Spitzer is the son of Ann Spitzer (nee Goldhaber) and Bernard Spitzer, a wealthy real estate tycoon. He was raised in the Riverdale section of the Bronx, and attended the Horace Mann School, an independent college preparatory school, which is a member of the Ivy Preparatory School League. He then attended Princeton University's Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs. During his time at Princeton he was chairman of the undergraduate student government. He graduated Princeton in 1981. Spitzer then attended Harvard Law School. Spitzer has claimed to have achieved a perfect LSAT score, and a 1590 out of 1600 SAT score.
After graduating law school, Spitzer clerked for Judge Robert W. Sweet in Manhattan. He then spent less than two years at a private law firm before joining the New York County District Attorney's office. There he rose to be chief of the labor-raketeering unit, spending 6 years pursing organized crime. In 1992, he led an investigation that loosened the Gambino crime family's control of the trucking and garment industries in Manhattan.
Upon this high profile conviction, he left the DA's office, and went to work at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher, & Flom for two years, and then moved to Constantine and Partners.
In 1994, Spitzer ran for the Democratic nomination for New York State Attorney General. His bid was unsuccessful. Four years later in 1998, he successfully obtained the nomination, and unseated 1 term incumbent Dennis Vacco, who was also the former US Attorney for the Western District of NY.
During Spitzer's two terms as Attorney General, he is considered to have raised the political profile of the office, getting involved in public policy debates. He also used NY's unique position with regard to Wall Street to pursue civil and criminal actions against corporations that were often considered under the jurisdiction of the US Justice Department.
In December, 2004, Spitzer revealed his intention to run for governor of New York, as had long been suspected. He easily won the election in 2006, and was sworn on January 1, 2007.
During Spitzer's term, he came under fire for a number of controversies:
- He allegedly used NY State Police to surveil and keep special records of NY Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno.
- He issued an executive order requiring state offices to allow illegal aliens to obtain a New York State Driver's License.
On March 10, 2008, the final controversy was revealed by a New York Times article. The article indicated that Spitzer had previously, and somewhat regularly patronized a high priced prostitute. Two days later, Spitzer announced he would resign as Governor, making his Lieutenant Governor David Patterson fill-in as governor for the remainder of the term.
After resigning, Spitzer started writing columns for Slate, and eventually in 2010 he was headlining Parker Spitzer on CNN with Kathleen Parker. It was a "round-table" discussion on the issues and politics of the day. In February, 2011, Parker left the show, and by July, 2011, the show was cancelled.
Spitzer has since joined Current TV after Keith Olberman was fired from the station. He now hosts Viewpoint with Eliot Spitzer.