Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Risky Business

The reason Eliot Spitzer’s sexcapade is news is not that the man had sex with a high priced prostitute but that he was, in New York law and order circles, Mr. Moral Rectitude. He was a tough Prosecutor who went after cases just like the one he is embroiled in, with the zeal of the righteous. Then he was Attorney General and according to the news papers and broadcast news stories on this scandal, he was brutal and thorough in prosecuting just this kind of case. He could face several felony charges, the most serious of which is the Mann Act, unless he cuts a deal, and resigning his position as Governor might be just the deal to keep him out of jail. I had a friend in Junior High School whose father was prosecuted under the Mann Act. He supplied “girls” to a pimp in another state, and when he got caught, he served a long prison sentence. Eliot Spitzer arranged to have his “girl” Kristen transported across state lines to service him at the Mayflower Hotel in DC. And it was some unusual aspect of the money trail that seems to have alerted the Feds and ensnared Spitzer.

It isn’t that a man has sex with someone other than his wife that makes this a story—that’s as common as dirt, it happens a million times a day and often with prostitutes. No, it’s the tough prosecutor who has busted up prostitution rings in his long career—jailing the girls (and mostly ignoring the Johns) to go after the mobsters who make their money preying on the girls-- that makes this a big story. As long as prostitution stays illegal, the men who profit from the labor of the prostitutes on either side of the transaction—pimp or John— don’t usually get hurt much when the ring gets busted up. But the prostitutes get jail time. And men get to go on calling it a victimless crime. And that’s the whole point of this entire episode. Eliot Spitzer is only a victim of his own bad judgement and hypocrisy. His wife and daughters are victims. If the prostitutes go to jail, they are victims of a legal system that makes the girl the criminal and the John just a poor innocent man whose little brain has talked him into a little risky business. What a sad and sleazy mess.

If prostitution were legal, none of this would be an issue. We need to allow prostitutes to unionize, run their own Empress Club, hire their own security, tax their earnings, so they get workers compensation, insurance, and retirement packages. Until then, the Johns and the racketeers are the only ones who should be prosecuted under existing law.