As birthday parties go, turning 45 usually doesn’t mean a lot. But it sure did for John C. Liu, the city comptroller.
Mr. Liu marked his 45th birthday Monday night with a fund-raiser at a favorite spot of political power brokers, City Hall restaurant in TriBeCa. And the event attracted an inordinate amount of attention, not just because Mr. Liu’s campaign finances have come under scrutiny thanks to a widening federal investigation, but also because it was the first major fund-raiser he has held since he decided to accept donations of up to $4,960, the maximum allowed for individual donors.
Until December, Mr. Liu, who is contemplating a run for mayor in 2013, had distinguished himself among potential candidates by imposing a cap of $800, to reflect the lucky number 8 in Chinese culture, but also to underscore the breadth of his support. But the federal probe has had a chilling effect on potential donors, according to his supporters, so he decided recently to lift that cap, to fill his coffers before the next filing deadline of Jan. 11.
But all of that was just background noise, at least for a few hours, on Monday, as Mr. Liu joined about 200 supporters at a party that, according to participants, was remarkably cheery.
Mr. Liu, for one, joked to a large group of reporters who had waited for his arrival: “Well, this is a record for me in terms of fund-raising. So much media!”
He added that he was “elated” about the turnout at the event, and hopeful about the outcome.
“The goal, as with any fund-raiser, is to raise as much money as possible,” said Mr. Liu, who has been exceptionally generous with city commendations during his tenure. ”Obviously, within the rules and the limits.”
Among the notables who showed up: several City Council members, including Ydanis Rodriguez, Daniel Dromm and Larry B. Seabrook, whose recent corruption case ended in a mistrial; and labor leaders, including Michael Mulgrew of the United Federation of Teachers, Lillian Roberts of District Council 37, and Al Hagen of the Uniformed Fire Officers Association.
Afterward, Mr. Liu’s supporters offered broad praise.
“I know John Liu; he’s a good man,” said Mr. Dromm, of Queens. ”He was in a good mood. He was jovial.”
Mr. Mulgrew, meanwhile, said that “we at the United Federation of Teachers support him,” but noted that Mr. Liu’s possible bid for mayor had not yet come up.
Mr. Mulgrew added that Mr. Liu’s continuing investigation was mentioned only in a joke.
“He just said, ‘My name recognition’s going up.’”