Reformer Spitzer in Hot Water With Reform Groups

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The revelation that reform-minded Governor Eliot Spitzer waited until after his election to disclose that he reimbursed megadonor Richard Fields $110,000 for flights on the gambling mogul’s private jet, among other things, has ethics watchdogs seeing red. “The campaign is doing the public a major disservice,” says Neil Rosenstein, government reform coordinator of the New York Public Interest Research Group. “Given the size of the money involved, and given this is a donor with major business before the state, Spitzer should be disclosing this information in a timely fashion.” A former Donald Trump protégé, Fields is a major player in a group looking to take over the state’s lucrative horse tracks. He also wants to build casinos in the Catskills, and he created a stir by giving Spitzer $200,000 in donations through various corporations.

Though Spitzer also copped to using Fields's jet to puddle-jump to campaign stops way back in May, his full reimbursement to Fields is for another series of flights for the governor and his wife to attend a fund-raiser Fields threw for them in July in Jackson Hole. So why wait so long — seven months — to report the trip? After Spitzer’s first private-jet PR kerfuffle, he vowed to change his policy and fully reimburse his carriers, but Fields attorney Edward Wallace says it took until December to get accountants and compliance lawyers to agree on the cost of the trips and send Spitzer the bill. Rachel Leon, of Common Cause, says of Spitzer’s tardy private jet disclosures, “You can’t really run on a reform platform under New York’s laws and raise $40 million and at the same time expect to stay entirely clean.” So it seems. —Geoffrey Gray