When it came to getting informed comment Tuesday on New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer's involvement in a sex scandal, CNN got a real expert -- with more experience in the field than he let on. Billing him only as "a former U.S. attorney," without any reference to how he achieved his former-ness, the network interviewed Miami's Kendall Coffey, who had to resign the job in 1996 after biting a dancer during the process of running up a $900 bill at a strip club.
Neither Coffey nor CNN anchor Tony Harris mentioned the incident at the strip club as they talked about Spitzer's encounter with a prostitute in a Washington D.C. hotel last month.
But Coffey's observations on the case certainly had some ironic overtones for anybody who remembers his own brush with a lithe young blond stripper known as Tiffany in a private "champagne room'' at the old Lipstik club on South Dixie Highway.
He warned that it was Spritzer's alleged attempts to cover up a transaction with the prostitute that would probably lead to the biggest legal problems. "This wasn't a cash transaction where he reached into his pocket and paid some somebody for something that would have been illegal anyway," Coffey said. "Apparently there was a byzantine maze of transfers, some of which may have been concealed. There may have even been attempts to use a certain amount of cash to avoid reporting requirements."
That was precisely Coffey's undoing in 1996. Ejected from the club after his failed attempt to kiss the stripper ended with him biting her instead, he used a credit card to pay the $900 bill. Later he sent his father to the bar to buy the credit-card slip back at a premium price of $1,200, which tipped the irate stripper and her even-more-irate husband off that they'd been dealing with someone anxious to conceal his identity. Their complaints eventually attracted an investigators from the office of the U.S. Justice Department's inspector general, and Coffey was soon toast.
One other thing Coffey said on CNN that Spitzer might want to heed: "This is not survivable."