Councilwoman Letitia James has been fined by the city for overpaying a campaign worker with taxpayer money during her 2005 re-election campaign — and for trying to hide details of a payoff to a political consultant linked to disgraced party boss Clarence Norman.
The Campaign Finance Board also demanded that James (D–Fort Greene) refund to city taxpayers a $5,000 payment she made to her paid campaign manager for “field operations” conducted by his outside consulting firm.
That $5,000 payment went to Visibility Consulting Services — whose founder, Moses “Musa” Moore, was James’s campaign manager in October, 2005.
The Campaign Finance Board pounces on such double-dipping as possible misappropriation of the city’s generous public campaign funds it oversees.
Candidates who accept public funds are restricted in how they can pay staff. The goal is to prevent candidates from lavishing taxpayer-financed bonuses on their team.
In this case, James’s campaign lacked sufficient documents to back up five grand it paid to Moore’s company.
Moore’s consulting services came under scrutiny in 2005, because of his friendship with corrupt former Brooklyn Democratic Party boss Norman, who is serving a three- to nine-year sentence for extorting payoffs from judicial candidates. In several cases, Norman-endorsed candidates for judgeships hired Moore for campaign work, though Moore was never charged with any impropriety.
In addition to the suspect payment to Moore, the Campaign Finance Board fined James $500 for paying a campaign fundraiser more than she was contracted for. The board tacked on another $200 fine for James’s failure to respond to a request for more information.
James attributed the penalties to a “misinterpretation of the rules.”
“They fined us and we paid a fine. That’s it,” James told The Brooklyn Paper.
Good government groups say that publicly financed candidates have to accept a high level of scrutiny in exchange for the taxpayer money for their campaigns.
“When there are public dollars involved, the [Campaign Finance Board] has an obligation to see that public dollars are used as agreed upon, and if not, there’s a problem,” said Dick Dadey, executive director of Citizens Union.