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John Liu's Fundraising Slows Amid Federal Probe

By Jill Colvin | January 18, 2012 7:35am
City Comptroller John Liu raised more than a half  a million dollars over the past six months.
City Comptroller John Liu raised more than a half a million dollars over the past six months.
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DNAinfo/Jeff Mays

MANHATTAN — City Comptroller John Liu has seen some of the wind sucked from his mayoral campaign's sails after the arrest of one of his fundraisers as part of a widely publicized federal fraud investigation.

In his latest campaign filing, released Tuesday, Liu reported raising more than half a million dollars over the past six months — not far behind Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer and City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, among other contenders — leaving him with $1.6 million in cash.

But the $513,000 is also a significant drop from the previous six months, when Liu was able to rake in an impressive $993,815. That put him just behind Quinn’s $1.32 million and well ahead of other candidates, including Stringer, former Comptroller Bill Thompson and Public Advocate Bill de Blasio.

George Arzt, a spokesman for Liu's campaign, blamed the slowdown on the investigation, which he said delayed fundraising efforts until mid-December.

“Our first responsibility was to comply with the federal investigation,” said Arzt, adding that most of Liu’s major fundraising events had come in the past three weeks.

Considering the circumstances, Arzt said the team was happy with the numbers.

“We’re very pleased with our fundraising and the great support that they’ve continued to show," he said.

Liu's campaign received a serious blow when Xing Wu Pan, who had helped raise funds for Liu, was arrested in November on charges that he funneled $16,000 in illegal contributions into the campaign.

On Tuesday, Liu also released a list of more than 50 campaign bundlers, including many he had failed to include as part of his previous filings.

But while Liu continued to raise cash, he’s also been burning through it nearly as fast. The campaign has shelled out more than $315,000 over the past six months — two-thirds of which was spent on lawyers participating in the investigation.

Of those legal fees, $128,000 went to Robert Abrams, a lawyer which Liu hired to conduct an internal investigation of the campaign's fundraising practices.

Abrams resigned a day after Pan's arrest.

Still, Liu continued to see a large number of $800 donations — the cap he had imposed to demonstrate his broad support until several weeks ago.

In addition to numerous business owners based in Flushing, Queens and Chinatown, Liu earned support from several local unions, including $4,150 from DC 37’s political action committee, $1,250 from Local 32BJ, $1,500 from TWU Local 100, $1,500 from the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association, and $2,000 from the Uniformed Fire Officers Association.

Other contributors include NAACP honcho Hazel Dukes.