NYC mayor testifies in trial of political operative

Story highlights

  • Michael Bloomberg testifies in the trial of John Haggerty Jr.
  • Haggerty is accused of stealing $1.1 million Bloomberg donated to the Independence Party
  • Haggerty has pleaded not guilty to the charges
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg testified Monday in the criminal trial of a political operative charged with stealing up to $1.1 million from personal donations Bloomberg made during his 2009 re-election campaign.
John F. Haggerty Jr. is charged in a criminal indictment with five counts related to a scheme to "falsely represent the contours and expenses of an election day ballot security operation... that he claimed he would organize, plan and run under the auspices of the (New York State Independence Party)." He has pleaded not guilty to the charges, which include grand larceny, money laundering and three counts of falsifying business records.
According to campaign filings, Bloomberg made two payments of $600,000 from his personal fortune to the Independence Party, an influential third party in New York politics that had endorsed Bloomberg as its candidate.
That year, Bloomberg ran for a third term in office as an independent after he persuaded New York's City Council to change the term limits law. The billionaire mayor spent an estimated $110 million on the campaign, most of it his own funds.
The Manhattan district attorney's office launched an investigation of the matter when the Independence Party stated in its filings that it paid out $750,000 of that money to Special Elections Operations LLC, a company run by Haggerty.
Bloomberg testified Monday that $100,000 of the $1.2 million he donated was a straightforward political contribution to the party's so-called "housekeeping account." He insisted the remaining $1.1 million went for "specific services" providing for "election field operatives canvassing ballot" locations during the 2009 elections.
"I understood that if anyone was denied access to the ballots, that a trained lawyer was to be there to help that individual," Bloomberg told the court when asked to describe the "ballot security" operation. "Haggerty would instruct the Independence Party how to use the money to provide ballot security; my understanding is he did not provide those services."
The mayor said that he began to suspect that his funds were never used for a ballot security operation when Haggerty repeatedly delayed giving documentation to Bloomberg's team on how the money was spent.
One of Haggerty's attorneys, Raymond Costello, grilled Bloomberg over his campaign spending, management practices and what he knew about Haggerty's work. At one point, prosecutor Eric Siedel accused Costello of "theater."
In particular, Costello focused questions on why the mayor made payments from his personal account and not from his campaign committee, which allowed him to hide the payments from public disclosure. Bloomberg insisted the payments were not meant to specifically benefit his mayoral campaign, but all candidates on the Independence Party ticket.