News & Politics

Bloomberg’s Dark Knight: Where’s the Financial Info?

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By Jana Kasperkevic


Mayor Bloomberg’s handpicked campaign manager, Bradley Tusk, failed to file financial disclosure reports required by his Federal, New York City and State of Illinois employers, which appears to violate ethic laws three times over a five year period.

Tusk, whose selection to run the $80 million dollar campaign has raised eyebrows among city observers, did not submit the reports in 2003 and 2007. He was required to file in 2003 after working the prior year for both the Bloomberg administration and the US senator Chuck Schumer.

The most egregious of Tusk’s errors was his failure to file in May of 2007 for 2006, when he was Deputy Governor, the second most important position in the already scandal-scarred administration of the since-indicted Rod Blagojevich.

David Weisbaum, an Illinois official who oversees disclosure fillings,
tells the Voice that Tusk should have filed for 2006 considering his
position and salary. Weisbaum said that the Secretary of State’s office
failed to certify and inform him of requirement to file because he had
already left the state government by the due date in May.

Howard Wolfson, spokesperson for the Bloomberg campaign, says that Tusk did not file because he “did not receive the form.”

A similar rationale was offered by the NYC Law Department for Tusk’s
failure to file in 2003 after joining the Bloomberg administration in
August of 2002. A Law Department spokesperson tells the Voice that the
department “mistakenly failed to identify Tusk as a filer or notify him
to file” because he left the city in March 2003, when the list of
required filers was being composed. The spokesperson said in an e-mail:
“Mr. Tusk did not file a 2002 financial disclosure document due to the
Law Department’s error, not his error.”

While the shortcomings of the disclosure notification no doubt
contributed to Tusk’s errors, public disclosure requirements place the
burden on the employee to know what the legal requirements are. Tusk
was a lawyer with the City’s Law Department itself, and prior to his
departure had been informed of the disclosure requirements. As the
Deputy Governor in Illinois for four years, he filed three times and
was certainly familiar with state disclosure mandates.

When the Voice asked if Law Department employees were informed of their
disclosure obligations, the spokesperson said: “As a general matter,
yes.” Pressed to explain the details of how staff was informed and
whether they were trained in how to file such forms, the Department
insisted it had nothing further to say. City employees are routinely
given a manual detailing the disclosure requirement when they are
hired, which in Tusk’s case was only ten months before he would have to
file.

Tusk joined the Bloomberg administration after stepping down as
Schumer’s communications director in the summer of 2002. A Voice
review of his earnings federal earning for 2002 suggests that he should
have filed a disclosure form in 2003, as he did for his prior year of
Federal employment.

Failure to file is a violation under Federal, Illinois and City laws,
with penalties ranging from fines to removal from office. While Wolfson
insists that Tusk would have had nothing to file in Illinois for the
year 2006 other than his own salary, the disclosure submissions have
the force of law, unlike the statement of a campaign spokesperson.
Financial Disclosure forms in Illinois proved to be the source of several Blagojevich scandal stories – revealing that he received
personal gifts from Tony Rezko, who has since been convicted on 16
corruption charges and John Wyma, the lobbyist whose cooperation with
the FBI allowed them to obtain the court order that led to the wiretapped conversation about the sale of Barack Obama’s Senate seat.

The NYC Law Department’s eagerness to take the blame for Tusk’s failure
to file was apparently conveyed to the Bloomberg campaign at the same
time that the department answered Voice questions. When questioned
about Tusk’s omitted 2003 filing, Wolfson said that it was “my
understanding” that “the City handled” those issues, indicating that he
had already been informed that the Law Department had taken the blame
itself.

In addition to Tusk’s filing failings, his job with the city in 2002
and 2003 appeared to conflict with the Charter description of the Law
Department’s function. While the Charter allows the Law Department to
“assign an assistant or assistants to any agency,” these assistants may
only assist the agency in legal matters.

Yet Tusk’s city duties were described in an Illinois press release when
he was hired on March 3rd, 2003 as fulfilling “many of the Mayor’s
major policy initiatives,” creating and producing the Mayor’s “Thank
You America” video, developing the Mayor’s digital newsletter and
serving as “the Mayor’s liaison to a number of political organizations
and civic and religious institutions.” Tusk has been widely credited
with pioneering the tracking of Bloomberg’s performance in achieving
the campaign promises of 2001.

The Law Department stressed Tusk’s work with a NYC Charter Commission
impaneled by Bloomberg, which issued minor Charter change
recommendations. The Department also contended that Tusk’s work fell
within the charter mandate because Bloomberg’s “campaign promises
project had significant policy and legal issues tied to them.”

Research assistance: Jesus Ron, Dene-Hern Chen

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