While many of the mayoral race headlines are about Christine Quinn's slide and Bill de Blasio's ascendance, one thing has remained constant: Former Comptroller Bill Thompson is in the hunt for a spot in a run-off. The latest polls show him in second or third place. But now the NY Times has presented a wrinkle for the Thompson campaign: In a front page (A1), above-the-fold story (PDF), the Times found that Thompson seemingly rewarded political donors by investing NYC pension money in their funds, earning the donors rich fees. By the way, that's not what comptrollers are REALLY supposed to do.

The Times offers examples of Thompson donors, their meetings, and how much the city invested with the donors' various money vehicles. The lead example is that of Tracy V. Maitland: After meeting Thompson in 2001, Maitland donated to his campaigns and even tried to get Thompson's wife the job as president of the ASPCA. Then in 2008, the Times reports that Thompson poured "$324 million into Advent Capital Management, the firm Mr. Maitland founded. By the time Mr. Thompson left office, in 2009, Advent was earning $2 million a year in fees on those investments."

The Times adds:

As he oversaw the city’s $85 billion pension system, Mr. Thompson steered the funds into a diverse range of new investment categories, expanding from heavy concentrations in stocks and bonds into private equity, real estate and niche funds. Yet performance was lackluster: nationwide, more than half of large public pension funds outperformed the five city funds’ combined 4.84 percent return from 2002 through 2009, according to a widely used yardstick compiled by Wilshire Associates, an investment advisory firm. Meanwhile, the city’s roster of fund managers, and their fees, tripled — and Mr. Thompson collected more than $500,000 in campaign donations from them.

In fact, at one point, the state was so concerned about how Thompson dealt with pension funds that "that state regulators suggested his office be stripped of responsibility for investing them, a finding that casts his managerial record in an unflattering new light." (Some investments were apparently being made without his knowledge.)

Thompson told the Times, "No one received any favor based on a contribution. Everything was done on the merit," and said that while he did meet with political donors with financial investment firms, "any investment that was done went through multiple hurdles."

Thompson has also been criticized for not auditing CityTime, the city's payroll project that ballooned from $73 million to $700 million. Yesterday, his campaign launched a website attacking de Blasio called "Bill de Bliar."