A wave of published reports has raised questions not only about city Comptroller John Liu’s plans to run for mayor in 2013, but his fitness to complete his term as comptroller. As the city’s chief financial watchdog, the comptroller’s judgment must be beyond reproach. That may no longer be the case.
According to reports published in The New York Times, the FBI and the U.S. attorney’s office are looking into how $1.5 million got into Liu’s campaign war chest for his yet-to-be-announced run.
At issue are people known as “bundlers.” The bundlers are required to record the names of people making donations. Reporters looking into a list provided by one of Liu’s bundlers found two dozen reported donors who said either they had no knowledge of giving money to the Liu campaign or that someone else made the contribution in their names.
Contributors are required to fill out a donor card, but in many of the questionable cases the writing on these cards looked the same.
Last week, Xing Wu Pan, one of Liu’s fund-raisers, was charged by federal prosecutors with attempted wire fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud. An undercover FBI agent posing as a Chinese-American businessman reportedly received Pan’s help in funneling $16,000 in illegal campaign contributions.
So far no charges have been filed against Liu and there is no evidence he knew anything about the alleged fraud. But in the office of the comptroller, ignorance is hardly a virtue.
To his credit, Liu told TimesLedger Newspapers that his office is “going to completely cooperate with the investigation, and I am fully confident that my campaign fund-raising efforts have been proper at all times.”
He hired former state Attorney General Robert Abrams to conduct an audit into the campaign finances and then asked him to suspend his inquiry two weeks later when he learned of the FBI investigation.
Liu worked hard as a city councilman representing Flushing. Until recently there was a possibility that he could become the next mayor.
But that possibility is slipping away. Liu will have to work hard to restore public confidence so he can continue as comptroller and possibly run for re-election.