Eliot Spitzer is defending his record as governor amid criticism he didn't do enough to cushion the recent financial meltdown that ended up leaving the state budget billions of dollars short. NY1's Josh Robin sat down with Spitzer for an exclusive interview and filed the following report.
Eliot Spitzer says he's sorry for his most notorious mistake: hiring prostitutes when governor. Ask about his much-criticized budget-making in Albany, though, and he says no apologies are needed.
"The budgets that we put in place when I was governor, I couldn't be more proud of."
In the interview, Spitzer did admit over-optimism with revenue projections. Some may call that an understatement. Last decade's economic free fall shredded expected tax collections.
Combined with what some call unnecessary political fights and a go-it-alone style, Spitzer's economic record is now the subject of debate as he seeks to oversee the city's $140 billion pension funds.
He was asked if he'd have done anything different as governor, apart from the obvious.
"Of course there's certain things you change," he said. "Look, I have a rule. You don't go into those things necessarily. But of course you change some things. But if the question is, 'Do I feel that we had an effective tenure?', the answer is yes."
As city comptroller, Spitzer plans to use his leverage with oversight of the $140 billion in pension funds to change companies. This isn't just about social issues, but rather corporate governance. He would only give one example, referring to the CEO of JPMorgan Chase.
"I pick up the phone, Jamie Dimon. I say, 'Jamie, we're shareholders. We are troubled, deeply troubled, by the fact that you have had this litany of regulatory crises," Spitzer said.
"I'm going to tell you right now, I'm going to propose an alternate slate of directors. I'm going to be going out and organizing shareholders next year to bring in a board of directors that will properly oversee the company."
As for holding those accountable for the financial collapse?
"That's somebody else," he said. "That was the AG's office, the SEC, Eric Holder. This is prospectively improving the quality of management."
It's something he said is needed to prevent another financial disaster.
While retirees may be satisfied with healthy pension returns now, Spitzer said another meltdown could once again erase billions of dollars in value.