City Comptroller and mayoral candidate John Liu continued his no-apologies tour after his former campaign treasurer and a fund-raiser were found guilty on campaign finance fraud charges last week, charging Monday that his rivals’ campaigns would also face issues if they were subjected to similar scrutiny.
“I am confident that if any campaign in New York City or elsewhere was subject to the level of scrutiny that my campaign has been put under–and that Jenny has been put under–we would be far head and shoulders above everybody else,” Mr. Liu said during an interview on NY1 last night.
Mr. Liu was referring to Jia “Jenny” Hou, his former campaign treasurer, who was found guilty of obstruction of justice for her role in a straw-donor scheme intended to allow Mr. Liu to collect contributions far higher than the legal limit. Ms. Hou and another staffer, Sharon Lee, allegedly offered to reimburse donors for their contributions. She and Xing Wu “Oliver” Pan, the fund-raiser, both plan to appeal.
But Mr. Liu argued his campaign had been deceived by investigators into accepting contributions it never would have otherwise.
“No campaign could defend themselves against an undercover operation that deceived their way into my campaign, getting my folks to think that those contributions were legitimate. And that’s in fact what happened,” he said. “We thought those contributions were legitimate. It turned out otherwise. But there was no way we could tell.”
“I’ve never said that my campaign is perfect,” Mr. Liu added. “I believe what we’ve done has been above-board. Jenny and Sharon apparently made some serious errors in judgment. Federal crimes? I’m not sure about that.”
Mr. Liu admitted that Mr. Pan had “messed up,” but continued to defend Ms. Hou, describing her as diligent and hard-working. Instead, he pointed his finger at the New York City Campaign Finance Board, which he said had closely advised her.
“In her capacity as treasure, she worked a lot. And she also followed the guidance of the Campaign Finance Board,” he said. “They were in constant communications, as far as I can tell, and that’s where she got her guidance from, every step of the way.”
A spokesman for the board, which is charged with overseeing contributions and granting taxpayer matching funds, declined to respond to Mr. Liu’s comments, but said in a statement that it will make a decision on whether to award him taxpayer matching funds later this year.
“The CFB will determine in the coming months which candidates seeking public matching funds for the 2013 elections have qualified for payment, considering all the information available,” he said.
Mr. Liu has repeatedly said that he intends to continue the campaign, even if the funds are withheld or delayed.
“It was a sad day and I don’t think Jenny deserves any of this. But the fact remains that my campaign goes full speed ahead,” he said.
Some supporters have also charged that Mr. Liu has been unfairly targeted by the feds, suggesting his liberal viewpoints or the fact that he is Asian or an immigrant have played a role. Mr. Liu declined to address the suggestions directly, but continued to characterize the probe as extreme.
“For some reason, and I have no idea what the reason is, they’ve been after me,” he said. “An FBI undercover operation into a campaign? Does every campaign get that kind of thing to make sure everything’s kosher?”