Volume 18 • Issue 14 | August 26 - September 01, 2005

Lopez pays to play; gets her funds

By Lincoln Anderson

Margarita Lopez last week received public matching funds for her borough president campaign — but she first had to make a payment equaling almost half of what she was awarded.

Two weeks ago, Lopez’s campaign was jilted when the Campaign Finance Board, in its first round of allocations of matching funds, withheld hers, claiming Lopez still owed them a “significant amount” of unspent funds out of the $143,682 in taxpayers’ money she received for her 2001 City Council reelection campaign. Some of Lopez’s qualified expenses weren’t adequately documented, according to C.F.B., and so were classified as “unspent” and should be returned.

However, Tanya Domi, a C.F.B. spokesperson, said that last week an agreement was reached under which Lopez paid the board $185,877 in return for which she was awarded $382,239 in matching funds.

Domi called Lopez’s payment to the board “a protection to the taxpayers, representing the greatest liability and amount of any liabilities that could be found. This represents all the funds [Lopez received for her race] for 2001, plus potential penalties for serious outstanding issues.” Domi said the penalties are potential only at this point, because C.F.B. has not conducted a final audit of Lopez’s 2001 funds. Domi said Lopez has requested the audit be delayed until October, after the Sept. 13 Democratic primary election, and that the board granted Lopez’s request.

As for where Lopez got the $185,877 to pay C.F.B. to release her 2005 matching funds, Domi said this money was in the form of “personal loans,” and that she could not describe it any more than that.

“As of now, she’s in compliance, so she was able to be granted matching funds,” Domi said of Lopez’s status. “If things are resolved and if it was found that she satisfied board questions, theoretically, some of that money could be returned.”

Under the city’s campaign finance law, candidates can qualify for a 4-1 match in city money for some of the funds they raise.

Lopez said she was always confident she would get her matching funds.

“I knew that I was going to get it,” she said. “This is just the typical situation that is happening with the Campaign Finance Board with regard to audits.”

Lopez did not say where she got the money to pay the C.F.B.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about — and that is a private matter,” she said. “I don’t understand why you are asking me questions about that. I do not have to speak to anybody about my personal finances.”

The Villager, a sister publication of Downtown Express, has filed a Freedom of Information Law request for details on the loans; Domi said it might take three to four weeks for C.F.B. to provide the documentation.

The personal loans could have come from Lopez, or others or some combination thereof.

Rumors had recently been swirling that Mayor Mike Bloomberg or possibly former Mayor Ed Koch, at Bloomberg’s urging, would endorse Lopez for borough president. However, the recent revelations that a significant amount of Lopez’s campaign funds are from Scientology members and that she allocated funding for a Downtown detoxification center run by Scientology, seemed to have put the kibosh on those possible endorsements — if, in fact, they were ever going to happen. Lopez professed her political love for Bloomberg in June but also said she would not endorse him because he is a Republican.

Bloomberg’s campaign spokesperson said the mayor was not planning to endorse in the borough president’s race.

Last week, Koch said in a telephone interview that he wouldn’t support Lopez because of the issues with her 2001 campaign funds, not because of her Scientology connection. A few days later, when told that Lopez had temporarily allayed her public funds problems by making an insurance payment to C.F.B., Koch said his position had not changed.

“Doesn’t make any difference,” he said. “I’m not going to consider her in my decision-making.”

If she had been expecting Koch or Bloomberg’s endorsement, Lopez didn’t let on. Asked if she wanted them, she said, “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”



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