NEW YORK — Mayor Michael Bloomberg is expected to testify Monday against a campaign consultant charged with scamming him out of more than $1 million, according to two people familiar with a trial that's giving jurors a behind-the-scenes look at the billionaire politician's last re-election bid.
The mayor would be prosecutors' star witness against John Haggerty, who is accused of helping himself to money he got the mayor to give the state Independence Party to finance poll monitoring during his 2009 campaign for a third term. The two people spoke to The Associated Press on Friday on condition of anonymity because the plans had not yet been made public.
Haggerty says he did the work and didn't steal the money. Bloomberg could face probing questions from Haggerty's lawyers, who have sought to spread the focus to Bloomberg's campaign finances and practices.
But prosecutors may try to get a judge to limit what defense attorneys can delve into with the three-term mayor. Before the trial, prosecutors asked Manhattan state Supreme Court Justice Ronald A. Zweibel to bar their adversaries from inquiring about Bloomberg's campaign finances, including a defense claim that the Bloomberg campaign paid some as-yet-unidentified vendors indirectly to keep their names from appearing in public filings. The judge nixed that request but said he might revisit the issue if it arose during the trial.
Haggerty, 42, is a veteran of several prominent New York Republican campaigns. As a volunteer on the Democrat-turned-Republican-turned-unaffiliated mayor's 2009 bid, Haggerty was the point man on "ballot security," a term used mainly by Republicans for poll watching with an eye to preventing voter fraud.
He presented Bloomberg campaign aides with a $1.1 million budget that included more than 1,300 paid poll watchers, an office, two-way radios and other expenses, according to prosecutors' court filings and documents aired at the trial.
Prosecutors say he went on to do little of what he'd promised and used about $750,000 instead to buy his brother's share of their late father's home. Prosecutors say he tried to cover his tracks by producing phony check stubs to show a handful of poll-watcher payments; his lawyers have conceded he did that but said he panicked after a New York Post reporter started asking questions.
Haggerty's lawyers say he's being scapegoated to distract from what they portray as questionable Bloomberg campaign practices. They've called attention to the fact that the mayor paid for the ballot security operation by making $1.2 million in personal contributions to the Independence Party, rather than as a campaign expense. They suggest the Bloomberg camp bent campaign finance law to veil its involvement with ballot security, which has spurred decades of Democratic complaints about vote suppression.
The mayor's representatives have said his campaign broke no laws and followed standard practices; prosecutors haven't accused him of any wrongdoing.
His aides have said the ballot security initiative was meant to benefit all Independence Party hopefuls – not just him, the party's marquee candidate – and that they viewed the effort as something better done by a party than by an individual candidate. Bloomberg underwrote similar operations for the Republican Party in 2005 and 2001, years when he was running as a registered Republican. He dropped his party affiliation in 2007.
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