If you're going to cheat, here are a few handy tips   

Updated: March 12, 2008, 1:46 PM ET

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Read this carefully, all you male politicians. Print it out and keep it in your wallet, if necessary.

Do not organize extramarital affairs via text message, telephone or any device that lends itself to recording. If you must organize an affair, try using a homing pigeon, invisible ink or a secret decoder ring -- assuming, of course, you can find a 50-year-old Cracker Jack box on eBay.

Eliot Spitzer

AP Photo/Mary Altaffer

New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer didn't exactly cover his tracks well.

Monday's news that New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer reportedly was caught on a federal wiretap organizing a tryst with a high-end prostitute wasn't surprising, considering it's far from the first time a politician has been caught doing such a thing.

Apparently Spitzer and other politicians involved in sex scandals take the same haphazard approach to extramarital affairs that athletes do to performance-enhancing drugs.

Politicians don't seem to understand that technology has changed cheating. With cell phones that do everything from directing battleships to providing nuclear launch codes, you practically have to be Jason Bourne to get away with cheating. And it's no different with athletes, who don't seem to understand that when the feds come a-knockin', you better start talkin'.

If you conducted a mental tale of the tape between the politicians and the athletes who have been busted for cheating, you'd find their stupidity levels are virtually equal.

Spitzer was connected to a prostitution ring that operated online. Why not just place an ad on craigslist, Governor?

Rick Ankiel was linked to a back-alley pharmacy and tried to convince people there was nothing shady about receiving a 12-month supply of human growth hormone from a doctor who never examined him. No eyebrows raised there, right?

Embattled Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick's racy text-message conversations with his chief of staff, Christine Beatty, exposed not only an affair, but also possibly perjury. Before the texts were uncovered, Kilpatrick and Beatty testified under oath in a whistleblower lawsuit -- which cost the city $9 million to settle -- that they were nothing more than BFFs. After the Detroit Free Press obtained and released the texts, Kilpatrick copped to his infidelity but termed it a "private matter." Never mind that his sneaking around cost the city money it didn't have, and he reportedly was wining and dining Booty -- ooops, I mean Beatty -- during city business and quite possibly on city funds.

Misappropriation of city money and the violation of the public trust are enormous offenses. But athletes being busted for PEDs violates the public, too.

Sprinter Justin Gatlin wanted us to believe his doping troubles were caused by a wayward massage therapist who rubbed testosterone on him without his knowledge. If you believe that, then Idaho Sen. Larry Craig's "wide stance" defense must seem plausible as well.

Clearly this isn't the same cheating game mastered by John F. Kennedy, Warren G. Harding or baseball's Ed Walsh, who popularized the spitball in the early 1900s and dominated the majors for six years. Historians say Harding had a pair of lengthy extramarital relationships in the White House. He even financially supported the illegitimate child he had with one mistress, who supposedly stayed in touch with Harding through a Secret Service agent.

A baby daddy in the White House? Yep, those were the days. Politicians have foreign policy advisers and economic advisers. Seems like they need cheating advisers, too.

But never fear -- just as I provided groupies with a code because a few of them insisted on writing books about their affairs with professional athletes, it's time to give politicians similar guidance.

Groupies had to be reminded of their place, and politicians must be reminded of theirs. So, without further ado, here is the Politicians' Cheating Code:

(Disclaimer: Cheating is wrong. We at Page 2 do not condone it in any form. But if you use this guide and have success, please e-mail us and tell us every detail.)

• Cheat with someone who has as much to lose as you do. Obviously some politicians don't understand that the lower you reach on the totem pole, the more likely you are to get busted.

For instance: Cheat with a top foreign diplomat, and the chances are you'll get away with it. But cheat with the girl working the fry machine at Wendy's, and getting caught is almost a certainty.

Gennifer Flowers

AP Photo/Richard Drew

Gennifer Flowers is still profiting from her affair with Bill Clinton.

If having an affair with you is a promotion compared to the cheat-ee's current job, you've just given them far too much leverage and incentive to not only see you get caught, but also to tell the whole truth once the affair has been exposed.

Just ask Bill Clinton and former presidential candidate Gary Hart. Clinton was busted for cheating with an intern and a hairdresser. Hart was busted with a marketing rep for a pharmaceutical company. You could argue Monica Lewinsky, Gennifer Flowers and Donna Rice made out a lot better financially post-affair than they ever could have as regular people. Lewinsky had her own special on HBO, for goodness' sake.

Besides, one thing athletes have figured out is, low-rent cheating only leads to trouble. Imagine the skillful parenting it will take when Chipper Jones -- who publicly admitted to cheating on his first wife -- explains to his first son that Mommy was a Hooters waitress.

• Respect the technology. The solution? Have an affair with someone Amish.

In all seriousness, the paper trail for all communications devices is better than ever. Most cell phones store months' worth of text messages, meaning if the phone ever falls into the wrong hands, obliteration follows.

Even if you are smart enough to delete your texts, many cell phone companies keep master records. Surely some cell phone company employee was LOL'ing his head off at Kilpatrick and Beatty's careless whispers.

Notice that professional athletes caught using steroids or other performance-enhancing drugs are being snared the old-fashioned way -- through he-says-she-says battles, old drug tests, carelessness, jealousy and ego. Barry Bonds never texted Greg Anderson: "Need HGH ASAP, TTYL."

No one is saying politicians should start using tin cups and string. But how about taking a simple step by not using any government-issued communications devices for booty calls?

• If you are going to go professional, think low-profile professional. Spitzer had the right idea but the wrong execution. He sought the help of professionals instead of amateurs, an extremely expensive venture. The "firm" with which Spitzer dealt reportedly offered women for $5,500 an hour. Kinda puts this whole column-writing thing in a different perspective.

Now, dealing with pros decreases the likelihood of getting busted like Craig or California Rep. Ken Calvert, who tried to escape police after reportedly being caught in a compromising position with a female prostitute in a parked car. That's a little too Hugh Grant-ish, if you ask me.

When dealing with the Frank Lucases of the prostitution industry, some record-keeping is a must. Heidi Fleiss and Deborah Jeane Palfrey, best known as the "D.C. Madam," wouldn't be capable CEOs if they didn't keep a black book around on the off chance they one day could use it as a get-out-of-jail-free card. If you are going to leave things to the professionals, go small, respectable and local -- not Microsoft-level.

Marion Jones

AP Photo/Jason DeCrow

Marion Jones tried to lie her way out of things -- now she's in prison.

The same applies to BALCO. The PED lab had been operating successfully for a number of years, but it grew too big and garnered too much attention, and thus made too many enemies.

• Lastly, take cues from women. Research shows that half of women cheat on their significant others. So where are all the bodies? How come more female politicians don't get caught?

Marion Jones was the only female athlete connected to BALCO who tried to lie her way out of it. Granted, she also had the most to lose professionally. But track colleagues Kelli White and Regina Jacobs didn't follow Jones' cues. White told the truth and has moved on. Jacobs took her four-year suspension from the sport and quietly went away. The only significant female political sex scandal that comes to mind regards Idaho Rep. Helen Chenoweth, a Clinton detractor who admitted in 1995 that as a single woman she had a six-year affair with a married man.

Obviously, the women know something the men had better learn.

Jemele Hill can be reached at jemeleespn@gmail.com.


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