From the NY Observer:
At 41 years old, John Haggerty is considered one of the city's most adroit backroom Republican fixers. Officially, though, he was only an unpaid "volunteer" during Bloomberg's 2009 reelection push. "He said he didn't want to get paid because he didn't want to be owned by anybody," one Bloomberg worker told The Observer. Volunteer or not, Mr. Haggerty had the mayor's ear and spent long hours with the campaign's war council, including Kevin Sheekey, Patricia Harris and Bradley Tusk.
"Ballot security" operations have a long and sometimes tainted history. At best, they are designed to uncover potential fraud by challenging suspect voters. But, quite often, civil rights historians say, ballot security is a euphemism for voter suppression, particularly within minority and low-income populations. Tactics include in-your-face ID checks, aggressive challenges of voter registration and invasive demands for proof of residency or address.
In the fall of 2009, Mr. Bloomberg's campaign faced a tough challenge from Democrat Bill Thompson, the city's African-American controller. While the mayor's camp decided it "needed a substantial ballot security operation" to fend off his opponent, as one campaign official told The Observer, there was some concern that "ballot security could be construed as racist."
Mr. Haggerty was one of the few people in New York who could pull off such an operation. To get around the red flags raised by the scheme, the campaign and Mr. Haggerty came up with an elaborate plan to obscure his involvement. According to Mr. Haggerty's lawyer, Dennis Vacco, Mr. Bloomberg funded Mr. Haggerty's work by completely bypassing his "Bloomberg for Mayor 2009 Inc." committee and wired $1.2 million from his personal accounts, in two installments, as a "donation" to the tiny Independence Party.
Specifically, the money went to the party's "Housekeeping Account," which is exempt from contribution limits. (While Mr. Bloomberg did not disclose the payments, the party later did.) According to the indictment, the unwritten agreement between Mr. Bloomberg and the Independence Party was that Mr. Haggerty would be paid $1.1 million to oversee ballot security; the leftover $100,000 was meant as a kind of handling fee for the party to keep.
Mr. Haggerty accepted the money through an entity called "Special Election Operations, LLC"-unincorporated until later.
However, sources familiar with the Independence Party said that it had no intention of "ballot security" or "poll watching" until the Bloomberg camp requested that it pass along the mayor's money to Mr. Haggerty. That is, it seems the entire operation was conceived of, paid for and planned by the mayor's campaign, not by the Independence Party.
Another argument central to Mr. Bloomberg's defense is that anything the Independence Party did was not solely for the mayor's campaign but also for other candidates. Jerome Koenig, former chief of staff of the New York State Assembly Election Law Committee, dismisses that. "Even if you accept the argument on face value," he said, "which is ridiculous, part of it was done for Bloomberg. Even if it was done for other candidates, part of it was done for Bloomberg, so it still should have been disclosed."
NOW MR. HAGGERTY faces criminal charges, but it is Mr. Bloomberg's actions, according to lawyers with knowledge of the case, that may violate city and state campaign-finance-disclosure rules. Mr. Bloomberg's official campaign committee, Bloomberg for Mayor 2009 Inc., was supposed to be the sole manner in which he funded his campaign. That way, voters could look at its filings and know how he spent his money-something he promised to do in a sworn document signed at the time.
So how could Mr. Bloomberg's "donation" to the Independence Party for ballot security-the money that Mr. Haggerty allegedly stole-be exempt? According to the district attorney's case against Mr. Haggerty, it seems to be definitively "related" to the campaign. Consider this phrase used in the prosecutor's filings: "The Campaign needed ballot security and poll watching operations for Election Day."
"This is clearly an attempt to evade the purpose of the law," said John Moscow, a former white-collar prosecutor in Manhattan.
New York City has rules that are separate from, and more elaborate than, New York State's. Political candidates "are required by law to make timely and complete disclosures of all their contributions and all their campaign expenditures," emailed Eric Friedman, a spokesman for the city's Campaign Finance Board, or CFB. Mr. Bloomberg never disclosed his $1.2 million contribution to the CFB.
Since the operation was a "ballot security" and "poll watching" effort, experts say New York City rules are specific: "[T]raining, compensating, or providing materials for poll watchers appointed by the party" are considered a contribution, meaning they must be disclosed.