No Red Flags in Spitzer Expense Reports

NEW YORK (AP) -- Ever since the prostitution scandal shoved Gov. Eliot Spitzer out the door, people have wondered: Did he spend taxpayer dollars or campaign money to subsidize trysts?

An analysis by The Associated Press of a year's worth of expense reports for Spitzer's office and his campaign committee shows little sign the money was used for illicit activities.

Federal prosecutors have yet to weigh in on the matter; so far, only the alleged organizers of the high-priced call girl ring have been charged.

Expense reports filed by Spitzer's campaign committee show plenty of far-flung travel, but nothing in them overtly suggests he was taking prostitutes along or making frivolous jaunts as an excuse to be alone in a hotel room.

There are no payments from the committee to any companies that have been identified by federal authorities as fronts for prostitution.

The committee's lawyer, Kenneth Gross, said he has seen no evidence that the organization paid for hotel rooms for people who weren't on legitimate campaign business.

"We had a really good system, and we carefully reviewed not only the contributions coming in ... but also on the expenditure side," Gross said.

Spitzer's state-issued credit card also shows no outward sign of having been abused for extracurricular pursuits.

Between September and February, the Democrat charged $4,056 in travel-related expenses to the state, including three trips to Washington D.C. and another to a conference with Hispanic lawmakers in Puerto Rico. But he did not use his state card to pay for the two rooms that FBI agents accuse him of using to arrange a Feb. 13 encounter with a call girl named Kristen at Washington's Mayflower Hotel.

Spitzer's campaign didn't pay for the rooms either, suggesting that the governor paid with his own money.

That doesn't mean taxpayers were spared any expense associated with the trip; records filed with the state comptroller's office show that the government paid Spitzer's air fare and for hotel rooms for two aides and two State Police troopers who accompanied him on the trip - all at a cost of about $1,070.

The governor's official business in Washington that week was testifying before a congressional committee about problems in the bond insurance market.

Spitzer has told aides and his legal team that he never spent public or campaign dollars on prostitutes. The scandal collapsed his career last week, just days after the married father of three was identified by federal authorities as "Client 9" of the prostitution ring.

Even if authorities find that Spitzer had trysts in hotel rooms that were paid for by his campaign, a prosecution may be difficult. Using campaign money for private purposes is illegal, but candidates are generally given wide leeway on spending that may have a dual purpose.

For example, a committee wouldn't normally face sanctions for flying a candidate to the Caribbean for a relaxing long weekend, as long as he or she attended a bona fide political fundraiser on the same trip.

"The definition of 'personal use' is so weak that candidates can justify just about anything," said Richard Dadey, executive director of the government watchdog group Citizens Union.

"Basically, if you can make any theoretical case that the expense was tied to running for office or holding office, then it's OK," said Russ Haven, legislative counsel for the watchdog group NYPIRG.

Federal prosecutors in New York, who are leading the prostitution investigation, have not said whether they intend to charge Spitzer with any crimes.

A senior law enforcement official speaking on condition of anonymity said "it's doubtful" that the U.S. attorney in the District of Columbia will bring prostitution charges against Spitzer, though the topic is still being discussed.

Potential violations in D.C. would be a misdemeanor charge and a requirement to attend so-called "johns school," aimed at rehabilitating prostitution solicitors.

The law firm representing Spitzer referred inquiries to a publicist, who declined to comment.

Spitzer 2010 had about $2.9 million in unspent campaign funds when he resigned. A spokesman for the committee, Jonathan Rosen, said the money will be distributed "in accordance with all applicable laws" but didn't outline where it would go. He said it will not be used for the ex-governor's personal legal fees.

The New York State Republican Party said the committee should give the money to a charity "committed to helping young women avoid self-destructive lifestyles."

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