Bloomberg's Dark Knight: Where's the Financial Info?
By Jana Kasperkevic
Mayor Bloomberg's handpicked campaign manager, Bradley Tusk, failed to file financial disclosure reports required by his Federal, New York City and State of Illinois employers, which appears to violate ethic laws three times over a five year period.
Tusk, whose selection to run the $80 million dollar campaign has raised eyebrows among city observers, did not submit the reports in 2003 and 2007. He was required to file in 2003 after working the prior year for both the Bloomberg administration and the US senator Chuck Schumer.
The most egregious of Tusk's errors was his failure to file in May of 2007 for 2006, when he was Deputy Governor, the second most important position in the already scandal-scarred administration of the since-indicted Rod Blagojevich.
Howard Wolfson, spokesperson for the Bloomberg campaign, says that Tusk did not file because he "did not receive the form."
A similar rationale was offered by the NYC Law Department for Tusk's failure to file in 2003 after joining the Bloomberg administration in August of 2002. A Law Department spokesperson tells the Voice that the department "mistakenly failed to identify Tusk as a filer or notify him to file" because he left the city in March 2003, when the list of required filers was being composed. The spokesperson said in an e-mail: "Mr. Tusk did not file a 2002 financial disclosure document due to the Law Department's error, not his error."
While the shortcomings of the disclosure notification no doubt contributed to Tusk's errors, public disclosure requirements place the burden on the employee to know what the legal requirements are. Tusk was a lawyer with the City's Law Department itself, and prior to his departure had been informed of the disclosure requirements. As the Deputy Governor in Illinois for four years, he filed three times and was certainly familiar with state disclosure mandates.
When the Voice asked if Law Department employees were informed of their disclosure obligations, the spokesperson said: "As a general matter, yes." Pressed to explain the details of how staff was informed and whether they were trained in how to file such forms, the Department insisted it had nothing further to say. City employees are routinely given a manual detailing the disclosure requirement when they are hired, which in Tusk's case was only ten months before he would have to file.
Tusk joined the Bloomberg administration after stepping down as Schumer's communications director in the summer of 2002. A Voice review of his earnings federal earning for 2002 suggests that he should have filed a disclosure form in 2003, as he did for his prior year of Federal employment.
Failure to file is a violation under Federal, Illinois and City laws, with penalties ranging from fines to removal from office. While Wolfson insists that Tusk would have had nothing to file in Illinois for the year 2006 other than his own salary, the disclosure submissions have the force of law, unlike the statement of a campaign spokesperson. Financial Disclosure forms in Illinois proved to be the source of several Blagojevich scandal stories - revealing that he received personal gifts from Tony Rezko, who has since been convicted on 16 corruption charges and John Wyma, the lobbyist whose cooperation with the FBI allowed them to obtain the court order that led to the wiretapped conversation about the sale of Barack Obama's Senate seat.
The NYC Law Department's eagerness to take the blame for Tusk's failure to file was apparently conveyed to the Bloomberg campaign at the same time that the department answered Voice questions. When questioned about Tusk's omitted 2003 filing, Wolfson said that it was "my understanding" that "the City handled" those issues, indicating that he had already been informed that the Law Department had taken the blame itself.
In addition to Tusk's filing failings, his job with the city in 2002 and 2003 appeared to conflict with the Charter description of the Law Department's function. While the Charter allows the Law Department to "assign an assistant or assistants to any agency," these assistants may only assist the agency in legal matters.
Yet Tusk's city duties were described in an Illinois press release when he was hired on March 3rd, 2003 as fulfilling "many of the Mayor's major policy initiatives," creating and producing the Mayor's "Thank You America" video, developing the Mayor's digital newsletter and serving as "the Mayor's liaison to a number of political organizations and civic and religious institutions." Tusk has been widely credited with pioneering the tracking of Bloomberg's performance in achieving the campaign promises of 2001.
The Law Department stressed Tusk's work with a NYC Charter Commission impaneled by Bloomberg, which issued minor Charter change recommendations. The Department also contended that Tusk's work fell within the charter mandate because Bloomberg's "campaign promises project had significant policy and legal issues tied to them."
Research assistance: Jesus Ron, Dene-Hern Chen