Finance Watchdog Eliot Spitzer Grants a Brief Peek at His Tax Returns

Today the Times got a quick look at the tax returns of Eliot Spitzer, the rich, disgraced former governor of New York who is now running for comptroller of New York City. Following pressure from his main opponent, the Lena Dunham-endorsed Scott Stringer, Spitzer invited a Times reporter to inspect the last two years of his and his wife's tax returns.

What did the paper learn from the limited disclosure? Spitzer isn't chasing the job for the paycheck. In 2012, Spitzer and his wife, Silda Wall Spitzer, living separately but filing jointly, amassed income of $4.27 million. Of that, $2.5 million was work-free rent income from their collection of fancy Manhattan apartments. In other relatively easy lifting, Spitzer has picked up $2 million from CNN since 2011, despite the cancellation of his prime-time show, In the Arena.

Reporter Michael C. Grynbaum further explains the setup:

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Mr. Spitzer’s campaign invited a reporter to review the documents at the Fifth Avenue office of his family real estate empire, which is doubling as a cramped, five-aides-to-a-room campaign headquarters. The suite has amenities like Art Deco detailing and showstopping views of Central Park, another indication that Mr. Spitzer, who is self-financing his campaign, has a pecuniary edge over Mr. Stringer, the Manhattan borough president, who agreed to abide by the city’s strict campaign spending limits.

So the man who wants to oversee the city's accounting decided that the way to disclose his own finances was to dole out a restricted amount of information to a single reporter, presumably hoping to win the Times' favor with the scoop. It went about as well as his 2008 effort to fund his prostitute adventures by slicing up payments to evade financial-transaction reporting laws—which led investigators to notice a pattern of suspiciously just-legal transactions.

At one point, Grynbaum reports, New York's would-be money man lost the thread of his own finances:

Asked about the source of $147,834 from the sale of an unidentified property, Mr. Spitzer took a moment to ponder. He eventually clarified that the money represented his proceeds from a sale of a unit at 210 Central Park South, a 1966 apartment house built by his father.

Campaigns for fusty jobs aren't supposed to be this silly. TV show creators generally abstain from endorsing candidates. Former madams don’t enter the race out of spite for a former client. And Terry Richardson should not be seen at a campaign event, ever. Rule of thumb.

[Photo via Associated Press]