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NYT: No Charges Filed Against Working Families Party

August 18, 2010

In case you missed it, this piece from the City Room will likely interest many of you:

Federal prosecutors have closed an investigation of the Working Families Party without filing any charges, party officials said on Friday, a major boost for the beleaguered organization as it gears up for the November statewide elections.

In a statement issued on Friday, Dan Levitan, a Working Families spokesman, said the party’s lawyers had been informed of the decision on Thursday night by the office of the United States attorney for the Southern District.

“The Working Families Party and Data and Field Services cooperated fully with the extensive investigation conducted by the government. We appreciate the professionalism of the U.S. attorney’s office,” Mr. Levitan said. “We are gratified that the federal investigation has concluded and look forward to continuing our work for good schools, good jobs and good government.”

A spokeswoman for the Southern District, citing the office’s standard policy not to confirm or deny the existence of investigations, said she could not comment.

Known for its left-leaning politics and formidable voter turnout operation, the Working Families Party enjoyed a banner year in the 2009 New York City elections, playing a critical role in the election of Bill de Blasio, the public advocate, and John C. Liu, the city comptroller, as well as several members of the City Council. But it quickly drew accusations from Republicans and others that it had circumvented campaign-finance laws by providing cut-rate campaign services to favored candidates through an affiliated for-profit, Data and Field Services.

Federal prosecutors subpoenaed a slew of records from the Working Families Party in December 2009, forcing party officials into a defensive crouch and presenting a potential headache for Democrats around the state elected with the party’s support.

In February, the Data and Field Services Organization settled a private lawsuit brought by Randy M. Mastro, a former deputy mayor who is now an election lawyer, alleging that the Working Families Party had unfairly aided Deborah Rose, the winning candidate in a Staten Island City Council race. The settlement did not include any admission of wrongdoing.

Mindful of the party’s legal problems, Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo, the Democratic candidate for governor, declined in June to become Working Families’ endorsed candidate in the race, though he has left open the possibility that he would accept their ballot line this fall. In recent weeks, Republicans and business groups have stepped up their efforts to make the party radioactive for any Democrat accepting its ballot line.

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