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John Liu Tells Feds: 'Put Up or Shut Up'

By Jill Colvin | March 1, 2013 1:48pm

HARLEM — City Comptroller John Liu Lashed out at the feds Thursday night, demanding prosecutors investigating his campaign fundraising either "put up or shut up."

Liu's campaign has been under federal investigation, leading to the indictments of a top fundraiser and his campaign treasurer on charges they tried to use straw donors to skirt campaign finance rules. Their trial had been expected to start in February, but has now been postponed until April — leaving Liu livid.

"Despite my record and despite my vision for the city... there are still whispers about this cloud hanging over my head," Liu said during his closing remarks at a raucous mayoral candidates' forum in Harlem aimed at low-income New Yorkers.

After three years of investigation, including the wiretapping his phone for 18 months, the review of 1 million documents and messages, and the interrogation of thousands of his supporters, he said, enough is enough.

"It's time to put up or shut up already, because I've got an election to win," he said to rousing applause from a crowd packed with his supporters at the First Corinthian Baptist Church. Liu has not been charged with any wrongdoing.

In an interview after the forum, Liu refused to go as far as to accuse the government of deliberately dragging its feet, but said the delay had left him frustrated.

"I was fully hoping that more than a year after all the proverbial stuff hit the fan that it'd be concluded now. By this month, it was supposed to be done," he said. "This is just taking way too long."

The unprompted remarks came at the end of the spirited forum, during which other candidates pounced on front-runner City Council Speaker Christine Quinn.

Liu, Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, former Comptroller Bill Thompson, ex-City Councilman Sal Albanese, and Republican Tom Allon all slammed Quinn for failing to allow a council vote on legislation that would guarantee paid sick leave for many New Yorkers.

"We need real living wage legislation, not the watered-down version we got. We need paid sick days in New York City," said de Blasio. "With all respect to Speaker Quinn, you've got to give us a vote on paid sick days now."

Even former Bronx Borough President Adolfo Carrion Jr., who is running on the Independence Party line, and made his forum debut at the event, said he supported passing the bill.

Quinn, however, defended the decision, arguing that the city's economy remains too fragile.

But when asked by host Brian Lehrer how she'll know when the economy has recovered enough to introduce the bill, Quinn said she wasn't sure.

"That is not an easy question," she said. "We are evaluating that."

Liu interjected, arguing that it's inconclusive whether paid sick leave is detrimental to the economy, drawing loud applause.

But perhaps the loudest applause came when he called for an increase in the state's minimum wage from $7.25 to $11.50 an hour. That's much higher than the $9 President Barack Obama has called for in recent weeks — and which all the other candidates agreed was fair.

A poll released this week shows Quinn remains far ahead of her challengers, and now inching toward the 40 percent threshold that would allow her to avoid a run-off with the second-place Democratic challenger.

Three of the Republican candidates, former MTA Chair Joe Lhota, supermarket magnate John Catsimatidis and Doe Fund founder George McDonald, did not attend the forum, citing scheduling conflicts.