City fines Liu for campaign finance violations in 2009 comptroller run

By Patrick Donachie

Former mayoral candidate John Liu, who began his political career as a city councilman representing northeast Queens, was fined more than $15,000 for violations related to his successful 2009 run for New York City comptroller by the city’s Campaign Finance Board.

Liu’s campaign was fined for accepting 31 over-the-limit contributions, as well as five corporate contributions, eight contributions from unregistered political committees and 16 over-the-limit “Doing Business” contributions. The latter refers to contributions from individuals who have some sort of business with New York City, which the Campaign Finance Board restricts more heavily.

He had received more than $1.3 million in public funds for his 2009 comptroller race, according to the CFB. Liu’s 2009 campaign has a remaining balance of $28,315, according to the CFB’s site.

Liu was elected to the City Council in 2001, representing parts of Flushing, Bay Terrace, Bayside and Whitestone. During his tenure, he served as chairman of the Council’s Transportation Committee. He served as the city’s comptroller for four years after a successful campaign in 2009. He announced a campaign for mayor in 2013, running in the Democratic primary with four competitors, including eventual victor Bill de Blasio.

The Campaign Finance Board dealt a strong blow to Liu’s mayoral prospects in 2013 when it refused to grant him $3.5 million in public matching funds. At the time, the CFB cited about 550 donations to Liu’s mayoral campaign it considered to be questionable. The CFB also took into account information gleaned from a federal trial resulting in the conviction of two former Liu aides who attempted to solicit fake donations.

In 2014, Liu attempted to re-enter the political arena by challenging state Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) for his seat in a primary. Liu ran at the urging of the Queens Democratic Party, which sought a challenger for Avella after he joined the Independent Democratic Conference. The IDC periodically aligns itself with state Senate Republicans.

The IDC attempted to sidestep the looming threat of primary challenges by forming a power-sharing agreement, and support for Liu’s run dropped afterwards. In the aftermath, Avella received support from former U.S. Rep. Steve Israel, who represented parts of northeast Queens, and Mayor de Blasio, who Avella is now challenging for mayor.

Reach reporter Patrick Donachie by e-mail at pdonachie@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4573.