Embattled city Comptroller John Liu returned nearly $50,000 in contributions and disclosed a list of his campaign bundlers as promised last week amid questions about the finances of his unofficial 2013 campaign for mayor.
Nearly all of the $48,470 Liu gave back to donors was refunded on and after Nov. 16, the day a bundler for his campaign, Xing Wu “Oliver” Pan, was federally charged with skirting campaign finance laws by dividing a large contribution into smaller ones using straw donors.
Bundlers collect contributions on behalf of a candidate. Straw donors are individuals who make campaign contributions on behalf of another person and are reimbursed for their participation in the scheme, which is illegal.
Scrutiny of Liu’s fund-raising practices first surfaced in mid-September after The New York Times found his campaign account was flooded with large donations made by people who appeared unlikely to have the means to make such contributions. The questionable donors had occupations such as cook or cashier or, in some cases, were unemployed.
Liu returned all of the $15,200 in contributions collected by Pan.
An undercover FBI agent posing as a Chinese businessman wanted to contribute $16,000 to Liu’s campaign and, according to federal charges, Pan suggested setting up straw donors to sidestep campaign finance laws.
Pan also showed up on Liu’s recent filing as one of 59 campaign bundlers who collected donations for the comptroller’s 2013 campaign.
This is the first time Liu has made the names of his bundlers public. The list included two colleagues of his in government: City Councilman Peter Koo (D-Flushing) and state Assemblywoman Grace Meng (D-Flushing).
Campaign finance records showed Koo collected $7,200 in donations from nine individuals, while Meng gathered $4,000 from five people.
Koo and Meng are not suspected of any wrongdoing.
The most prolific bundler for Liu was Chung Seto, a consultant in charge of Liu’s comptroller campaign in 2009 who solicited $63,875 in donations from 93 people.
Seto described herself as a political consultant with her own agency, the Chung Seto Group, but a visit to her Manhattan office turned up a doctor’s office. Her phone line was also out of service.
Seto was also a bundler for Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton in 2008.
Reach reporter Howard Koplowitz by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4573.
©2012 Community News Group
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