Ladies and gentlemen, John Liu is running for mayor. In a whirlwind, 15-stop tour of the five boroughs yesterday the embattled Comptroller officially announced his intentions and made it quite clear that he is not worried about the federal campaign finance cases against his campaign treasurer and one of his top donors. "When you go after powerful people and rich corporations, they’re going to come after you," he said. "They have certainly made my life challenging. But let me be clear. We are not backing down."
While promising to represent the 100 percent (not "the one percent") Liu was met with a "circus" of people at the City Hall yesterday (WPIX's political consultant compared his following to a "cult"). And that wasn't his only stop. In addition to City Hall, Liu hit up everywhere from Washington Heights to Forest Hills in a campaign van with reporters in tow. And he seemed more than happy to finally get (officially) into the fray. Asked about his treatment in the media, Liu had a LOT to say, specifically about the New York Times (which first reported on the fact the FBI was investigating his campaign finances and the possibility that some of his donors didn't know they were)—here's Capital New York's Azi Paybarah's account:
"I have no idea that these individuals the Times reportedly called or spoke with actually understood what the New York Times was," Liu said, "or even if they knew what the New York Times was, if they knew that this was a reporter from the New York Times. I mean, I don't know. But the fact remains every single one of the people the Times asked me about, we furnished copies of the check.
"A year and a half ago, October 12, 2011, that's a day I'll never forget for the rest of my life. That's the day the Times story broke. Then, there was news 'Oh, now the F.B.I. is investigating.' And then late in November, they arrested one guy. So, it almost seemed like the Times story drove the whole thing, right? And the Times story, I had serious objections to, from the get-go. They said phony donors, I said, 'What phony donors?' We got a copy of a check, a personal check, and donor card from everybody. They asked me about 40 or 50 people. I gave them copies of everything. The one thing we were remiss on is we were late with the damn intermediary reports."
I pointed out that the Times story was precisely about the fact that these listed donors seemed unaware of they had donated, and expressed bafflement when they were asked about the donations by a (Mandarin-speaking) reporter. The point of the story was that they looked like classic straw donors. "That may have very well happened," Liu said, referring to the donors' reportedly confused reactions to the reporter's questions. "That doesn't mean they didn't actually donate."
Still, finances and the media aside, Liu's first day on the trail could have gone a lot worse. Though he may have issues with media coverage, the Comptroller has spent the past few years carefully cultivating a strong base of minority supporters who really do support him. "There is no denying that the guy has a fervent band of supporters-he brings a rock star dynamic to the race, unlike almost anyone in the field," Neal Kwatra, a Democratic consultant, told the Times.
Meanwhile, as Liu was getting into the race officially, another potential candidate was dropping out. Tom Allon, the publisher who switched over to the Republican ticket in order to run this year has thrown in the towel. Guess Catsimatidis and Dorsey are now New York's only super-rich hopes.