“Structuring” by Spitzer, and by Limbaugh

Both were crimes. Or neither was. Take your pick.

When Rush Limbaugh was investigated under the money-laundering laws for “structuring” the cash withdrawals he used to feed his narcotics habit, he was outraged, and many of his political buddies, in Red Blogistan and elsewhere, shared his outrage. I wonder whether Rush and his friends will be equally upset now that Elliot Spitzer has been caught in the same trap, though with respect to a different vice?

Personally, I see no objection to laws that make it harder to pay for illegal transactions. And of course when a public official starts moving around large chunks of money, there’s a special concern about who might be getting paid for what. Your mileage may vary.

But this is a case where consistency is a virtue. Either both Limbaugh and Spitzer should have been prosecuted, or neither. I’d hate to think that politics might intrude into law enforcement decisions made but Bush appointees at DoJ. Wouldn’t you?

Footnote Reportedly the first lead came from Spitzer’s bank. Bankers do have some responsibilities under the money-laundering laws, and at first blush there’s no reason to think that the bank did anything wrong. On the other hand, Spitzer’s financial-services-industry prosecutions certainly left behind a large number of powerful people who were powerfully annoyed with him. And revenge is sweet.

Update Jane Hamsher has some more questions. Who leaked the name of “Client #9”?

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com