Governor Spitzer: “Defining Deviance Down” – By George J. Marlin

After announcing on August 29 that “indefinitely suspended” Communications Director Darren Dopp was to be restored to a state job, Governor Spitzer told the press, “[Dopp] didn’t violate any rule, any law, any ethical obligation that we are aware of.”

The very next day Attorney General Andrew Cuomo told the Albany Times Union editorial board that while Dopp’s behavior was probably not criminal, it was certainly “improper, unethical.”

Who is wrong — Spitzer or Cuomo?

When Cuomo released his Troopergate investigative findings on July 23, 2007, the New York Times reported:

“Gov. Eliot Spitzer’s aides, including one of his closest advisers, improperly used the State Police to gather information about the governor’s chief rival, Joseph L. Bruno, the State Senate majority leader, in an effort to plant a negative story about Mr. Bruno and damage him politically… .

“Spitzer aides, chiefly his communications director, Darren Dopp, concocted a false story for why the information was being gathered, saying the governor’s office acted after receiving a press request seeking details of Mr. Bruno’s use of state aircraft, the report said.

“Mr. Dopp later made misleading statements about the involvement of the governor’s office in the effort, the report indicates. The report concludes that Mr. Bruno’s use of the helicopters — on trips that included both political and legislative events — was proper.”

The Cuomo Report advised the Governor’s Office to set “standard[s] for diligence in avoiding political interference with state police business” and that “the Governor’s Communication Director should be evaluated in light of the findings … and appropriate disciplinary action should be considered.”

In July, Governor Spitzer accepted the recommendation and suspended Dopp indefinitely.  In August, he abruptly reversed his decision claiming Dopp was innocent of any ethics violations.

Clearly, the Governor has a warped view of ethical conduct.

The word “ethics” comes from the Greek “ethos” which in Latin means “moralia” and in English means “morals.”  Ethics is a practical science which establishes the moral order of human acts.  It sets forth the standards on what “ought to be.”

To act ethically in government service means doing one’s duty to conform with agreed upon rules, regulations and laws.

Was Mr. Dopp doing his duty as a public servant when he used the power of his office to create and distribute false information aimed at destroying an elected public official?

Was Mr. Dopp doing his duty when he interfered with state police business?

Let’s face it, Dopp’s transgressions are indefensible.

Governor Spitzer, who called himself the “Jimmy Stewart of Albany” when he was first elected to public office in 1998, was wrong when he said there were no ethical lapses.

By rewarding Dopp for his illicit behavior, Governor Spitzer joined the ranks of political enablers who his hero, the late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, said “redefin[e] deviancy so as to exempt much conduct previously stigmatized… .”

Governor Spitzer is “defining deviancy down” to save his political neck.

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