US Chamber President Blasts Spitzer

January 6, 2005 ( - The leader of the nation's biggest business association - The US Chamber of Commerce - has leveled a severe attack against New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer and his recent spate of investigations into white-collar crime.

During a press conference, the group’s president, Tom Donohue, was asked how the group would respond to white-collar crime investigations, which some label as “excessive”, according to the Associated Press (AP).

“He’s the investigator, the prosecutor, the judge, the jury and the executioner,” Donohue said, according to the news report. “Spitzer’s approach is to walk in and say, `Well, we’re going to make a deal, and you’re going to pay $600 million to the state and you’re going to get rid of this person and that person and if you don’t do it by tonight, then I’m going to indict the company.’ What does indict the company mean? It means they’re going to put you out of business,” he added.

The blistering critique comes shortly after Spitzer announced he is running for governor in the Empire State in 2006.  He has gained national attention in recent years with investigations of the brokerage firm Merrill Lynch, insurance broker Marsh & McLennan Cos. and a number of other insurance firms (See Spitzer Takes On Contingent Commissions ), former New York Stock Exchange Chairman Richard Grasso (See Spitzer Slaps Former NYSE Head Grasso with Pay Suit ), as well as a wide-sweeping mutual fund probe (See Spitzer Fund Abuse Probe Pumps Out More Subpoenas ).
Donohue added that Spitzer’s methods went beyond the bounds of admirable law enforcement work. “It’s the most egregious and unacceptable form of intimidation that we have seen in this country in modern time,” he said, according to the AP.

The group – which represents about three million businesses – says it would oppose regulators who have misused white-collar laws to criminalize honest mistakes.

Spitzer’s office responded to the attack by claiming that Donahue was missing the point. “The chamber should be a proponent of high standards,” responded Spitzer’s spokesman, Darren Dopp to the AP. “Instead, Mr. Donohue is attacking the one person who has done the most to level the playing field for honest business. His comments are misinformed and unfortunate.”