7:42 am Oct. 12, 2011
John Liu's campaign said it will return money from any donors whose paperwork is questionable. The statement, from consultant Chung Seto, comes following an investigative story by the New York Times detailing "irregularities" with a signifiant number of contributions to Liu.
The fact that Liu is currently the city's comptroller and one of the best-funded prospective candidates for the 2013 mayor's race means that he and his donor base will be subject to closer scrutiny than ever before.
Seto said the campaign cooperated with the reporters for the story and will continue to do its own research into the alleged impropriety.
"The campaign had over 2100 donors who are vetted and documented," Seto said in an email to me shortly after the Times story was published last night. "We promptly furnished copies of signed personal checks and signed donor forms to The Times for the relatively small number of donors in question, who will we review in further detail. We do not want nor do we need any contributions that are inappropriate or noncompliant."
In the story, Liu—the first Asian-American elected citywide—suggested some of the donors may have feigned ignorance about their contributions because they are new to the political system and reflexively shy about discussing it with strangers.
It's a similar to the explanation offered by Hillary Clinton's operation when some of her Chinatown-based donors proved elusive to a pair of reporters from the L.A. Times.
Seto, a key bundler for Clinton who was prominently featured in the story, spoke with me after the L.A. Times story was published. At the time she suggested Asian donors were unfairly singled out. From what I wrote about it:
"I just want to know why that there are no stories about Jewish waiters and Latino dishwashers,” she said. “Do you ask the same questions of other communities?"
She theorized that the L.A. Times couldn’t reach a large number of the Chinatown donors—the story noted that “[o]f 74 residents of New York’s Chinatown, Flushing, the Bronx or Brooklyn called or visited, only 24 could be reached for comment”—because the donors were frightened of the publicity.
"No one is going to oblige you or be honest with you," she said. "I think that’s our tradition as immigrants. All this such, backlash, in the, I call it post-Lou Dobbs era. There’s all this anti-immigrant sentiment. Even those with green cards are looked at as suspect.
"If you knock on your door, even with a translator, there’s a lot of uneasiness."