In his heyday, former New York State Attorney General and Governor Eliot Spitzer crusaded for strict regulations on Wall Street, incurring the wrath of the rich and powerful while fighting the good fight for the little guy. By night, he was known as Client 9 to the madam who supplied him with prostitutes. Not an isolated incident, nothing that could be put down to not knowing better. The word hubris replaced talk of a future in the White House.
Ah, but look at the shelf life of political shenanigans, and we may see why Spitzer is taking another shot in politics, announcing his run for Comptroller of New York. After all, Bill Clinton was reviled during the Monica Lewinsky episode, and now he’s an elder statesman that current president Barack Obama couldn’t wait to have in his corner. Another politician testing the waters for Spitz is Anthony Weiner, who waited not terribly long after his naughty-texting downfall to climb into the race for mayor of New York City. Was anyone terribly surprised that he quickly rose in the polls? Perhaps not.
The public has a short memory, or perhaps a shorter tolerance for politicians in general these days. Those whose transgressions err on the side of the personal, rather than keeping the little guy down and out, tend to be forgiven. The odds seem good that Joe Public will give Client 9 another shot.
THE PR VERDICT: “B” (Good Show) for Eliot Spitzer. Penance done, he stands a good chance of being re-elected.
THE PR TAKEAWAY: After you’ve done wrong, do the right things. Step 1: apologize. Step 2: gracefully resign from your post (hopefully with your still-supportive wife by your side). Step 3: Lay low for a while, giving other politicians a chance to grab the negative headlines. Step 4: begin reinvention and let the search engines associate you with something else apart from scandal. (In Spitzer’s case, this meant a a stint as a TV pundit.) Step 5: Let others go before you to test the waters. And finally, Step 6: return to the job you were good at, pledging to reward forgiveness. Voila! Happy days are here again.