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Tense: Jake Tapper vs. Eliot Spitzer On Hookers, Current Race For NYC Comptroller

CNN's Jake Tapper questions Spitzer on whether he should have done time, and talks about his current lead in the polls. Tapper grills Spitzer for never been charged under his own prostitution law while many were punished under the same law during his tenure.

Mr. Spitzer, thanks for being here.

I want to start back in 2008. What you did was incredibly reckless and perhaps more importantly, it was very illegal, as you know, a class E felony, paying for sex, a law you signed, bumping it up to class E.

When was the last time you broke that law? 2008?

FMR GOV. ELIOT SPITZER, D-NEW YORK: That is correct. And, you know, Jake I have -- as your appropriate introduction made clear, I have spent five years doing many different things, not just hosting here on CNN, which I enjoyed during the period I was here, I was teaching at CCNY; I have also participated in other activities, run our family business.

And so it has been a five-year stretch during which time I have thought, reflected and tried to think through not only what happened but assess my desire for public service and hence it has taken me to where I am today, as I pointed out, running for office.

TAPPER: And but to be precise, you have not broken that law since 2008?

SPITZER: That's correct.

TAPPER: OK. You once called -- you were, when you were an aggressive attorney general and governor, you once called human trafficking, including prostitution, modern day slavery. But one of the things that a lot of people take offense to is you never faced charges. Under your own law, Kristen Davis, the New York Madam, she's also running for comptroller. She tells "The Daily News," quote, "I spent four months in Riker's Island, from which I returned penniless, homeless and forced to take sex offender classes for five months with pedophiles and perverts, while he" -- meaning you, sir --"return to his wife and his 5th Avenue high-rise without ever being fingerprinted, mug shot, remanded or charged with a crime under the very law he signed."

What do you say to her?

SPITZER: Well, the decision was made based upon the standards that were set by the Department of Justice and made by the U.S. Attorney's office. They looked at the evidence and they dealt with me the way they dealt with everybody else who was in my situation.

TAPPER: You really think that?

SPITZER: Oh, absolutely.

TAPPER: Because you -- I mean, when you went after Wall Street titans, you painted yourself as fighting for the little guy. But I think a lot of people might look at you and think, look, you're somebody with money, you're somebody with power and this is a perfect example of how people like you don't end up doing the time the way that the average person does.

SPITZER: Well, look, I'm not going to sort of -- and I've made it my -- over the five years been very careful that I'm not going to either quibble or debate what the appropriateness was. I did the one thing that I knew that was appropriate, which was to resign at the moment. And it's been now five years during which time I've done many other things. And that was I looked into the public's eye and I said I believe in accountability. And I resigned. Those who looked at it, this case, made the determination; they obviously did not bring charges, nor did they with anybody else with similarly situated.

And so that was their judgment, not mine.

The one judgment I had the opportunity to make was to say to the public I should not have done this as I was governor; obviously I resigned. And let me tell you, even though it may seem quixotic and hard to make sense out of, I'm proud that we did sign that human trafficking law, that was the right thing to do, it is important. It is something I believed in then, and believe in now and --

TAPPER: Even though you violated it?

SPITZER: That's correct. And, Jake, there's no question that law deserves to be there and I'm -- it was the right thing to push and we did that.

TAPPER: So as comptroller, you would be the chief financial officer of New York City. You told Chris Hayes that your business partners would be compromised if you released your full tax returns. I know you've released some partial tax returns. But don't voters deserve to know about any potential conflicts of interest?

SPITZER: They know about all the conflicts. And in fact, I filed a complete document with the conflict of interest board. It tells exactly what I own in every instance as per required. I filed and made public my tax returns.

Not all the schedules that would reveal what is deemed to be private data about the individual partnerships but unlike others who have not revealed their tax returns, I revealed not only what I earned, how much I paid, I paid 49 percent of my income in taxes last year, let me repeat that, 49 percent. So as opposed to others who had offshore accounts and other situations, but I said, you know what, they raise questions; I paid 49 percent last year, 39.5 percent the year before. My income and my -- the 1040s have been released.

TAPPER: But I think the question is about -- the question is about who you do business with that you told Chris Hayes you'd be embarrassed about them coming forward.

SPITZER: Jake, I hate to say, then somebody didn't give you accurate information. The conflict of interest board has all of that information.

But the public -- then the public has access to the conflict of interest board?

SPITZER: In fact, I've -- we e-mailed it out to every journalist who was interested in the city of New York. At the very moment it was filed. So yes, of course, they know exactly what I own, what I earned, the source of every penny. And as I said, I paid 49 percent. Frankly, Jake, I got to tell you, the question people were asking me yesterday was not why didn't you reveal more, it was who is your accountant? You should fire him, 49 percent --

TAPPER: It's a lot of money.

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: New York City taxes, though, I mean --

SPITZER: Well, it was federal, a lot of federal. But let me be clear, I never hesitate to pay my taxes and we don't play games to reduce them. I've never done it, I never will because my view is that funding the education, the infrastructure, the pension obligations which as the comptroller, I'd have an opportunity to participate in overseeing. That is what taxes -- Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes said taxes are the price of a civilized society. Doesn't mean they should be going up but let me tell you, it does mean that if you -- if they're used for appropriate purposes, which is what the comptroller's office is all about, what I want to do, I'm happy to pay them.

TAPPER: "The New York Times" reports that you and your wife still live in separate apartments. No you have slapped down any rumors of divorce and you say she's supportive of your run. If you win -- and you're ahead in the polls -- can we expect to see Silda (ph) by your side on election night?

SPITZER: You know, I haven't been thinking about election night. I've been thinking about tomorrow, I've been thinking about a long road between here and there, but let me answer your question so you don't think I'm trying to avoid it.

My family is supportive. I expect, yes, she will be -- the family will be out there; she signed a petition, gathered petitions. My daughters -- and not the one who's overseas right now -- gathered petitions for me. And I'm proud of that, but I also have said our private lives are our private lives. And I think I've answered all the questions, your questions, appropriately asked, and I will do my best to be fulsome in those answers but at a certain point, I do think that -- as to -- certain things, our private lives are our private lives.

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