Sheriff of Wall Street whose career is lying flat in the road

When reports crossed the wires that Eliot Spitzer was preparing to resign as Governor of New York, traders on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange actually whooped with delight. The bosses of America's biggest banks were also no doubt beaming. Such was the schadenfraude for which many have longed since having their collars felt and their wallets raided by the man known as the Sheriff of Wall Street.

For Mr Spitzer's political rise had been built on his zealous pursuit of scandal in the finance industry. It was a particularly rich seam during his eight years as the New York's attorney general, a period that saw the excesses of the dot.com boom and bust, the collapse of Enron, and a crisis of confidence in the ethics of corporate America.

It put Mr Spitzer on the national stage and swept him into the post of Governor in the New York election of 2006, a landslide victory for the tough guy lawyer who, at 47, was at that point being described as – one day – the first Jewish president of the US.

Born to affluent Austrian immigrants in the Bronx borough of New York City, Mr Spitzer from an early age was brilliant, ambitious and just a bit obsessive. Princeton and Harvard only stoked a sense of destiny and, thanks to money from his father's property empire, he won the Democrat nomination for attorney general and proceeded to use the office to clean up abuses on Wall Street.

Belligerent in private as well as in public, Mr Spitzer won public plaudits for getting results, but accumulated enemies across Wall Street. He made an additional set after sweeping in to Albany, the state capital, promising a crusade against corruption.

"I'm a fucking steamroller," he had shouted to an opponent in the early days of his governorship. So it seemed a year ago, but last night it was Mr Spitzer's political career that was lying flat in the road.

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