The New York Times recently reported that Democratic Congressman Anthony D. Weiner’s (who is running for Mayor of New York City) office has come under scrutiny for a series of suspicious mayoral campaign donations, all brokered by one Girish Soni.
Mr. Weiner collected more money orders in the last six months than any other Democratic mayoral candidate, all of them turned in by a New Jersey pharmacist, Girish Soni, who has raised thousands of dollars for Mr. Weiner’s Congressional campaigns since 1998, according to federal and city campaign finance records.
Mr. Soni gave the Weiner for New York Committee 29 money orders for $250 apiece on Nov. 24, along with two checks totaling $2,000. Each contribution was in a different name, but 25 of them included no information about the person’s profession or place of employment, as required by campaign finance laws, and several of the donors could not be located at the addresses provided.
Two people whose names appear on money orders said yesterday that they did not recall making the contributions.
Smita Parekh of Queens said she knew nothing about it and referred questions to her husband, Dilip Parekh, who expressed bewilderment at learning that he and his wife were listed as contributors to Mr. Weiner.
“I didn’t send in any money order, no sir,” Mr. Parekh said in a telephone interview from a grocery store he operates in Manhattan. “My wife works for Mr. Soni’s friend. Maybe that has something to do with it.”
Of course the first thing that popped into my mind was whether or not this was anything like the whole China-gate affair when Gore accepted money from a Chinese American man who was allegedly just a front man for Chinese intelligence. Could Mr. Soni be an Indian foreign agent trying to influence Weiner (who is part of the huge India Caucus)? Then I realized it was probably just my hyper-paranoid personality and that Weiner isn’t that important. I searched for another more reasonable explanation. The New York Post provides a good hypothesis:
There’s a strong incentive for large donors to try to convert their contributions into $250 chunks.
Under the city’s campaign finance rules, every contribution from city residents is matched on a 4-to-1 basis Ã¢Â€Â” but only up to $1,000 for each $250.
So a single $1,000 donation would net a candidate $2,000, because only $250 of the donation is subject to the 4-1 match. But four separate $250 contributions are worth $4,000, because each of the four donations is matched on a 4-1 basis.
At least one other candidate, Sheldon Leffler, has been prosecuted for trying to swindle the Campaign Finance Board by submitting numerous phony $250 money orders.
It seems Mr. Soni probably just made $250 donations in the name of every Indian he knew in the New York area. The next logical step would be to see how effective his strategy was by examining what kind of favors Congressman Weiner did for him in return.