Wiretap Catches 'Mr. Clean' in the Act

NEW YORK -- New York Governor Eliot Spitzer has faced mounting calls for his resignation. The politician, dubbed "Mr. Clean" for his corruption-fighting efforts, watched his reputation crumble and his career hang in limbo, after authorities said they had linked him to a high-price prostitution ring.

The first-term Democrat was caught on a federal wiretap arranging to meet a prostitute, according to a law enforcement official who spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigation was still going on.

The governor has not been charged, and prosecutors would not comment on the case Monday. A spokesman for Spitzer said the governor had retained a large Manhattan law firm.

At a Manhattan news conference, a glassy-eyed Spitzer, his shellshocked wife Silda at his side, apologized to his family and the people of New York.

"I have acted in a way that violates my obligations to my family and violates my -- or any -- sense of right and wrong," he said. "I apologize to the public, whom I promised better."

He did not say for what he was apologizing and ignored reporters' shouted questions about whether he would resign -- 14 months after he boldly proclaimed at the start of his term, "Day One, Everything Changes."

Spitzer, the 48-year-old father of three teenage girls, retreated from his Manhattan offices to his Upper East Side home. Republicans immediately called for him to quit.

"He has to step down. No one will stand with him," said state Representative Peter King, a Republican from Long Island. "I never try to take advantage or gloat over a personal tragedy. However, this is different. This is a guy who is so self-righteous, and so unforgiving."

Attention turned to the state's lieutenant governor, David Paterson, who automatically becomes governor if Spitzer quits. There was no immediate comment from Paterson, who would become New York's first black governor.

Spitzer was elected with a historic margin of victory, and took office Jan. 1, 2007, vowing to stamp out corruption in New York government in the same way that he took on Wall Street executives while state attorney general.

In his previous position, Spitzer uncovered crooked practices and self-dealing in the stock brokerage and insurance industries; he went after former New York Stock Exchange chairman Richard Grasso over his $187.5 million compensation package.

Spitzer became known as the "Sheriff of Wall Street." Time magazine named him "Crusader of the Year,". The square-jawed graduate of Princeton University and Harvard Law was sometimes mentioned as a potential candidate for president.

But he apparently became embroiled last year in a probe by the Internal Revenue Service into a high-end prostitution ring.

In an affidavit filed in Manhattan federal court last week, Spitzer appeared as "Client 9," according to the law enforcement official. Client 9 personally made several cell phone calls to Emperors Club VIP to arrange a Feb. 13 tryst at a Washington hotel, the official said.

In 2004, Spitzer took part in an investigation resulting in the arrest of 18 people for promoting prostitution and related charges.