City Comptroller and would-be mayor John Liu apparently finds it amusing that so many press accounts take note of the scandal that has enveloped several of his key campaign aides. As The Observer noted several weeks ago, the comptroller laughingly referred to himself as “embattled” in an email invitation to a fund-raiser—his way of poking fun at the adjective that so often precedes his name.
Well, Mr. Liu can have a laugh if he likes, but he’s about the only one who finds this matter funny. Law enforcement has a very different view of the shady machinations in his campaign fund-raising. Four weeks from now, two of the comptroller’s former associates, including his onetime campaign treasurer, will go on trial for fraud. The indictments of the two followed press revelations of disgracefully sloppy record-keeping, including charges that some people listed as contributors denied ever giving the campaign money.
What’s more, The Observer noted less than a month ago that a Liu staff member was one of three people arrested for stealing tens of thousands of dollars from lunch programs for senior citizens.
These stories should have been enough to end Mr. Liu’s mayoral ambitions. Still, Mr. Liu persists—he officially announced his candidacy for the Democratic Party’s nomination the other day.
Mr. Liu might well believe that voters will treat the accusations against his associates no more seriously than he himself seems to regard them. The polls indicate at the moment that he is making a serious miscalculation—he trails Council Speaker Christine Quinn and Public Advocate Bill de Blasio. And if you think they’ll remain silent about the Liu campaign’s transgressions, you haven’t been following New York politics very long.
Some of Mr. Liu’s supporters, particularly in the Asian-American community, have suggested that he is the victim of a racist plot, presumably orchestrated by anonymous power brokers who can’t bear the thought of an Asian in Gracie Mansion. To his eternal discredit, Mr. Liu has not dismissed these ridiculous accusations out of hand. If anything, he has stoked the paranoia, saying that “something is driving this so-called investigation.”
Well, he’s right about that—something is driving this investigation. And that something is his campaign’s dreadful fund-raising practices.
It’s a simple matter, Mr. Liu: if your campaign had followed the rules, you wouldn’t be in this mess.
The man should be preparing to leave public service, not asking for promotion to the city’s highest elective office.