Spitzer and the Mann Act

OK – got a few phone calls and e-mails from y’all so I guess I need to say something about this. The primary thing I find disturbing about the news surrounding Governor Spitzer is his hypocrisy. He has prosecuted these operations in the past – apparently with great fanfare and pride. I have not followed his career very closely, but people who have worked with him tell me he is a good, competent guy, if sometimes a bit socially and professionally clumsy.

I do not believe that what Governor Spitzer did should be a crime. Judging from his professional and prosecutorial history, he does not share my view. I feel very similarly about prostitution laws as I do about recreational drug laws. We would do well to be reminded that what is illegal is not always wrong, and vice versa. We need to leave these laws behind us, bring the activities out into the light, and find more progressive ways to mitigate the social issues that arise from them.

The Mann Act, under which this idiotic call-girl dragnet will apparently be prosecuted, was originally entitled “The White Slave Traffic Act”, and passed Congress in 1910. Please read the Mann Act and tell me its enforcement feels right to you as a citizen and taxpayer. Tell me it is not painfully, obviously from another era. Tell me that you or someone you know has never violated it. While most of us have never hired a prostitute (myself included – although there was that close call with that baby-faced Latvian in Amsterdam), the Mann Act is very broad and does not just apply to sex-for-cash prostitution. If you “transport or cause to be transported” a female for “the purpose of prostitution or debauchery” – you are in violation of the Act. The modern definition of debauchery is “extreme indulgence in sensual pleasure” and an older definition that might have been more appropriate for the day would be “seduction from virtue or duty”. Whoa – I guess I’m a felon, too, Governor.

And finally – by any definition, this call girl was no slave. So, as foolish as the Act is on its face, the current enforcement is not even loyal to the Act’s original intent.

The Governor has paid enough for his hypocrisy in public humiliation and the early extinguishment of his political career. I feel bad for his family, and hope that criminal sanction is not sought against him nor anyone else swept up in this waste of law enforcement resources.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.