The fog surrounding Suffolk's political investigation thickened Tuesday.
LaValle announced Tuesday he will give up $100,000 in campaign cash that Levy contributed to the Suffolk Republicans on March 10 -- just two weeks before Levy shook the political scene by forgoing a fall re-election race and saying he'd forfeit his $4.1 million campaign war chest.
For the first time in the 12 months since he and state GOP Chairman Ed Cox negotiated Levy's stunning switch from Democrat to Republican, LaValle has pointed a public finger at the now-muted county executive, whose fundraising had reportedly been under investigation. "It has become increasingly obvious," LaValle states, "that Mr. Levy's knowledge of this matter may have preceded the contribution. . . . It was unfair of Mr. Levy to give such a contribution, knowing it would necessarily taint the party."
Just how the chairman knew or came to suspect that such a taint was Levy's intent, well, LaValle wasn't saying. As Levy and District Attorney Thomas Spota did on March 24, LaValle was sticking to his statement, without elaboration.
Who would have pictured, only a few weeks ago, anyone complaining about a sudden burst of generosity from Levy -- whose much-applauded frugality on behalf of taxpayers was reputed to extend to his campaign practices? County GOP sources say they were shocked when Levy acceded to help support other party candidates with such a big gift.
Beyond that, the ambiguity suffusing this episode remains its unique feature. Two Thursdays ago, Levy issued about 300 words of pretty standard bowing-out language -- followed by this bombshell: "Questions have been raised concerning fundraising through my political campaign. Since this occurred under my watch I accept responsibility. In order to resolve these questions I will be turning over my campaign funds to the Suffolk County District Attorney."
And what was it that occurred under his watch for which he accepts responsibility? Sorry, no comment.
The second statement in the series issued from Spota's office. After a brief preamble, it said Levy wasn't running in order "to resolve a 16-month investigation" that "raised serious issues with regard to fundraising and the manner in which it was conducted, including the use of public resources."
What issues? What conduct? What resources? Sorry, no details.
Suffolk Legis. Jon Cooper (D-Huntington) and Kate Browning (WF-Shirley) are pushing for a framework for public financing of campaigns by 2013. Cooper cites the success of New York City's stringent regulations. He ties the timing to "the wake of the 'Levygate' scandal" and asks "If not now, when?"
Maybe such a system would make sense. To that end, it would be good to know what the probed abuses were -- and whether they really were about campaign financing practices.