Sunday, March 16, 2008

New York's Eliot Spitzer was best-paid governor, and he got plenty of money from Kenneth Starr and Donald Trump

Despite a personal fortune developed on Manhattan's highfalutin law scene, New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer also was the highest-paid governor in 2007 with a $179,000 salary. Of course, that pleasure will pass to Lt. Gov. David Paterson, a more modest Harlem native who failed the state's bar exam.

Spitzer also had no problem raising money for his campaigns, both as attorney general and as governor. With enough funds to pay for political costs, he had plenty of his own cash to cover "personal expenses."

(Photo by U.S. State Department)

Campaign contributions

According to campaign finance reports filed in the state of New York, Spitzer already had almost $9 million in contributions for his 2010 re-election bid. That included $500,000 of his own money.

Most of Spitzer's financial allies have been hedge fund whizzes and top partners at law firms nationwide, but mostly in New York City. But they have come from both ends of the political spectrum.

Prominent Spitzer donors included the politically conservative "Apprentice" host Donald Trump, who chipped in $20,000, and his wife, Ivanka, who contributed $10,000 to his 2010 campaign. A politician who once prided himself in rooting out evil on Wall Street and in other segments of corporate America, Spitzer now is on the wrong end of Trump's "You're fired" trademark.

Brian D. Obergfell, a partner at the Emmet, Marvin & Martin law firm in New York City, donated $20,000 to Spitzer. Obergfell's wife, Jo-Ann, gave $10,000. Not surprisingly, Obergfell was rewarded by Spitzer with an appointment to the New York State Banking Board in June.

Spitzer also named Dale Hemmerdinger, who gave $10,000 to his campaign, chairman of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

stategovpaySome other notable donors were:

  • Kenneth Cole, fashion designer, $10,000
  • DLA Piper Rudnick, largest global law firm chaired by Major League Baseball's "Mitchell Report" author, George Mitchell, $10,000
  • Leo Hindery Jr., executive in residence at Columbia Business School and Huffington Post contributor, $10,000
  • Nancy Elizabeth Lieberman, former college basketball superstar and current Hall of Famer, $10,000
  • Edward Norton, actor who starred in movies such as "American History X" and "Fight Club," $10,000
  • Richard Dean Parsons, chairman of Time Warner (AOL and CNN parent), $10,000
  • Ronald Owen Perelman, investor and Forbes 28th richest man in the United States, $10,000
  • Arvind Raghunathan, managing director at Deutsche Bank, $10,000
  • Jonathan Rosen, New Yorker book critic, $10,000
  • Jerry Speyer, whose company owns Rockefeller Center and the Chrysler Building in New York City, $10,000
  • Kenneth Starr, former White House special counsel who investigated Bill Clinton's Whitewater land transactions, $10,000
Gubernatorial salary

For many governors, salary is not an issue because of their own wealth. For example, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger would have been the highest-paid in 2007 at $206,500, but he gives his paycheck back to the state. By law, Schwarzenegger must accept it. But he chooses to unload the money to his charity of choice, California, once he gets paid.

Multimillionaire New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine willfully reduced his own salary to $1 last year. Corzine is a
former chief executive of financing giant Goldman Sachs. He reported an income of about $6 million in 2006 mostly through stocks, bonds and real estate.

The best Internet source for gubernatorial salaries is here, a story I wrote last year for, an arm of The Pew Research Center in Washington. If you search Google "governor salary," you would get that Web site. (Included in this post is the accompanying graphic by, which grants permission to reuse material with proper credit.)

It looks as though the governor had plenty of personal funds left over to pay for a high-class prostitute.

Blogger's note: All above information is original research done by The Offlede.

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