News & Politics

John Liu Doesn’t Want to Talk About his Campaign Finance Controversy


In unsurprising news, City Comptroller John Liu doesn’t feel like chatting much about his ongoing campaign finance controversy.

After an event he hosted at the New School on pensions and retirement this morning, the Voice, alongside several reporters, asked Liu — whose hopes of becoming mayor in 2013 have been hurt by continuing negative press — some off-topic questions about the arrest last month of his 25-year-old campaign treasurer Jenny Hou.

“We’ll keep you updated,” Liu said repeatedly, as a representative from his office standing by his side continually interrupted, telling reporters that the pol would not be taking off-topic questions.

Also by his side was his new communications director, Peter Thorne, starting his first day on the job.

A reporter first asked the comptroller about the upcoming trial of his treasurer — and whether Liu’s office was still paying for her defense — news broke last week that the treasurer, Hou, who is charged with fraud in a federal probe of Liu’s campaign fundraising, has hired Gerald Lefcourt, a high-profile defense attorney who has represented well-known clients like Russell Crowe and Sid Vicious.

Today, Liu declined to comment on the new attorney or what his current office’s involvement is in the ongoing case.

The rep by his side said that “now is not the time” to discuss these issues, telling Liu that he didn’t have to answer these questions, as she tried to escort him out the door.

Reporters today had some reason to believe that he might actually comment and not continue his typical song-and-dance of dodging reporters’ questions at public appearances: The pol did an extensive interview with the Associated Press last week, speaking at length for the first time about the ongoing investigation. In that interview, he didn’t rule out a run for mayor, despite the fact that some experts and other pols have said that he should be worried about even being re-elected to his current job.

In the interview, he said that as the candidate, he was responsible for his treasurer’s actions, but also distanced himself from her, saying that he had “no dealings” with compliance. He said that Hou reported to him but was expected to reach out to the Campaign Finance Board for technical guidance.

A second reporter, trying to make her question somewhat on topic, asked Liu today if he thought the fundraising scandal would make it difficult to push the retirement plan he was proposing at today’s events, prompting Liu to tell reporters that it’s not about politics. He responded by reiterating main points from the retirement plan, but not directly addressing the question about how he thinks the ongoing finance controversy might impact his current efforts as comptroller.

The Voice asked Liu if he has had any contact with Hou since her arrest. Yet again the comptroller declined to comment.

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