John Liu Continues to Battle Tough Headlines; Bill de Blasio is Focused on Israel, Iran


In the race to replace Mike Bloomberg as mayor, two expected candidates — who are trailing behind two frontrunners, according to a recent NY1 poll — have made headlines this week that are of interest.

City Comptroller John Liu has tried to stay on-task and on-message since he was dealt a major blow with the arrest of his campaign treasurer in February. This fundraising controversy has raised questions about whether Liu will actually have a fighting chance next year, and Liu — who is trudging along with different initiatives and audits in his current job, frequently dodges questions about his campaign. Maybe with some help from his new communications director — who appears to be focused on controlling Liu’s public appearances and keeping them on-topic — the fundraising drama has somewhat stayed out of the news in recent weeks.

That changed, though, yesterday when the New York Times reported that a federal grand jury has officially indicted the former campaign treasurer for Liu on the charges that she helped funnel illegal campaign dollars to his 2013 campaign.

Of note, the Times reports, the charges filed against Jenny Hou, Liu’s 25-year-old former treasurer, suggest that she was taking instructions from Liu while she was allegedly running a fraudulent fund-raising scheme. This factor is likely to be very significant in determining Liu’s ability to push past the controversy and run a serious campaign for mayor.

On Thursday, Hou’s case was combined with the case against Liu’s fundraiser Xing Wu (Oliver) Pan, whose arrest in November was the first high-profile controversy for Liu’s fundraising efforts. The two are appearing in court on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, who is also expected to run for mayor in 2013, has been trudging forward with his campaign against Nissan, which does business with Iran.

Yesterday, The Times of Israel published a lengthy interview on de Blasio’s advocacy work around the issue, leading with a giant photo of de Blasio visiting Israel. In the interview, he takes stabs at Bloomberg’s administration and the Taxi of Tomorrow, a Nissan cab designed specifically for New York City.

Rallying around this issue is an obvious appeal to Jewish voters, though it seems a bit odd he’s been devoting a lot of energy to this, given that it’s a major foreign policy issue that doesn’t really have much to do with local New York City politics. But as The Politicker noted, the foreign-policy minded Orthodox Jewish community is likely to play an important role in 2013.

At one of his press conferences on the matter last month — and it seems there’s been a handful of events and releases tied to this issue in the past few weeks — we asked de Blasio about this. He told us, “We…[have] a platform, because this is New York City. We are one of the capitals of the world where I can speak to some of these issues and hopefully have a positive impact as a citywide official here in New York.”

He also noted at the time that New York City has close ties to Israel and cited the fact that the city is considered a major target of terrorism.

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