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Will Spitzer make list of politicians who survive scandal?

New York governor met little sympathy or support over sex scandal.

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The prostitution ring in question, identified in court papers as the Emperors Club VIP, arranged liaisons 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. Law-enforcement officials have indicated that the customer identified as "Client 9" in the court papers is Spitzer. Client 9 paid for a prostitute to travel across state lines from New York to Washington, according to the court documents – a possible violation of the Mann Act, which prohibits transporting people between states for immoral purposes.

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"It is a law that is still on the books but not resorted to very much," says Mr. Peisch. "I don't think there will be any prosecution under these circumstances."

Even if the governor is not prosecuted, he may be too damaged politically to stay in office, experts say. He was unpopular even before Monday's stunning news.

In what became known as "Trooper-Gate," Spitzer's staff was accused of using state police officers to spy on the state's Senate majority leader, Joseph Bruno. Staff members leaked information about Senator Bruno's use of state-owned aircraft. Bruno fought back by saying he was on state business. The dispute ultimately led some of Spitzer's top aides to resign.

"Everyone likes Joe Bruno; you are not going to throw Joe Bruno out," says pollster John Zogby of Zogby International in Utica, N.Y. "It was the beginning of the downfall of Spitzer."

The governor's approval ratings began to plummet soon thereafter. Most polls show him in the upper 30s, says Lee Miringoff of the Marist Institute of Public Opinion. "He does not have a reservoir of public opinion to fall back on right now."

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

Some longtime political analysts say Spitzer has cut corners in the past. Many of his cases against Wall Street wrongdoers were built on the threat of political indictment and the use of strategic leaks to bolster press coverage, according to Ms. Masters. "He cut corners in a way a true purist wouldn't," she says. During his first run for attorney general, his father's real estate company funneled money into Spitzer's campaign using questionable methods.

"He was never called on it," says Fred Siegel, a political analyst at Cooper Union in New York. "That may have contributed to the sense that he could get away with just about anything."

Even if a politician survives a scandal, his administration can be weakened. After the Lewinsky scandal, Mr. Clinton was distracted by the barrage of negative press and his defense against impeachment.

"One can argue his effectiveness as president was seriously reduced," says Kenneth Sherrill, a Hunter College professor of political science. "He served his term out, but he and his party were severely wounded."

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

Research librarians Leigh Montgomery and John Aubrey contributed to this report.

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