Governor Spitzer Buys a Woman - But That's Not Why the Department of Justice Investigated
The breaking news on March 10 was all about Governor Eliot Spitzer (D) of New York getting caught in a federal investigation involving a prostitution ring. This prostitution ring sold women to rich men in New York, Washington, Miami, London and Paris, charging up to $5,500 an hour. The advertisements for "Emperors Club VIP" billed itself as an "international social introduction service for those accustomed to excellence."
Translation: These pimps deal only with rich johns, no riffraff need apply for an account. If you're a poor john, try the escort services or massage parlors found in your local phone book.
Now, was the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) out to uphold the laws against prostitution such as the Mann Act? The Mann Act states, "Whoever knowingly transports any individual in interstate or foreign commerce, or in any Territory or Possession of the United States, with intent that such individual engage in prostitution, or in any sexual activity for which any person can be charged with a criminal offense, or attempts to do so, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than 10 years, or both."
No, the DOJ was not interested in the prostitution ring itself; they began the investigation because they thought the Governor was hiding bribes in suspicious money transfers. ABC News quoted an unnamed Justice Department official as saying, "We had no interest at all in the prostitution ring until the thing with Spitzer led us to learn about it." They realized that his money transfers were not to disguise bribes, but to pay for illegal commercial sex acts, at least one of which, according to the criminal complaint, violated the Mann Act. The tryst described in the complaint states that Governor Spitzer paid to bring "Kristen" to Washington, D.C., from New York via Amtrak to have sex at the Mayflower Hotel. For the laymen out there, this is transporting someone across state lines for the purposes of engaging in prostitution - in other words, violating federal law.
The New York Sun spoke to one former federal prosecutor, anonymously, to ask what would happen if all prosecutors uncovered was evidence a public official hired a prostitute. The response was, "they're going to take a pass, and they're not going to try to expose him." Public officials who swear to uphold the law are subject only to some of them, I guess.
And that attitude is pervasive. Lock up the prostituted victims, and let the johns go home to their unsuspecting families. The fact that prostitution is illegal in all 50 states, except in a few counties in Nevada, means that the person who sold a commercial sex act and the person who bought it are both guilty of committing a crime. Why does the buyer get a pass?
The majority of prostituted people are women and children. So what does this say about the attitude of law enforcement about protecting women and children? What does it say about the public view of women?
If the attitudes of the commentators on the cable news networks are any indication, the objectification of women is no big deal. Purchasing another human being for an illegal commercial sex act did not seem to bother many of the commentators.
Where would prostitution be if there was no demand for it? It would not exist. But the demand for it is huge, and that is what drives sex trafficking. We will probably never hear about the prostituted women involved in Emperors Club VIP, but who is to say the reason why they are involved isn't due to trafficking? Given that this was an international enterprise, it is a possibility. And while this ring has been broken up, there are many more rings out there that cater to the poorer johns who can pay $30 for 20 minutes at a cheap brothel. And the odds are that the women and girls forced to prostitute themselves there are victims of trafficking.
Whether it is a rich john or a poor john, they all find the money to violate women and children; and until the public and law enforcement stops turning a blind eye and deaf ear to the demand for prostitution and trafficking, women and children will continue to be victimized ... hourly.
Brenda Zurita is the Research Fellow at the Beverly LaHaye Institute. For further research on the topic of sex trafficking, please go visit http://www.beverlylahayeinstitute.org/bli/bli-trafficking.asp
1015 Fifteenth St. N.W., Suite 1100
Washington, D.C. 20005
Phone: (202) 488-7000
Fax: (202) 488-0806