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John C. Liu

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John C. Liu

For other uses of the name John Liu, see John Liu (disambiguation).
John C. Liu
Liu at the 2009 West Indian Day Parade.
New York City Comptroller
Assumed office
January 1, 2010 (2010-01-01)
Mayor Michael Bloomberg
Preceded by Bill Thompson
Member of the New York City Council from the 20th District
In office
January 2002 (2002-01) – January 2010 (2010-01)
Preceded by Julia Harrison
Succeeded by Peter Koo
Constituency Queens: Flushing, Queensboro Hill, Mitchell Gardens, Kissena Park, Harding Heights, Auburndale; part of Whitestone
Personal details
Born John Chun Liu
(1967-01-08) January 8, 1967 (age 47)
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Jenny Liu
Children Joey
Residence Flushing, New York, United States
Alma mater Binghamton University
Profession Politician
Website Office of the Comptroller

John Chun Liu (born January 8, 1967) is a New York City elected official, serving as New York City Comptroller. He was also a candidate in the 2013 New York City mayoral election. Liu had served on the New York City Council representing District 20, and was elected to the City Council in 2001 to represent northeast Queens, then was re-elected in 2003 and 2005.

Liu entered the New York City Comptroller election in 2009 and won the race on November 3, 2009, becoming the first Asian American to be elected to a city-wide office in New York City.[1][2]

Early life and education

Liu was born in Taiwan, and moved to the United States at the age of 5. Chang F. Liu, his father, was a Master of Business Administration graduate student and bank teller.[3] In honor of John F. Kennedy, Liu's father changed his sons' names to John, Robert, and Edward, and his own name to Joseph.[4]

Liu attended PS 20 in Queens and the Bronx High School of Science in 1985,[5][6] doing community organizing and volunteer work in his spare time.[3]

During his years attending Binghamton University, he majored in mathematical physics and rose his way up to executive vice president of the University's Student Association.[5] He worked as a manager at PricewaterhouseCoopers and served as president of the North Flushing Civic Association before his election to the City Council.[5][7]

New York City Council (2002-2010)

Liu was elected to the New York City Council in 2001 representing the northeast Queens area (District 20), being the first Asian American in history to be elected to the NYC city council.[3] He also served as the Chairperson of the New York City Council's Transportation Committee, and served on the committees on Education, Consumer Affairs, Health, Land Use, Contracts, Oversight & Investigations as well as Lower Manhattan Redevelopment.[8]

City Comptroller run

In March 2009, Liu announced that he was running for the post of New York City Comptroller.[9] Liu had raised $3 million for his political run.[10]

In May, Liu picked up several endorsements from several different organizations: The Village Independent Democrats,[11] The Queens County Democratic organization,[12] the local Americans for Democratic Action chapter[13] and the Working Families Party,[14] 1199 SEIU union local and the Uniformed Firefighters Association.[15] Later, in September, the United Federation of Teachers also began to endorse Liu in his campaign efforts.

In the September 15 Democratic primary, Liu was the front-runner, ending up with 133,986 votes (38% of the vote), but because he did not manage to reach 40% of the vote, a run-off election was required between Liu and David Yassky, who received 30 percent of the vote in the primary,[16] but Liu later won the run-off by taking 55.6% of the vote.[17][18]

In the general election on November 3, Liu won the comptroller election with a total of 696,330 votes (76% of votes). Republican candidate Joseph Mendola came in second with 19.3% of the vote.

Comptroller (2010-present)

During his tenure as New York comptroller, John Liu saved the city upwards of $3 billion by cracking down on wasteful expenditures and cutting inefficiencies. He spearheaded Checkbook 2.0, the initiative to upgrade the city’s current online transparency system.[19]

Other accomplishments of his administration:

  1. At the end of fiscal year 2013, the NYC Pension Funds, under Liu's charge, recorded investment returns of 12.3%, bringing the total value of the funds to $137 billion, the highest fiscal year end value recorded in history. This follows high returns of 14.2% at the end of FY '10, 23.2% at the end of FY '11, and 1.4% at the end of FY '12.[20]
  2. Liu's administration exposed Statue Cruises, which provides tour-boat services between Battery Park and Liberty and Ellis islands, for its unusual tax exemptions, which resulted in millions of dollars in unpaid taxes.[21]
  3. On November 30, 2012 Comptroller Liu announced a plan to speed up the removal of toxic PCBs from city schools by issuing “Green Apple Bonds.” The plan would save taxpayers $339 million, create 3,000 jobs and lower New York City’s carbon footprint by 1.4 million metric tons.[22]
  4. Liu helped recoup $163 million from Hewlett Packard for its overbilling on ECTP.[23]
  5. Liu created 15,000 jobs by unveiling a new infrastructure plan to support the lagging construction industry as well as to create new schools.[24]
  6. He saved the city over $153 million by refinancing general obligation bonds, which hold a AA rating from S&P.[25]
  7. Over the past fiscal year, his office recovered $1,978,370 from the insurance companies of individuals who damaged or destroyed City government property. The amount is the highest ever recovered for damage claims by the City Comptroller’s office, and marks a 34% increase over last year’s total.[26]
  8. Reached a $1.2 million settlement on behalf of workers who were cheated out of wages and benefits for work at city sites. The contractor Mascon Restoration and its principal have also been debarred from bidding on or receiving any public works contracts for five years.[27]
  9. Over the course of Comptroller Liu’s term, the NYC pension funds recorded a historically high annualized return of 9.5%, compared to 9.3% over the past 30 years. At the end of FY'09, the pension funds were valued at $86 billion, and increased by the end of FY'13 to $137 billion.[20]
  10. Saving the city $1,000,000,000 by refinancing outstanding city bonds to lower interest rates.[28]
  11. John's administration was able to stop the hemorrhaging of funds on the CityTime project which had "...mushroomed from its budget of $68 million to more than $600 million".[29]
  12. Conducting training for almost 500 auditors and investigators from over 40 City and State agencies to strengthen their skills in fraud detection and, at the same time, bring better controls to government financial operations.[29]
  13. Expanding the pension investment allocation with MWBE firms to $6.5 billion.[29]
  14. Over $250,000,000 in tax exemptions were given to big corporations in 2011—half the amount Liu proposed in tax breaks and decreased fines for smaller businesses.[30]
  15. The comptroller’s Corporate Governance Unit has successfully reduced executive pay in some companies and led claw back campaigns in Wall Street corporations such as JP Morgan Chase so that undeserving traders and bankers would have their bonuses revoked.[31]

Liu is one of the leaders of the Asian Political Leadership Fund, a federally-designated 527 fund whose purpose is to promote political leadership from within the Asian American community.[32]

Mayoral run

Liu ran as a candidate in the 2013 New York City mayoral election, but came in fourth place in the Democratic Party's primary election.[33]


Liu's platform in the primary included:

  1. Improving air quality and clean water by improving the city's transit system, pressuring the MTA to modernize their transit systems in order to reduce greenhouse gas emission and improve energy efficiency.[34]
  2. Greatly improve energy efficiency by supporting large scale energy alternatives such as solar and wind energy as opposed to the usage of fossil fuels which would quickly deplete the Earth's natural resources as well as release about 10 billion tonnes of greenhouse gases every year.[35]
  3. Create opportunities to source food locally, which would improve New York's economy and further distribute capital throughout the City in an environmentally sound way.[36]
  4. Expanding safe streets for Senior Citizens by creating shorter crosswalks, implementing more countdown timers, and creating larger signs to reduce the risk of injury from careless drivers, inattentiveness, etc.[36]
  5. Support revitalizing brownfields, abandoned areas which were previously used as industrial centers for factories and mass production.[36]
  6. Advocating to increase minimum wage from $7.25/hour to $11.50/hour to increase the standard of living in New York City.[19]
  7. Legalizing, regulating and taxing the production and sale of recreational and medicinal marijuana to adults of age 21 and older, and directing the tax revenues and savings to university education.[37]

Denial of matching funds

On August 5, 2013, the Campaign Finance Board denied John Liu matching funds worth $3.53 million for his campaign. Liu's supporters disagreed with the decision, saying they had legitimately donated funds to Liu's campaign, and were being denied their rights.[38]

Investigation into fundraising

Investigations into the fundraising practices of Liu's election campaigns found some irregularities, including the use of straw donors and undisclosed bundling.[39] A New York Times article in October 2011 documented several inconsistencies: after canvassing 100 households that were listed as having donated to the campaign, 24 irregularities were found, including donations from individuals who claimed they never donated, whose employers donated in their names, and several purported donors who did not appear to exist and could not be found.[39] Many of the irregularities in Liu's campaign were connected to the Chinese business community in Queens.[39] In New York City, every dollar donated to a candidate is matched with $6 in taxpayer money.[39]

Following publication of the New York Times article, the Federal Bureau of Investigation began investigating the irregularities in Liu's campaign.[40] In November 17, 2011, one of Liu's fundraisers, 46-year-old Oliver Pan (潘心武, Pān Xīnwǔ), was arrested on charges of wire fraud from illegal donations.[41][42] Pan was approached by an undercover Federal Bureau of Investigation agent posing as someone who wanted to donate US$16,000 to Liu, well over the city donation limit of $4,950 for individual contributions.[41] Pan then arranged for 20 fictitious donors to make donations to Liu's campaign with the money provided by the undercover FBI agent.

In the first half of 2011, Liu received more than $1 million in fundraising contributions to support his mayoral candidacy for 2013.[41][43]

In light of the allegations of campaign finance fraud, Liu hired former state attorney general Robert Abrams to conduct a review of his campaign finances. Abrams resigned on November 17.[44]

In February 2012, a treasurer with the Liu campaign was arrested. 25-year-old Jenny (Jia) Hou was charged with using straw donors to circumvent campaign finance laws and gain more matching funds from taxpayers.[45]

After three years of extensive investigation into John Liu's campaign, the Federal Bureau of Investigation could not find enough evidence to tie Liu to the scandal.[46]

Personal life

Liu is married to Jenny Liu, an engineer, and has one son, Joey, who currently attends a New York City public school.

See also


External links

  • Official New York City Comptroller Website
  • Asian Political Leadership Fund
  • Official 2013 Campaign Site
  • Oliver Pan conspiracy to commit wire fraud complaints
Political offices
Preceded by
Julia Harrison
New York City Council, 20th District
Succeeded by
Peter Koo
Preceded by
Bill Thompson
New York City Comptroller
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