“Manhattan Madam” Kristin Davis spent nearly four months in prison in 2008 for her role in Wicked Models, a multimillion-dollar escort service whose clients allegedly included Eliot Spitzer, the New York governor who left office over a prostitution scandal. Now free and stung by a criminal justice system that let Spitzer walk, Davis announced Monday that she plans to run for the state’s highest office.
Citing an economic prescription of “P-squared” for the legalization of prostitution and pot, Davis called marriage equality her key social plank during her campaign announcement to media and FOKS (“Friends of Kristin”) at the Roosevelt Hotel. She may or not run as the Libertarian Party candidate, but whatever she decides, she will need 15,000 petition signatures to earn her place on the ballot. That’s 5,000 more than the number of rich and famous names in her little black book.
Although advised by Roger Stone, the longtime Republican operative who tipped off federal investigators to Spitzer’s prostitution activity, Davis told The Advocate that her campaign is not about revenge but the principles of personal freedom.
The Advocate: What is your background beyond the headlines?
Kristin Davis: I am from Fresno, Calif. I was raised by a single mother in a lower-income family. I graduated high school two years early. I worked very hard. I went to private school and graduated at 15 and then went to college, to numerous different colleges while I was trying to figure out what I wanted to do, all the while working sort of full-time in finance. St. Mary’s was the last college that I graduated from. I have my bachelor’s degree in business and I’ve completed 30 units toward my master’s at a school in San Francisco, the Saybrook institute, a humanistic psychology school.
What did you think about Proposition 8?
I have two wonderful gay uncles who were very upset that California keeps vacillating on legalizing gay marriage, which is an issue very close to my heart. I think it’s ridiculous that one of them went through a horrific medical experience and his partner couldn’t make decisions for him, so that’s always been something near and dear to my heart. I think it should be legal across the board, in every state. I don’t think it should even need to be discussed.
Are there specific lessons learned from running a prostitution business that can be applied to running New York state?
Sure, I mean prostitution is the world’s oldest industry and I think politics is the second, so they’re all sort of doing it for money. I’ve employed hundreds and hundreds of women throughout my five years in operation and I’ve dealt with a myriad of different liars and excuses and characters. But I also took $1,000 and built it into a $6-million-a-year industry. So the economic principles behind how I operated is something we needed to apply here — how we can bring in new revenues to our state and how we can solve all our economic problems, and no one is really addressing that.
What would you do differently as chief executive to get the state
senate, widely recognized for dysfunction, to pass the marriage
It’s the problem with the legislature that
special interests seem to be circumventing action. So you have to get
somebody in there who isn’t concerned with special interests. I think
it’s disgraceful that the gay and lesbian community has spent millions
of dollars to put a Democratic senate in place and we still can’t pass
the bill. It makes me wonder whether or not [Governor David] Paterson
really pushed that bill, and to what extent how aggressively. Word on
the street from my camp is that there were some liberal Republicans who
would have stepped up to the plate and they weren’t approached.
Do you think New Yorkers will accept a gubernatorial candidate with a criminal record? Oh, wait ...
know, it seems that latest rounds of governors all have some sort of
criminal wrongdoing that’s now surfacing. The beauty of me is that
everything that’s been said about me that’s been bad has already been
said. It’s all out there. Yes, I was a madam. Yes, I was. Yes, I sent
girls to Eliot Spitzer. OK. Yes, I took money, technically money
laundering, because taking the pursuits of a criminal activity is money
laundering. All of these things have been said about me. There’s
nothing to lie about anymore. There’s some sort of beauty in that. The
career politicians, their main goal is to get reelected, to take money
from special interests. Nobody’s honest. Look at Eliot Spitzer. OK,
he had to resign. Now, where are we at with Paterson? The cycle is
never-ending. It just needs to be broken at this point in time
You singled out Eliot Spitzer repeatedly in your remarks this morning. Is this campaign about revenge toward him?
at all. He’s not running. If he was, there would be more validity to
people thinking that because then it would be like, “Well, she’s just
running so he doesn’t get elected.” But in terms of revenge, no, I
continue to speak out against the hypocrisy behind him, and he’s just
symptomatic of the kind of problem that’s happening here, I mean, its
happening across the board though with politicians. If you look at
[Louisiana senator David] Vitter, [former Illinois governor Rod] Blagojevich, they’re all dirty. By and large, the American
people are disenchanted with politicians, and the point in what we’re
doing is to become a force in reform. And sometimes winning the race
isn’t the biggest level of reform that you can push. It’s the smaller
battles that you win. It’s the amount of impact that I’m able to make in
this race. Maybe we get somebody in there who’s been asked the right
questions and people have the opportunity to say, "Wow, she just asked a
question that we wanted to know."
Well, I’ve got to ask this. Were you intimately involved with Eliot Spitzer, as some reports allege?
No, no, no! No. A million percent no.
You’ve mentioned women’s rights as a campaign issue. How are women’s rights compatible with the prostitution business?
I think it’s a matter of personal choice. Women should be able to choose what to do with their body ... period. You don’t have to agree with the choice they make, but it is their body and government should not intervene telling them what to do with their body. It’s the same thing with abortion. I’m very pro-choice. It’s a woman's body. She should be able to do what she wants with it. It comes back to our most fundamental constitutional rights. You have to respect that we have that. You don’t have to agree. I take a very libertarian stance on those things.
What do you say to gay voters who argue that your candidacy might detract from the pro-gay candidate, presumably Democrat Andrew Cuomo, who has a real chance of winning?
Obviously, the Democrats have been unable to pass a marriage equality act. So we need to stop putting all of our eggs in one basket. They have yet to do it. Whether or not they will, I think we should stop putting all of our faith into one particular party, because that party has failed us. Just like the leaders here have failed us. I think that we need to put our faith in somebody who’s really being aggressive about the issues they care about and not just hopping on that issue because that’s what their party mandates that they say.