Christine Quinn mumbles goodbye to an old, problematic story about slush funds

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Christine Quinn. (Azi Paybarah)
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Today is a "great day" for City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, in the words of one Democratic consultant, thanks to news that the slush fund probe into the City Council is over.

A lawyer hired by the Council told the New York Post that the U.S. Attorney informed him that an investigation into how phony names of nonprofit organizations found their way into the city budget is over. (A related investigation into misuse of funds by Councilman Larry Seabrook, though, is ongoing.)

Nothing is going to happen, in other words.

The Post's Sally Goldenberg appears to have reported the story out without much help, let alone encouragement, from the office of Quinn, who said after the fact that she knew the news for a long time without ever saying anything about it. Presumably she and her strategists figured the less said in public about what might have been her most unattractive moment as Council speaker, the better.

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But it is good news for her nevertheless.

"No one running against Speaker Quinn for mayor will be able to use a slush-fund headline," said Democratic consultant Hank Sheinkopf, who worked on the 2009 re-election campaign of Michael Bloomberg, a Quinn ally. 

"This will only strengthen her hand," Sheinkopf said. "She not only becomes clean as a speaker, but also clean as a mayoral candidate, because she can say she assisted in the probe."

Quinn has said in her defense that when she learned of the practice, she ordered her staff to stop it, and when it continued, she brought it to the attention of authorities.

The slush fund—which started with Quinn's predecessors—had been considered by political insiders to be a significant potential vulnerability for Quinn heading into the 2013 mayor's race. (I contacted the offices of her likely 2013 rivals today; no one wanted to say anything, positive or negative, on the record.)

Quinn told reporters that the news nugget in today's New York Post story "is one that I have known for quite some time, that a number of years ago, the U.S. attorney's office basically closed the investigation into the holding codes."

("Holding codes" is the technical name for the slush-fund construct.)

"I was gratified when the lawyers that the Council had hired received written confirmation from the U.S. attorney’s office that the matter was closed without any action being taken," she said.