Scandal Repair

As Harding Probe Continues, Cleanup Costs Grow

For its part, Harding's camp appears to be girding for bad news. Defense lawyer Gerald Shargel said he is still waiting for prosecutors to finish up. According to associates, Raymond Harding has told friends in the Liberal Party that he can't be counted on any longer for financial support of the party. His funds will be needed for any upcoming legal battles involving his son, he reportedly said.

A spokesman for Ray Harding denied the comment. "He said no such thing," said George Arzt.

Citing financial hardship, however, the party itself closed the doors of its Manhattan offices on December 31. A farewell message to members was posted on the its Web site last month. "It is a truism that money is the mother-milk of (organized) politics," it stated. "We no longer have the ability to raise the considerable amounts necessary to maintain the headquarters."

The party's fortunes, which soared when Giuliani entered City Hall in 1994, plummeted after he left office in 2001. Campaign records show it has been kept afloat over the past year only with loans from the Harding family and longtime party members. The office closing came after the party failed to reach the required threshold of 50,000 votes in last November's gubernatorial race. A new group, Liberal Party Associates, is being incorporated by party stalwarts, but it is essentially only a shell corporation designed to protect the 58-year-old party's name from would-be imitators.

Just what happens to Russell Harding appears to be a matter of more than passing interest to many New Yorkers. Since the Voice's series on Russell Harding last spring, readers have peppered the paper with pleas for updates on the scandal's status. One of them was Roger Simon, an attorney who served as chief of the Housing Development Corporation from 1979 to 1982. Simon said his interest in Harding's performance began even before the stories appeared. In 2000, Simon visited the corporation's then brand-new offices on Williams Street in Lower Manhattan, which were designed and built during Harding's presidency. He was startled at the sumptuousness of the workplace. Records show Harding spent more than $5 million on the new digs, which feature ornate chandeliers, bird's-eye maple cabinets, and top-of-the-line ergonomic chairs for all of its 120 employees.

"I was just surprised," said Simon. "It was very luxurious. I don't think that kind of money should be spent on furnishings; it should be going into the programs, into housing."

Related Stories by Tom Robbins:

"The Lush Life of a Rudy Appointee"

"More Lush Life of a Rudy Appointee"

"Party Harding"

"Harding's Hustle: Bonuses, Bargains, and Strip Clubs at the Housing Development Corporation"

"Low-Class Act: Russell Harding on Blacks, the Poor, and the Clintons"

"Bonus Baby: A Hefty Something Extra in Russell Harding's Last Paycheck"

"The Private Lives of Russell Harding"

"Where Are the Whistle-Blowers?"

"Harding's Conflict of Interest: After Pledging to Steer Clear of Dad's Law Firm, Son Aided a Client"

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