Liu remains unruffled despite staffer’s arrest

John Liu is all smiles at the St. Pat's for All Parade in Sunnyside, despite his campaign treasurer's recent indictment on wire fraud charges. Photo by Christina Santucci
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City Comptroller John Liu has not stopped attending events or City Council hearings in the week after his campaign treasurer Jia “Jenny” Hou was charged with funneling illegal donations to his mayoral war chest even as Democratic insiders are questioning how a bid for Gracie Mansion could possibly take place.

Liu made an appearance at a Chinatown event and also marched in the St. Pat’s for All Parade in Sunnyside Saturday, where he was cheered when he took the stage.

“I’ve had the fortune of being here every year since the beginning, and the crowd, the spectators, the marchers grow larger and larger in size,” he said in his brief address to the crowd. “It speaks to the spirit of what is St. Patrick’s month here in New York City is all about — people coming together and celebrating one of the most fun times of the year.”

Liu was speaking on a stage with other politicians, including Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and later stepped down into the crowd to shake hands with parade-goers and take a stroll down Skillman Avenue.

No elected officials openly mentioned Hou’s indictment, but members of the Democratic Party have privately expressed doubt about how Liu could seek the top spot in City Hall.

Hou’s indictment, the second involving Liu’s campaign, could distract from the issues during a mayoral run, one party member said. It could also give opponents ammunition to use against the comptroller during the race.

Liu was first elected to the Council in 2001 and represented Flushing until 2009. Liu won the race for city comptroller that year and become the first Asian American to hold a citywide office, He remains a popular figure in the largely Asian-American neighborhood of Flushing, where his actions are closely followed.

Party members were careful to say that Liu has not yet been tied to any wrongdoing and no elected official has called for his ouster from the comptroller’s seat.

The only public calls for Liu’s ouster have come from two men on opposite ends of a political career who share his party.

Democratic mayoral candidate Tom Allon, a weekly newspaper publisher, and former Mayor Ed Koch have both said Liu should step down amid the widening investigation.

On Monday, Liu was testifying at a Council budget hearing, and after a reporter asked him whether he thought about heeding calls to resign, he replied, “What resignation calls?”

Flushing political insiders familiar with Liu’s time in both the comptroller’s office and City Council said investigators would probably try to get Hou to implicate higher-ranking members of the campaign. Hou, who is 25 years old and a Rutgers graduate, was paid just $27,678 over a six-month period to work on Liu’s campaign.

Hou faces 60 years in prison if convicted on all counts, according to the indictment.

She has publicly expressed admiration for Liu following the indictment, but her family had ties with the comptroller before the feds tightened the net.

Hou’s father, Jian Li “Peter” Hou works as a Fire Protection Engineer for NY Business Fire Systems, based in Flushing, according to city Campaign Finance Board documents.

He raised a total of $5,600 for Liu’s still-undelcared 2013 mayoral run, according to the board.

He also donated $4,150 to Liu’s campaign himself in January.

Reach reporter Joe Anuta by e-mail at or by phone at 718-260-4566.

Posted 7:19 pm, March 7, 2012
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