Saturday, February 19, 2011

2009 Campaign Payments Fraud - Update

The New York Times reported :
''Suit Suggests Political Party Knew of Fraud''

In contradictory new developments in the trial against GOP operative John Haggerty, prosecutors from the Manhattan District Attorney's office allege that ''Mr. Haggerty lied to the Bloomberg campaign to get it to pay $1.2 million to the Independence Party,'' according to court documents released on February 17 and reported about by The Times.

How did Mr. Haggerty lie to the Bloomberg campaign to get it to pay $1.2 million to the Independence Party, if the campaign to reëlect the mayor (CREEM) knowingly used Mayor Bloomberg's private banking accounts to ''wash in'' money in order to deliberately funnel the Independence Party donations to Mr. Haggerty ?

What is more, the reporter Aram Roston from PolitickerNY has raised questions about Mayor Bloomberg's pattern in using private donations for campaign-related activities. Indeed, in court filings made on December 15, 2010, in the criminal trial against Mr. Haggerty, defense attorneys made assertions that CREEM "intentionally chose the least transparent way possible to conduct ballot security....It was Mr. Bloomberg who chose to hide payments, not Mr. Haggerty," reported The Wall Street Journal. The Journal's article added :

Mr. Haggerty's attorneys suggested the district attorney's office should "commence an investigation immediately" into the possibility that the mayor violated laws by transferring personal funds to the Independence Party for the direct purpose of helping his campaign with a ballot-security operation. If Mr. Bloomberg "made the contribution directing how it should be spent, he would be in violation of both the New York State Election Law and the New York City Campaign finance Law," Mr. Haggerty's attorneys allege.

According to New York State law, contributions in excess of $94,200 to a state political party are prohibited from being used to promote a candidate, The Journal reported. Furthermore, New York City law requires politicians' electoral campaigns to report and disclose campaign-related expenditures, and The Journal added that Mayor Bloomberg's ballot-security operations expenditures were not reported or disclosed by CREEM.

Adding to the lack of transparency about Mayor Bloomberg's intent in structuring the expeditures by transferring personal funds to the Independence Party is the fact that the Mayor's Office refuses to release all related e-mails about campaign-related activities. After The New York Post filed a Freedom of Information request, demanding more information about Mr. Haggerty's involvement with the Mayor's Office, the Mayor's Office release only "nine e-mail exchanges" between Mr. Haggerty and "mayoral aides" during 2008 and 2009. "There were other e-mails that the mayor's refuses to release on the grounds of 'personal privacy,' " The Post reported.

Meanwhile, back to The Times's own report about the February 17 court documents : this is the first time that prosecutors have said the Independence Party may have known about the alleged fraud. But The Times seems to be continuing with the storyline that the ''fraud'' committed was that the act that Mr. Haggerty used the CREEM payments for personal use, not that CREEM failed to disclose Mr. Haggerty's work as campaign-related activities.

''An extensive review of records and campaign documents by The Observer, as well as interviews with witnesses, indicate that Mr. Bloomberg funneled money to Mr. Haggerty, who claimed to be a 'volunteer,' sidestepping the political committee the mayor had promised to use to finance his election campaign. By deploying Mr. Haggerty and an unrelated political party, the mayor's team avoided drawing attention to a controversial election day tactic. But even more serious, experts say Bloomberg may have broken campaign finance laws,'' reported Mr. Roston.

The way that CREEM structured the payments to Mr. Haggerty allowed CREEM to avoid having to legally disclose the payments (and controversial activities), and the structure troubles some legal experts. "This is clearly an attempt to evade the purpose of the law," John Moscow, a former white-collar prosecutor in Manhattan, told Mr. Roston.

Meanwhile, the artist and blogger Suzannah B. Troy offers a slightly different political analysis. Mr. Haggerty is a "fall guy," she wrote. ''I have been saying all along Haggerty is innocent ! John Haggerty is as innocent as Mike Bloomberg,'' wrote Ms. Troy. ''Technically there is no doubt Haggerty broke the law but so did Mike Bloomberg by wiring money from his personal account, 1.1 million dollars the day before the election !''

The controversial campaign reëlection-related services that Mr. Haggerty was hired to provide have been described as a ''ballot security operation.'' In Mr. Roston's article, the impression of the ballot security operation was to presumably discourage or fend off the voters of Mr. Bloomberg's opponent, Controller Bill Thompson (D), an African-American. Although alluded to, left unsaid was whether the ballot security operation was intended to deliberately turn away Mr. Thompson's African-American voters from the polls.

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