NEW YORK—John Liu’s mayoral campaign treasurer Jia “Jenny” Hou and top fundraiser Pan Xinwu were arrested about a year ago, both on charges of attempted wire fraud, among others. Hou is accused of funneling money to Liu’s campaign by using straw donors—people contribute to a campaign and then get reimbursed by someone else who wants to exceed the campaign donor limits. Hou, Xinwu, and Liu have all been connected to the Chinese Communist Party. Hou and Xinwu’s trial begins next week with choosing a jury.
Now, Liu’s former press secretary, Sharon Lee, who still works for Liu in another capacity, is expected to testify in the upcoming trial about how she told family members and others she would reimburse them if they donated to Liu’s campaign, according to The New York Post. An immunity order is expected to protect her from criminal charges.
Defense lawyers for Hou tried to bar the press from covering the pretrial, saying that the negative publicity could taint the pool of jurors, according to Courthouse News Service. The judge didn’t grant the motion, on grounds of press freedom.
The judge also ruled prosecutors can submit as evidence Google chats between the two charged persons and volunteers. In one chat, according to Courthouse News, a volunteer tells Hou donors left out some information on the donor forms.
“CFB (Campaign Finance Board) auditors look very carefully at the handwriting,” Hou allegedly wrote to the volunteer. “So if you’re doing that, just make sure the handwriting looks as close to the donors as possible. If it [is] too difficult, don’t take risk.”
At least seven staffers have been raising money for Liu ($14,695), according to the New York Daily News. The practice is frowned upon, although legal—the fundraising can’t happen during work hours, and the respective politician (in this case, Liu) can’t ask for staff’s help.
“The fact that there are seven does give an uncomfortable impression of a line that has been blurred,” said Citizens Union Director Dick Dadey, according to the NY Daily News.
The Epoch Times first exposed a myriad of inconsistent fundraising practices, including getting funds from gangs, in 2009.