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On the Hill, Stunned Silence on Spitzer

New York's congressional delegation is usually on the talkative side, but lawmakers from the Empire State appear to have been stunned into silence by the bombshell news that their governor, Eliot Spitzer (D), has been linked to a prostitution ring.

At least a dozen New York members either didn't return calls or gave variations on "no comment" or "we're monitoring the situation" when Capitol Briefing asked for a reaction. One of the few exceptions so far was the always media-friendly Rep. Peter King (R), who passed along his thoughts right before sitting down for a CNBC interview on the subject.

"I was absolutely shellshocked," King said of the Spitzer news. "I've never heard any rumors, any whispers, anything at all."

King added that he believed Spitzer should resign, since "prostitution rings are invariably linked to organized crime" and the governor's behavior "leaves himself and the state susceptible to blackmail."

And King couldn't resist twisting the knife a bit more, referencing Spitzer's high-profile crusades against any number of causes when he served as state attorney general.

"I've never known a guy who was more self-righteous or more unforgiving than Eliot Spitzer," King said.

While the Long Island Republican is not fond of Spitzer, he had nothing but positive things to say about Lt. Gov David Paterson (D), who would take over the top job if Spitzer resigns.

On the Democratic side, Rep. Eliot Engel weighed in with this: "Today's events come as a shock to everyone. We don't know all the facts, and any comment prior to knowing the facts is premature. I wish the governor and his family well in this time of trial for them."

Though all New York lawmakers, particularly Democrats, have some connection to Spitzer, a handful of them have been beneficiaries of his financial largess. Through Dec. 31, Spitzer's political action committee, Excelsior Committee, had made $10,300 worth of contributions to members of Congress and candidates, all from his home state of New York.

Spitzer's PAC, which he founded last year, gave $2,300 to Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's (D-N.Y.) presidential campaign last May. He has made contributions to three Democratic House members from the Empire State -- Reps. Michael Arcuri, Kirsten Gillibrand and John Hall. And Spitzer contributed to two high-profile New York congressional candidates -- Dan Maffei and Eric Massa.

The GOP attacks on those candidates have already begun. Within hours of the Spitzer story breaking, the National Republican Congressional Committee put out a press release headlined, "Will Kirsten Gillibrand Return Spitzer's Sleazy Money?" followed by identical releases on Arcuri, Massa, Maffei and Hall.

In the 2006 cycle, before starting his PAC, Spitzer personally donated more than $30,000 to Democratic members and candidates, making contributions to Sens. Joe Lieberman (Conn.), Edward Kennedy (Mass.) and Sheldon Whitehouse (R.I.), as well as Rep. Brian Higgins (in addition to Gillibrand, Hall, Maffei and Massa).

By Ben Pershing  |  March 10, 2008; 6:48 PM ET
Categories:  2008 Campaign , Ethics and Rules  
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