The Chief
November 25, 2005

Early Blessing For Spitzer From PBA

Backs Bid for Governor

By Reuven Blau

The Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association Nov. 16 endorsed State Attorney General Eliot Spitzer’s bid for Governor, citing his record of innovation and creativity in dealing with complicated law-enforcement problems.

“We want to put someone in the statehouse that understands us, respects us, and will work with us,” said PBA President Patrick J. Lynch, at a press conference held at the union’s headquarters in lower Manhattan.

‘Meaningful’ Support

Mr. Spitzer, the firmly established front-runner in the 2006 election, called the endorsement “meaningful,” noting that he has spent much of his career as a prosecutor working in tandem with the NYPD. “From my first days in the [Manhattan] District Attorney’s Office, handling petty larcenies [and] graffiti cases, to the most sophisticated cases from organized crime or fraud on Wall Street, the NYPD has been there as a partner,” he remarked.

From 1986 to 1992, Mr. Spitzer served as an Assistant District Attorney in Manhattan’s DA’s Office. He eventually became the Chief of the Labor Racketeering Unit, where he prosecuted organized crime and political corruption cases.

In 1998 he was elected Attorney General, a job in which he has garnered national acclaim for his vigorous efforts to prosecute pervasive fraud at a myriad of large Wall Street corporations, stepping in where he saw a lack of enforcement by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

The Right Background

In one of his most famous cases, Mr. Spitzer went after Merrill Lynch for providing misleading financial advice to investors. That prosecution produced a huge settlement for clients who were misled.

“We know he has the integrity to lead this state on into the future,” Mr. Lynch said, “We know from his law-enforcement background.”

The PBA may hope to parlay the early endorsement into future help at the bargaining table, insiders speculated. But Mr. Spitzer declined to comment on the Public Employment Relations Board arbitration award issued for Police Officers this past summer.

“I’m not going to get into specific budgetary issues right now,” he said after accepting the endorsement. “That is a process obviously that has run its course and is moving along, and moving along properly, and I will leave it at that.”

‘Innovative’ Tactics

While many have hailed his tough approach against corporate fraud, his critics on Wall Street question his tactics. They claim that he brings lawsuits against major corporations with the specific intent to drive down the firms’ share price in order to force it to seek a settlement.

Mr. Lynch, however, cited Mr. Spitzer’s “innovative way of thinking” as a major reason for the union’s backing. “He has a way of taking a problem, analyzing it, seeing how it can be resolved, and when the answer is no, to find out a way to get to yes,” he said.

George Arzt, a political consultant, said the union’s early endorsement was important. “I think it’s significant because the PBA usually goes for a Republican,” he observed. “And this is a case [that] the Republicans know it will be very tough for them to get legitimate support from conservative unions.”

Past Pataki Backer

Over the past several major city and state election cycles, the PBA has typically backed Republican incumbent candidates, reflecting the views of its mostly conservative membership. The PBA endorsed Governor Pataki’s re-election campaign in 1998 and in 2002. Indications are that Mr. Pataki will not seek a fourth term next year.

Mr. Arzt said that the PBA backing was “a shot across the bow to any Democratic challengers such as [Nassau County Executive] Tom Suozzi.”

The PBA represents a total of 50,000 active and retired officers and is the third public-sector union to support Mr. Spitzer. “These are the men and women who keep us safe, who have made a remarkable difference over the last years,” Mr. Spitzer said.

The Court Officers’ Association and the Supreme Court Officers’ Association endorsed Mr. Spitzer in August. Those groups represent roughly 2,900 officers.