Eliot Spitzer's Comeback

Forced out of office by a prostitution scandal, ex-N.Y. governor is back.

Dec. 18, 2008— -- Nine months after his public humiliation as "Client 9," Eliot Spitzer is back -- and wants to be taken seriously.

Spitzer, who resigned as New York governor in the wake of a prostitution scandal in March, is making a prompt return to public life in an unusual manner.

He's weighing in with op-eds on the financial crisis and the auto bailout, popping up on the Manhattan cocktail party circuit, and making plans to participate in public events, including a debate on the Wall Street mess scheduled for New York City in March.

And Spitzer this month began writing a regular public policy column for Slate.com, where he takes nuanced, detail-heavy positions on topics, such as the auto bailout and the future of the financial sector.

It marks a swifter resumption of public life than many would have expected in the wake of Spitzer's abrupt fall from grace.

"He's been completely adrift. The only thing he knows is to get back in," said Hank Sheinkopf, a veteran New York communications consultant who has had Spitzer as a client.

"He's certainly an outcast. So, now he has to figure out how to in-cast him," Sheinkopf said. "He hopes to somehow come back as a different person."

Spitzer, 49, has not commented publicly on his decision to reinsert himself in the public sphere and declined to comment Wednesday when contacted by ABC News.

But the former governor appears to have a sense of humor about what he's been through.

At Slate's holiday party in Manhattan this week -- held at a former strip club called "Happy Endings" -- a reporter caught up with him and asked how he was enjoying life as a columnist.

"It sucks," Spitzer said with a grin, according to the Financial Times. "I used to be governor of New York."

Spitzer's friends and associates say they're not surprised by his decision to reinsert himself in public policy debates.

Cliff Sloan, a friend since law school, said Spitzer has always been eager to contribute ideas on big public questions. His re-emergence is motivated by a desire to be part of the process, he said.

Koch Welcomes Spitzer's Return

"I don't think it's part of some strategy. This is what it is labeled as a contribution of opinions and ideas," said Sloan, who was publisher of Slate until earlier this year, but who said he was not directly involved in efforts to land Spitzer a column.

"Judge him on the merits of what he has to say. The timing question is a distraction," Sloan said. "We have very big issues to think about as a country and as a people. Eliot has very interesting things to say about them."

Former New York City Mayor Ed Koch said he welcomes Spitzer's return.

"He's been punished, and has paid his dues with the loss of his position as governor. I'm certainly for his coming back into public life," Koch said. "Obviously, he's not going to be running for public office ever -- or at least not for a very long time."

Since resigning the governorship effective March 17, Spitzer has focused on his family's real estate business. He and his wife, Silda, are still together.

Spitzer's public comments haven't touched on what he called the "private failings" that included his patronage of a prostitution ring that was under federal investigation. No criminal charges have been filed against him.

His forays into the public sphere have tended to lean on the expertise he developed as New York's attorney general and governor, where he gained a reputation as the "sheriff of Wall Street."

In March, he's slated to appear as part of a debate series sponsored by Intelligence Squared US, which runs traditional-style debates in New York City. He'll argue against the motion: "Blame Washington more than Wall Street for the financial crisis."

In Spitzer's most recent column, published last week, he advanced an intriguing argument aimed at saving American automakers by forcing a major downsizing, with a market-themed approach to government intervention.

"Why don't we tell the current Big Three that $25 billion in capital is available -- but only to two of them? The surviving two will be those that submit the best, and final, binding bids, supported by all the necessary constituencies: boards, managers, suppliers, vendors, creditors, and the UAW," Spitzer wrote.

Spitzer's First Column

His first Slate column sought to discredit the notion that some financial institutions are "too big to fail."

"It is time we permitted the market to work: This means true competition with winners and losers; companies that disappear; shareholders and CEOs who can lose as well as win; and government investment in the long-range competitiveness of our nation, not in a failed business model of financial concentration and failed risk management that holds nobody accountable," he wrote.

Sheinkopf said he sees a big role for Spitzer in public debates -- though almost certainly not in public office. He noted that Dick Morris, a former Bill Clinton strategist, navigated his way back into becoming a commentator and columnist after a sex scandal of his own.

"He doesn't have to be on the ballot," Sheinkopf said of Spitzer. "He wants to be in a position where he can exert influence, where he's not a pariah, where people want to hear what he has to say."

Sloan said Spitzer should be viewed and judged based on the quality of his arguments -- not on mistakes in his personal life.

"He has a great platform now for dealing with the issues," he said. "It is what it is, and that's how it should be viewed."