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N.Y. Governor Spitzer linked to high-end prostitution ring

Calls for his resignation mount, after the ethics crusader said he failed to live up to his own standards.

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While New York attorney general, Spitzer prosecuted at least two prostitution rings as head of the state's organized crime task force, according to The New York Times.

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Even before this latest allegation, Spitzer was facing serious political problems, analysts say. He became involved in a feud with the state's Senate majority leader, Joseph Bruno. Spitzer's staff leaked information about Senator Bruno's use of state aircraft and state troopers. Bruno fought back by saying he was on state business. The dispute ultimately forced some of the governor's top aides to resign. It became known in Albany as "trooper-gate."

"Everyone likes Joe Bruno; you are not going to throw Joe Bruno out," says Mr. Zogby. "It was the beginning of the downfall of Spitzer."

After only one year in office, the governor's approval ratings have dropped. Most polls show him in the upper 30s, says Lee Miringoff, director of the Marist Institute of Public Opinion. "He does not have a reservoir of public opinion to fall back on right now," says Mr. Miringoff.

Last year, Spitzer caused a stir when he announced plans to issue driver's licenses to illegal immigrants. "It created sufficient uproar that he pulled the idea," says Miringoff.

Spitzer also lost political capital in Albany when he decided to try to replace the state controller, Alan Hevesi, who had resigned, with his own candidate. The actual power resided with the state Assembly, which fought the governor over the choice. Spitzer lost.

Miringoff talked to Spitzer Saturday at the annual Gridiron dinner in Washington, which brings together journalists and politicians. "He seemed very intense about everything," recalls Miringoff. "There was nothing specific, but he just thought he was going to be much stronger by the fall."

However, last week the governor introduced his budget for the coming fiscal year. It involved deep cuts for local governments, school systems, and healthcare facilities. "It was draconian," says Mr. Zogby. "It is what happens when your state is in a recession."

If Spitzer does resign, he would be succeeded by Lt. Gov. David Patterson, who would be the first black governor of the State of New York and the first legally blind governor of any state.

The prostitution ring in question, identified in court papers as the Emperors Club VIP, arranged connections between wealthy men and more than 50 prostitutes in New York, Washington, Los Angeles, Miami, London, and Paris, federal prosecutors said. Four people allegedly connected to the high-end ring were arrested last week.

The case is being handled by prosecutors in the public corruption unit of US attorney Michael Garcia's office. Garcia spokeswoman Yusill Scribner said the office had no comment.

• Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.