In a stunning fall from grace, New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer announced Wednesday he would resign effective March 17 amid scandal over a $1,000-an-hour prostitute and a total $80,000 bill spent on call girls.
The outgoing governor was once heralded as "Mr. Clean" for taking on organized crime and Wall Street corruption, and even seen as presidential material.
"Over the course of my public life I have insisted, I believe correctly, that people, regardless of their position or power, take responsibility for their conduct," said Spitzer, 48, flanked by his wife.
"I can and will ask no less of myself. For this reason I am resigning from the office of governor," he added. "The remorse I feel will always be with me."
The identity of the high-priced prostitute at the center of the scandal emerged Thursday as the New York Post said Spitzer had spent up to 80,000 dollars on call girls going back 10 years to his time as New York state attorney general.
The brunette -- identified in federal court papers as "Kristen," a call girl for the Emperors Club VIP agency -- was revealed to be Ashley Alexandra Dupre, 22, the New York Times reported.
"I just don't want to be thought of as a monster," Dupre, an aspiring r'n'b singer from a broken home in New Jersey, was quoted as telling the newspaper. "This has been a very difficult time. It is complicated."
On her MySpace.com page, Dupre -- born Ashley Youmans -- described herself as coming from a "broken home" in New Jersey, having used drugs, been abused, and been "broke and homeless".
Dupre, who has not been charged, declined to comment on her relationship with Spitzer, a father of three teenage daughters.
Spitzer is alleged to have been the "Client 9" named in a criminal complaint against the Emperors Club VIP, the prostitution racket at the center of the scandal, filed by prosecutors last week.
The complaint suggested Client 9 had used Emperors Club VIP's services before and detailed how he arranged to have "Kristen" brought from New York to Washington for 4,300 dollars for about two hours.
Spitzer was allegedly caught on a federal wiretap in March arranging to meet the prostitute in Washington, where he was due to address the U.S. Congress the following day.
But investigators reportedly first started probing Spitzer's affairs when his bank reported him to tax authorities over suspicious transfers from which he had asked the bank to remove his name.
Over the course of the case, the government wiretapped 5,000 phone calls and intercepted 6,000 e-mails, Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz wrote in an opinion piece in The Wall Street Journal titled "The Entrapment of Eliot."
Such spy techniques "are more appropriate for trapping terrorists than entrapping johns," Dershowitz wrote, suggesting the sting was politically motivated.
Spitzer is to formally hand over Monday to Lieutenant Governor David Paterson, 53, who will become the state's first black governor and the first blind governor in U.S. history.
Series of scandals
Spitzer's escapade is but the most recent in a long list of sex scandals in U.S. politics, where politicians' private lives are often paraded in public.
Former president Bill Clinton in 1998 came close to being forced from office for his affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky; an extramarital affair ended Democrat Gary Hart's front-running nomination bid for the presidency in 1988.
In the past 30 years, U.S. politics have been rocked by at least 50 sex scandals, according to the Chicago-based consulting firm Challenger, Gray and Christmas.
And no less than 60 CEOs were forced to resign over ethical issues often related to their private lives in 2007, the firm said.