A consultant’s report released today by the city’s Campaign Finance Board suggests the problems with City Comptroller John Liu’s mayoral campaign may have extended far beyond the findings of a federal investigation that resulted in the convictions of a fund-raiser and the campaign’s former treasurer.
The controversy never seems to end in New York City politics.
Upper East Side Assemblyman Micah Kellner–one of the few Assembly Democrats to criticize Speaker Shelly Silver’s handling of the Vito Lopez scandal–is now facing sexual harassment allegations of his own.
The City Council candidate was allegedly the subject of a sexual harassment complaint made by a female staffer four years ago. But, according to the New York Times, the complaint was never referred to the Assembly’s ethics committee, prompting the dismissal of a top Assembly lawyer, Bill Collins.
another day in albany
Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Wednesday that he will follow through on his threat to create a Moreland Commission–a powerful committee with subpoena powers–to investigate state legislators after they failed to come to a deal on a proposed new public campaign financing system the governor has tried to sell as an anti-corruption bill.
“That is the direction I am planning to proceed,” Mr. Cuomo told reporters at a press conference in Albany this afternoon, as the legislative session winds to a close.
State Sen. and Queens borough president candidate José Peralta, who was among the seven lawmakers secretly recorded by ex-Sen. Shirley Huntley, has been racking up legal bills, spending tens of thousands of campaign dollars on lawyers’ fees.
Since December, 2011, Mr. Peralta’s senate re-election and 2013 borough president campaigns have spent a combined $53,500.00 in fees to Stroock & Stroock & Lavan LLP, one of the city’s top election law firms, city and state finance records show. That includes $22,500 in payments from Mr. Peralta’s campaign for borough president–about a quarter of the total $88,873 the campaign has spent so far, the filings show.
This afternoon, courts released a sentencing document for State Senator Shirley Huntley, detailing her cooperation with federal authorities in the wake of her arrest in a bribery scheme. After a slew of corruption scandals have rocked New York State politics in recent weeks, including several of Ms. Huntley’s Albany colleagues, particular attention was placed on the names of officials and staffers caught in Ms. Huntley’s wiretaps. There are nine names on the list.
The Press Box
“I’m not particularly fond of getting the shit kicked out of me by the media all the time,” John Liu told The Observer last week. “But that doesn’t alter the reality.”
The reality, the city’s comptroller said, is not necessarily found in the headlines every morning. For example, he disputes a New York Daily News report that “debunked” his claims of childhood sweatshop work. The New York Post said he “needs to just go away.” And Mr. Liu feels it’s “plainly obvious” that federal prosecutors are driving negative New York Times coverage as they investigate his mayoral campaign for fund-raising improprieties.
“You’re not supposed to fuck with the Fourth Estate,” Mr. Liu explained while sitting on a bench after a Harlem event, displaying two of his signature traits in one quick sentence—a penchant for direct talk and an increased interest in how the media portrays him.
Last year, Mark Murphy ran a sharply negative campaign against Staten Island Congressman Michael Grimm that focused on an ongoing federal investigation into the incumbent’s 2010 fundraising efforts. The drumbeat was relentless; Mr. Murphy held regular press conferences about the investigation, worked it into his everyday messaging and even sent out direct mail with a faux mugshot of Mr. Grimm’s face on it. Despite these intense attacks, Mr. Murphy went on to lose 46 percent to 53 percent to the Republican Mr. Grimm in a swing district narrowly carried by President Barack Obama.
Councilman Domenic Recchia, who is planning to take on Mr. Grimm next year, is charting a different course for his campaign.
“Listen, I don’t get involved with people’s private lives,” Mr. Recchia told us as we sat down outside his government office earlier today. “This is not about Michael Grimm and his personal life, what he might have done or might not have done. I don’t know. This is about myself running for Congress to support the people of Staten Island and southern Brooklyn so I can really help them.”
Earlier this afternoon, community leaders gathered together off Bowery Street in Chinatown to castigate the federal government for their continued investigation of Comptroller John Liu’s fundraising operation. Before the criminal charges were leveled against his campaign treasurer and a top donor, Mr. Liu was a leading candidate for mayor, causing the event’s speakers to surmise there were political motivations behind the allegations. Among those speaking out against the feds were former Rep. Major Owens, who blasted the 18 month-long investigation as “Nixonian,” and former District Leader Virginia Kee, who used even sharper rhetoric by invoking the Holocaust.
Kings County District Attorney Joe Hynes is increasing the pressure on Assemblyman Vito Lopez, the once-powerful outgoing chair of the borough’s Democratic Party, by applying for a special prosecutor to investigate sexual harassment reports against Mr. Lopez. Mr. Hynes said past support from the local Democratic organization “had the potential to create an appearance of impropriety,” and an independent district attorney could better carry out the investigation.
Mr. Hynes, once a close political ally of Mr. Lopez’s, released the following statement to explain the move:
Woe be to the pol against whom the tabloids can wield a story that combines allegations of both sex and corruption. That’s the lesson Assemblywoman Naomi Rivera has learned the hard way over the past ten days, as the New York Post has dropped least seven articles and editorials suggesting scandal, uncovering evidence that is now being investigated by multiple agencies.