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Mike Baker: Eliot Ness' Mess

By now you’ve probably heard about the exciting adventures of our crime-fighting New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer. A former state attorney general and prosecutor with a hard-nosed reputation for rooting out evil-doers, Gov. Spitzer also apparently has a thing for the ladies.

And not just any ladies. The governor, soon to be ex-governor, reportedly was dropping major coin on hookers. According to breaking news reports, the governor, also known as Huggy Bear, was paying in the range of $4,300 a pop for his dates. That, ladies and gentlemen, is some serious bang for your buck.

If you’re like me, right now you’re asking yourself, what exactly are those ladies doing that would make an educated, respectable guy like Eliot Ness drop $4,300 for some mess-around. Are there things out there you and I just don’t know about?

Setting aside the fact that the guy’s clearly an idiot for engaging in illegal activity… and ignoring the obvious moral and ethical issues that exist when you’re married with children and decide it's OK to hook up with prostitutes... I just want to know what $4,300 gets you. It damn well better include fireworks, free snacks and a cover band. And balloons, lots of balloons. Maybe even a balloon drop at just the right moment.

What a tool. Here’s a guy who all but ran around with his underpants outside his trousers declaring himself a member of the Justice League. Mind you, I’m not passing a moral judgment, that’s obviously not my place. I’m just marveling at how stupid or arrogant you need to be as the self-proclaimed Dudley Do-Right of New York state politics to get involved in a prostitution ring.

Was he under the impression that the rocket scientists running the joint had figured out a way to avoid detection? Are you kidding me?

It was a standard low-rent scam involving some pass-thru shell companies and a 23-year-old running the day-to-day operations. How could a street-smart prosecutor who had risen to the governor’s office think that somehow he was dealing with the one criminal enterprise that would escape detection?

By now, don’t you think that every elected official, regardless of office, would be handed a pamphlet on what to do and what not to do once you get into office? Is it that difficult to keep your nose clean for the time that you’re serving the public? In reality it isn’t that difficult, given that the vast majority of elected officials do a fine job.

But for those who have a hard time staying on the straight and narrow, what exactly is the major malfunction? You wanna see a hooker? Fine, knock yourself out after you’ve finished your term and are back in private life. (Note: The previous sentence is not an endorsement of the prostitution industry.)

You wanna make money? No problem, serve honorably then get back into private life and join the world of consultants, lobbyists and lawyers. (Note: The previous sentence is not an endorsement of the lobbying industry.)

In the event that The Public Official’s Guide to Not Being an Ass hasn’t already been written, perhaps the following tips can be included for the first edition:

1. As an elected official, please remember that you serve the public, otherwise known as the taxpayer, the voter or the peasant class.

2. Conduct yourself as if the public is always watching.

3. The public doesn’t want to watch you have high-priced sex with hookers.

4. OK, there may be some who do… but the vast majority doesn’t.

5. If the activity you’re about to engage in requires you to set up a dummy company, use an alias, transfer large amounts of cash and skulk around, there’s a good chance it’s considered illegal. As an elected official, you should be aware that illegal is bad.

6. People who may or may not know you might try to give you money in exchange for influence. This is considered wrong and should be avoided.

7. Yes, even if it’s a lot of money.

8. Apply the sniff test to everything you do as an elected official. Before you accept that gift, meet with that person, take that donation, pay that call girl, tap that foot, chase that intern or engage in any other questionable activity, ask if you would be OK with the story appearing on the front page of The Washington Post or The New York Times in the morning.

9. If the answer is no, then your course of action should be pretty clear.

10. A decent day’s work, be honest and respect the position to which you’ve been elected.

Maybe I’m missing something, but it just doesn’t seem that tough. Now, admittedly, we do tend to get a skewed picture of politics in this country. There are countless hardworking, honest elected officials who never get into trouble and try their hardest every day to do a good job. Unfortunately, all their efforts are relatively uninteresting and rarely make the press.

It’s the stories like Gov. Spitzer’s that command the headlines and tend to set our national mood about the state of politics in America. That’s a disservice to all those who serve in office honorably and work to make a difference.

It would be a pleasant change to highlight the good works done by motivated, hardworking elected officials as opposed to the scandals, dramas and unfortunate incidents that we tend to see as representative of our local, state and national politicians.

Do me a favor. In an effort to test this thought, send me any stories you might have highlighting good works done by an elected official in your area. It could be someone in your town, county, city or even at the state level.

If there’s someone you think deserves a mention for their efforts, send your thoughts and comments along to peoplesweeklybrief@hotmail.com. Now, I’ll be the first to admit that reading about a politician’s good deeds might not match the entertainment value of reading about what the governor was getting for his $4,300, but it could be more uplifting. And by that I mean inspirational.

Till next week, stay safe.

Respond to the Writer.

Mike Baker served for more than 15 years as a covert field operations officer for the Central Intelligence Agency, specializing in counterterrorism, counternarcotics and counterinsurgency operations around the globe. Since leaving government service, he has been a principal in building and running several companies in the private intelligence, security and risk management sector, including most recently Prescience LLC, a global intelligence and strategy firm. He appears frequently in the media as an expert on such issues. Baker is also a partner in Classified Trash, a film and television production company. Baker serves as a script consultant and technical adviser within the entertainment industry, lending his expertise to such programs as the BBC's popular spy series "Spooks" as well as major motion pictures. In addition, Baker is a writer for a BBC drama to begin production in July 2007.