The Eliot Spitzer debacle reminds me of a tale from my first job.
That first job was as a cub reporter at Adweek. It was about as insane a workplace as you could dream up, peopled by crusty hacks, artists making the rent and wide-eyed young things trying to learn the trade. We worked in a vast, drafty newsroom crowded with A-Tek computers and takeout cartons. One time I brought my sister’s basset hound puppy to work and he peed all over the rug. No one cared. I loved it.
The journalists there at the time lived hard and worked harder. They took sources to steak dinners that began at 10 p.m. They smoked cigars in the office. There were inter-office affairs. Their expense accounts were winked at because a) they cracked open a story like nobody’s business, and thus b) business was good.
The line item on one account expensing the hooker would probably have gone unnoticed. Except for one little problem: the staffer in question forgot his corporate card in the hotel room, and the lady decided to go on a little shopping spree.
I’m not telling tales out of school; this story’s already been told. I sat a few desks down from a graphic designer named Alan Ball, whom we all knew aspired to write screenplays. A few years later, he did. It was called American Beauty, and included a scene in which the Kevin Spacey character blackmails his boss at a trade magazine with his knowledge of an escapade involving a hooker and a corporate credit card.
There’s a lesson here, boys and girls: everything is material.