As more information continues to spill out about the scandal surrounding John Liu’s fundraising practices, both in his 2009 campaign for comptroller and his current effort to run for mayor, it is becoming clear that his ability to effectively do his job is in serious jeopardy. That would be the case for anyone in this circumstance, but for Liu, who has never taken his job as defender of the public purse seriously, and instead has only been an advocate for the interests of Big Labor, it is time to resign.
It started last month with a New York Times investigation into some of Liu’s donors, many of whom turned out to either not exist or claim to have never contributed to him. Liu has also neglected to report bundlers – supporters who collect donations on behalf of the campaign from their friends and associates – as is required by law.
These would be serious allegations against any candidate. However, with New York City’s extremely generous program of matching funds, with six dollars of taxpayer money given to candidates for every dollar they raise (the match caps at the first $175 from each donor), this is a much bigger problem, with the implication that Liu’s campaign conspired to commit fraud in order to steal from the taxpayers.
Worse still, many of the irregularities the Times exposed are with Chinese companies from Queens, some who are city contractors where the comptroller has oversight on their agreements. In fact, many of the details surrounding these donations appear shady, from business addresses that don’t exist to contributors who admit their boss made the contributions on their behalf at a company fundraising event for Liu. In most cases, the amounts given were $800 per person.
There appear to be too many cases where the fact patterns are the same for this to be a coincidence or for it all to be the doings of these individual business owners. Short of someone discovering a “how-to” manual for campaign finance evasion, it seems clear that the campaign was complicit in these activities. At the very least, major alarm bells should have gone off with campaign fundraisers (were they truly unaware) that something irregular was going on and an internal investigation should be held before accepting these bogus contributions.
Now one bundler has been arrested, another is being closely scrutinized, and ties to already jailed finance cheat Norman Hsu have been uncovered. But not only is Liu not showing any shame, he claims to be still running for mayor, in spite of these transgressions. He clearly thinks his close relationship with Big Labor bosses, who pumped over $180,000 into his 2009 campaign, will bail him out. If the current investigation into Liu doesn’t sink his mayoral ambitions, let’s hope the people of the city of New York will.
Robert Hornak is a Queens-based political consultant, blogger, and an active member of the Queens Republican Party.