developer, Spitzer is a millionaire who could easily live off his share of his father's real estate business.
But that doesn't mean there won't be financial wrinkles ahead for Spitzer, who announced his resignation Wednesday after becoming ensnared in a prostitution scandal.
If he were to lose his law license, his ability to return to private law practice might be compromised. There's also the possibility that his wife could divorce her cheating husband and walk away with a chunk of the family fortune.
"Any judge who is going to decide this case is going to bend over backward to give her a break, considering what she's been through," said Albert Momjian, a prominent Philadelphia divorce lawyer.
Silda Wall Spitzer gave up a lucrative career in corporate law in 1994, the year that her husband made his first run for public office. Since then, she has worked unpaid jobs in philanthropy and founded a charity called Children for Children.
Spitzer's fall may have one indirect financial benefit. He will probably have to give up what appears to be his most expensive vice: high-priced prostitutes.
Before news broke that Spitzer had shelled out $4,300 to a call girl the night before Valentine's Day, the governor's Mr. Clean image extended to his spending, too.
The governor's staffers always boasted that their millionaire boss was a frugal guy who owned only a few pairs of shoes and drove a minivan.
"He was certainly not free with the dollars. He was very, very careful," said Hank Sheinkopf, a New York political consultant who worked on Spitzer's first two campaigns. "This is not the kind of guy who would take $50,000 out of his own bank account one weekend and blow it in Atlantic City."
That reputation only added to the surprise when an FBI wiretap recorded Spitzer arranging thousands of dollars in payments to an escort service. A law enforcement official speaking on condition of anonymity told The Associated Press that Spitzer may have spent as much as $80,000 on call girls over several years.
Spitzer could afford it. He reported $1.9 million in income to the IRS in 2006, according to his last publicly available tax return.
Not including last year, his earnings have been $14.9 million since 1998, and that total only hints at his family's wealth. His father, Bernard Spitzer, is said to be worth at least $500 million.
Spitzer's tax returns show that a majority of his income comes from rents collected on apartments and shops owned by the family. As governor, he earned $179,000 a year.
After years of spending weekends in a modest, rented home in Colombia County, the Spitzers recently paid $4 million to buy the entire 160-acre property.
The family's main residence continues to be a luxurious Fifth Avenue apartment in a tower built by his father in 1968. Spitzer lives there rent-free, courtesy of his father, who owns at least 10 such apartment towers.
When his three children were younger, Spitzer shelled out nearly $50,000 a year for nannies. Now the kids attend the Horace Mann School, where tuition exceeds $29,000 per student - nearly $100,000 in education expenses alone.
Spitzer and his wife have also given generously to charity, donating $474,509 between 2000 and 2006.
All of those spending habits pale in comparison to what Spitzer spent on politics: He financed his losing 1994 and winning 1998 campaigns for state attorney general with millions of dollars in personal loans. Much of that debt was retired when the governor sold his share of a family owned apartment building back to his father.
If there is a divorce, Silda Spitzer would likely be entitled to half of whatever assets the family acquired during their 20-year marriage - although discussion of a split may be premature.
Silda stood next to her husband when he announced his resignation Wednesday and some observers said they believe the marriage may survive.
"She has grounds for 50 different divorces here," said Raoul Felder, a divorce lawyer and state judicial board chairman who lived in Spitzer's apartment building for 19 years, and later feuded with the governor over an off-color book he co-wrote with the comic Jackie Mason.
"But will she stick? I think she will," Felder said. "She's stood by him so far."
Associated Press investigative researcher Randy Herschaft contributed to this report.
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