City Comptroller John Liu— the man who oversees the city’s financial ledger—says that revelations about phantom donors, bundled contributions and other irregularities in his fund-raising practices do not require the services of an outside auditor.
Would he say that same about, say, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, one of Mr. Liu’s favorite targets? Hardly. So why should we trust an internal review of Mr. Liu’s tangled campaign finances?
Allegations published last week in The New York Times clearly warrant an outside audit of the comptroller’s books, especially since his campaign could be eligible for public funds to the tune of $6 for every dollar he raises under the guidelines of the city’s Campaign Finance Board.
The Times found that some people listed as donors to Mr. Liu say they never made a contribution to the campaign—somebody else apparently used their name. Other contributors couldn’t be tracked down even though donors are supposed to list contact information.
What’s more, multiple donor cards, which are supposed to be filled out by individual donors, appear to have been filled out by one person. The campaign also has failed to disclose the names of some so-called bundlers, that is, people who solicit and collect contributions from family members or friends.
There is no reason to believe that a campaign apparatus that shows such disregard for laws and regulations can be trusted to perform a fair and honest audit of itself.
In keeping with Mr. Liu’s method of operation as comptroller, he should immediately announce the appointment of an outside auditor—paid for by the campaign—to go over his books and identify contributions that ought to be returned.
This should not be onerous. After all, Mr. Liu himself said that he doesn’t need contributions that fail to comply with the law.
If he wishes to be mayor, and he clearly does, Mr. Liu needs to show some leadership on this issue. Otherwise New Yorkers will have no choice but to conclude that he holds himself above mere campaign finance regulations.