BY NATHANIEL HERZ
HOST: City comptroller and mayoral candidate John Liu has had a rough week. On Tuesday, federal agents arrested his campaign treasurer and charged her with violating campaign finance law. Since then, he’s faced questions about the future of his mayoral bid, and about whether he can even hold on to his position as comptroller.
This morning, Nat Herz took a trip to Liu’s home neighborhood of Flushing, in Queens, to see how residents are taking the news.
NARRATION: Politicians and pundits have been talking about John Liu all week. But some people in Flushing, 10 miles from city hall, don’t even know who he is.
HERZ: Do you know John Liu? The Comptroller?
MAN: John Liu? No, sorry!
NARRATION: Liu lives in Flushing. It’s at the center of the city council district where voters first elected him in 2002. Liu was born in Taiwan; he enjoys strong support among Flushing’s residents, two-thirds of whom are of Asian descent. News broke last fall that the FBI was investigating Liu’s fundraising machine. On Tuesday, his campaign treasurer Jenny Hou was arrested and charged with two counts of wire fraud and one count of obstruction of justice in a scheme that involved donations that exceeded legal limits. The government alleges that the money was later split up and attributed to other donors, a violation of New York’s campaign finance laws. The 24-page complaint suggests that Liu may have been complicit. But in Flushing, residents are still giving him the benefit of the doubt. Chris Lee, a waiter, said that he doubted Liu was responsible.
LEE: He’s not the mastermind. Somebody—his assistant did all that…I don’t think it will happen again, because he’s a very conscious guy.
NARRATION: Down the street, a print shop employee who would only give his name as Robert said that he wasn’t making any judgments yet.
ROBERT: If there’s no proof, what can you say? Unless all the things are on the table, black and white, okay, then he’s doing something wrong. I wouldn’t say anything at the present moment, unless all the proof are there.
NARRATION: There’s still more than a year to go until the Democratic mayoral primary. Veteran Queens political consultant Lois Marbach said that in politics, anything can happen in a year.
MARBACH: Who knows—something happens with his opponents…Or if all this gets cleared up and it’s determined that he had no knowledge of it or whatever.
NARRATION: Marbach also said that the details of the case may be too complicated for voters to follow.
MARBACH: Most people don’t even understand the rules of campaign finance for one thing. The second thing is, when you’re running a citywide race, it’s almost impossible for you to know every contributor and what they’ve done…So, knowing that, the voters can keep an open mind.
NARRATION: Liu maintains that none of the allegations have been proven, and he says that his campaign is moving forward. Nat Herz, Columbia Radio News.