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John Liu denied matching funds in NYC mayor's race

Protesters against Mayoral Candidate John Liu met resistance

Protesters against Mayoral Candidate John Liu met resistance from his supporters as they rallied outside the building where the Campaign Finance Committee met with Liu's Attorney Martin Conner in a hearing to decide his eligibilty for matching campaign contributions in New York City. (Aug. 5, 2013) Credit: Theodore Parisienne

The New York City Campaign Finance Board Monday denied mayoral contender John Liu $3.5 million in public matching funds, citing evidence of "serious and pervasive" fundraising violations campaign-wide.

The board voted unanimously, 5-0, to withhold the funds, which Liu's attorney, Martin Connor, called a "death penalty" for the city comptroller's mayoral campaign.

Liu's bid for mayor has been plagued by questions of improper fundraising. His former campaign treasurer Jenny Hou and donor Oliver Pan were convicted in May in Manhattan of improperly funneling campaign cash through straw donors. Both have said they will appeal the verdicts. Liu, a Democrat, has been federally investigated in the matter but not charged.

The evidence suggests that fundraising violations have been prevalent throughout Liu's campaign, city finance board chairman Joseph Parkes said at a board meeting Monday.

Liu vowed to forge on in the race even as he acknowledged the lack of funds "weakens" his campaign by putting it at a serious financial disadvantage.

The board denied "thousands of contributors who have helped my campaign these last few years of their ability to leverage their own money," Liu said at an afternoon news conference with Connor, and about 30 supporters.

He said he planned to fight the decision, which will involve an appeal to the finance board and possibly the State Supreme Court. An outcome would arrive too late, Connor said. A ruling would be made five days before the Sept. 10 primary -- long after Liu's rivals used their cash to gain an edge with mailings or television and radio ads.

Liu last week was in fifth place among his Democratic mayoral rivals, polling at 6 percent. His campaign, more than the others, has depended on small-donor contributions, the type the city's campaign financing program seeks to encourage. Mayoral candidates agree to a spending cap and must raise at least $250,000 with at least 1,000 contributors to be eligible. The program matches each donation dollar, up to $175 per contributor, with $6 in public funds.

Liu's high proportion of small-amount donations by individuals made him potentially eligible for the maximum in matching funds, $3.53 million.

Democrats Christine Quinn, Bill de Blasio, Bill Thompson and Anthony Weiner were granted their matching funds Monday, with Quinn receiving the most with $3.4 million.

More than 100 Liu supporters had rallied on his behalf Monday morning before the board meeting, chanting "match my money, make it count." Several dozen Liu opponents also were present.

Liu backer Joe Ann Brown, 53, of Park Slope, attended the meeting and said she gave $25 to Liu and has volunteered. "It's not fair," she said of the board's denial of funds. "We're the little people here."

Also Monday, Weiner showed he will fight on despite a sexting scandal. He released his second policy ideas book, called "Even More Keys to the City," at a Long Island City, Queens, news conference.

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