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Campaign finance case against New York Mayor Bloomberg closed

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg listens to a question at the "The Economics and Politics of Immigration" Forum in Boston, Massachusett
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg listens to a question at the "The Economics and Politics of Immigration" Forum in Boston, Massachusett

(Reuters) - New York City Campaign Finance Board voted to close a complaint against the 2009 mayoral campaign of Michael Bloomberg over $1.2 million in payments made by him to the Independence Party, according to a ruling.

Bloomberg, who spent more than $100 million of his own money to win the 2009 vote, did not report the $1.2 million to the state election board.

The campaign finance board said in its ruling on Thursday that while Bloomberg campaign "contravened the spirit of disclosure," the board can find no violation. The ruling was approved by a vote of 3-1. (http://link.reuters.com/qyv43t)

Bloomberg's office had denied any impropriety, saying the contributions were in accordance with campaign finance law.

"We are pleased that the Board dismissed the complaint, and in doing so recognized that the Campaign committed no violation," Deputy Mayor Howard Wolfson said in a statement.

Neither Bloomberg nor the Independence Party have been charged with any violations of election law.

In October 2009, a campaign volunteer named John Haggerty approached members of Bloomberg's re-election campaign with a proposal to ensure voter fraud or mistakes don't occur.

Bloomberg accepted the offer, and days before the election, his aides transferred $1.2 million from his personal fortune to the state Independence Party, which had endorsed his candidacy.

Bloomberg intended the party to keep $100,000, and the rest to go to Haggerty. Haggerty was a vendor working on behalf of the Independence Party.

However, prosecutors from the Manhattan District Attorney's Office had alleged Haggerty's plan for an extensive poll-watching operation never materialized. Instead, they claimed, Haggerty used the bulk of the money to buy his childhood home.

Haggerty was later convicted and sentenced to between 1-1/3 and four years in prison by the state Supreme Court. But questions remained whether Bloomberg campaign violated campaign finance disclosure standards, which was decided in mayor's favor on Thursday.

The case is People v. Haggerty, New York State Supreme Court, New York County, No. 2598/2010.

(Reporting by Sakthi Prasad; Additional reporting by Chris Francescani)

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