A Dopp of Smear

The Wall Street Journal weighs in today on expose of smear tactics used by Darren Dopp, a communications aide to former New York Attorney General — now Governor — Eliot Spitzer, against State Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno (on which Hans commented yesterday). It didn’t start with Bruno:

On Monday, the office of Democratic Attorney General Andrew Cuomo released a 54-page report on Mr. Bruno’s use of state helicopters, allegedly for personal political purposes. The investigation had been prompted by the Governor’s office after Mr. Spitzer’s communications aide and hatchet man, Darren Dopp, saw to it that allegations of impropriety against Mr. Bruno had found their way into the hands of gullible, pliant reporters.

Only now it is Mr. Dopp who is in hot water, having been suspended without pay for his role in ginning up a non-scandal about the Republican Majority Leader. The AG cleared Mr. Bruno of any wrongdoing, but in the process uncovered Mr. Dopp’s unseemly little scheme to plant the story and then use that as a pretext to call for the investigation…

This is hardly unprecedented behavior by Mr. Dopp. In December 2005, John C. Whitehead, the former chairman of Goldman Sachs, recounted on these pages a phone call he received from Mr. Spitzer in response to an earlier op-ed Mr. Whitehead had published in The Wall Street Journal. The future governor told Mr. Whitehead, “I will be coming after you. You will pay the price.”

Mr. Dopp declared Mr. Whitehead’s account “a complete fabrication.” Someone threw in, for good measure, the suggestion that Mr. Whitehead’s original piece–a defense of former AIG CEO Maurice “Hank” Greenberg against Mr. Spitzer’s public slander–had been written in return for a sizable donation from Mr. Greenberg to the World Trade Center Memorial Foundation, of which Mr. Whitehead was a director. That smear was duly reported in accounts of the contretemps, although Mr. Spitzer later all but admitted during his best-behavior period while running for Governor that he had become too heated on the phone with Mr. Whitehead. There are many similar cases.

The difference this time is that Mr. Spitzer faced a political opponent who isn’t as vulnerable to intimidation as the private companies and executives he preyed upon as Attorney General.