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NY1 Exclusive: Comptroller Liu's 2009 Campaign Account Raises Legality Questions

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A federal investigation is focusing on the 2013 campaign account of City Comptroller John Liu, but meanwhile, Liu's 2009 campaign account is still active and also raising questions. NY1's Courtney Gross filed the following exclusive report.

City Comptroller John Liu may be limiting campaign contributions to $800 for his 2013 campaign, but that definitely is not the case for his 2009 campaign account.

Since taking office almost two years ago, Liu has raised more than $250,000 to pay off debt from his run for comptroller.

As a result, he has accepted thousands of dollars in contributions that are over the legal limit set by the city's Campaign Finance Board.

The firefighters' union gave nearly $10,000, as did the plumbers' union and a state construction union. The limit they could give Liu for his 2009 race was $7,425.

Candidates often keep old campaign accounts open, as the finance board audits them. It sometimes takes years to retire a debt; Liu's 2009 account is nearly $8,000 in the hole.

Using his old account, Liu bought an airline ticket to a speaking event in Texas last year. He has paid his campaign consultant Chung Seto, spent thousands on a volunteer dinner, and bought print ads.

Some government watchdogs say the spending is questionable.

"That's why they have audits. That's why the Campaign Finance Board goes through each and every expenditure and contribution, to make sure candidates like John Liu comply with the law," said Dick Dadey of the Citizens Union. "His seem to raise a lot more questions than they answer as of this point."

A Liu campaign spokesman said the spending is all directly connected to Liu's run for comptroller and they are cooperating with the board's audit.

Liu's 2013 campaign is the subject of a federal investigation.

In November, one of his fundraisers, Xing Wu Pan, was arrested and accused of setting up straw donors to get Liu over-the-limit contributions.

The Liu campaign has also not released a list of people who collect donations for his 2013 campaign.

Despite the inquiry, Liu has kept up an active schedule even as his poll numbers plummet. It is unclear as of this point how the ongoing investigation will affect his potential run for City Hall.

NY1 Update, 12/30/11: In an earlier version of this story, a Brooklyn contractor at SMC Stone was said to have given an over-the-limit contribution to Comptroller John Liu of more than $7,400. Because Liu was in a runoff election, the contribution was not over the limit. A candidate in a citywide runoff in 2009 could receive $7,425.

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