Political Consultant's Defense Team Goes After the Mayor

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The defense team for political consultant John Haggerty, a former top aide to Mayor Michael Bloomberg, said Bloomberg did not try and hide the fact that he was financing a poll-monitoring operation during his 2009 re-election campaign.

Bloomberg paid for the ballot security initiative indirectly, through a personal $1.2 million donation to the state Independence Party.

Prosecutors argued the initiative never materialized and that Haggerty instead pocketed the money rather than using it as planned.

Haggerty said he did the work he was paid for. Raymond Castello, one of Haggerty's lawyers, said the campaign used Haggerty as a scapegoat.

Former Deputy Mayor Kevin Sheekey testified Tuesday at Haggerty's trial saying the poll initiative was meant to benefit many candidates — including Bloomberg.

Haggerty's defense team argued that Bloomberg's campaign wanted to distance itself from ballot security because it was seen by some as a means to supress votes, often votes of minorities. It was a claim that Sheekey called "hogwash."

Sheekey also denied the defense's suggestion that the arrangement disguised a campaign expense as a political gift.

The trial started Monday.

"There is a fraud here, but it's campaign fraud by Mr. Bloomberg and his people," Castello said in his opening statement. The defense said the case would revolve around the mayor, painting a picture of a self-financed candidate surrounded by loyalists who skirted campaign rules. "This case is about winning at all costs. That's what Mayor Bloomberg is all about."

The mayor's camp said the campaign broke no laws and followed standard practices.

A judge has ordered prosecutors and defense lawyers not to talk about the case outside of court.

With the Associated Press