News & Politics

David Paterson Controversy Recalls Another Scandal-Plagued Governor (No, Not That One)


While everyone still jaws about the allegedly forthcoming David Paterson scandal, the Bowery Boys look back to historical precedent for removal of a New York governor — not to Eliot Spitzer, but to William Sulzer.

The Boys’ headline is “New York governor resigns in disgrace (in 1913)!” though Sulzer, a former Speaker of the New York state assembly and U.S. Congressman from the Lower East Side, was actually removed by vote of the legislature for filching campaign funds for his own personal use.

The Boys, and other commentators, find Sulzer’s removal something of a put-up job by his disappointed Tammany Hall masters. Sulzer’s pal Jay W. Forrest intrigued in the press to give that impression, and later wrote a book about “Tamanny’s Treason.”

We hardly need weep for Sulzer, who after his fall ran again, unsuccessfully, for his old job, then prospered in a law practice, and in Alaska gold mining — he invested in such efforts before his gubernatorial election (and was an ardent supporter of Alaskan home rule in Congress, for which he was suspected of more than patriotic interest). After washing his hands of New York politics, Sulzer moved up north and served in Alaska’s territorial assembly and as its territorial Congressional delegate. He’s in the Alaska Mining Hall of Fame, and is presumed to be the inspiration for Preston Sturges’ great film of political corruption, The Great McGinty.

So cheer up, Governor — if it all goes south, you could always go up north, and revive your fortunes there.


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