John Liu, talking about ‘whispers,’ gets raucous cheers

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City Comptroller John Liu, whose campaign for mayor has been tarnished by a federal investigation into its fund-raising practices, last night painted himself as a victim of nefarious forces beyond his control.

"Number one, I do not accept contributions from people who do business with the City of New York," he said, at a mayoral forum on poverty in Harlem. "I think it's unethical and therefore I do not do it. Number two, unlike all of my predecessors—the comptrollers from the state and all around the country—I do not solicit political contributions from Wall Street or anybody who wants to do business with the pension funds. And yet, with the high ethical bars that I've set, I think I'm the only candidate who's got an F.B.I. investigation into his fundraising."

Roars of approval from the crowd temporarily drowned him out.

The next thing I could make out was: "JohnLiu2014.com. I'd love for you to come visit and show me some love."

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(SEC rules, it should be noted, forbid municipal fund managers seeking business from pension funds from giving campaign contributions to the managers of those funds, according to the New York City Campaign Finance Board.)

Federal investigators have filed charges against a major Liu donor and his campaign treasurer, but they have yet to make a case against Liu, who revisited the topic in his closing remarks.

"There are still whispers about this cloud hanging over my head, this investigation into my fund-raising, three years of investigating," he said. "They wiretapped my phones for 18 months. They reviewed a million documents and messages, they interrogated thousands of my supporters, and yet what do they have to show for it? It's time to put up or shut up already."

Liu made his remarks at a forum co-sponsored by, among others, the building workers union, 32BJ, and the poverty-fighting organization, the Community Service Society.

The crowd roared with approval at pretty much everything he said, including his support for an $11.50 an hour minimum wage.