A Fleet Executive Raised Funds for N. Y. Campaign Probed in Loan

Article excerpt

A controversial link between Fleet Financial Group Inc. and New York City Comptroller Elizabeth Holtzman has taken a new twist with the revelation that a senior bank executive raised money for the comptroller's failed U.S. Senate campaign last year.

James P. Murphy, an executive vice president at the Providence, R.I.-based holding company, was on the finance committee for the campaign, say legal and campaign officials for Ms. Holtzman.

New York City began investigating a possibly illegal link between the bank and the campaign after discovering that Fleet made a loan to Ms. Holtzman's senatorial campaign and was subsequently appointed a co-manager of a city bond issue.

Fleet Recommended

Although the selection of New York City bond underwriters is a joint decision between the comptroller's office and the mayor's office, Ms. Holtzman's office recommended Fleet's inclusion.

City conflict-of-interest rules prohibit public officials from using their office for private gain.

Sources with knowledge of the probe say the state Department of Investigation is examining what role, if any, Mr. Murphy played in the matter. A department spokesman would not comment.

Mr. Murphy was the top administrator of the New York State Bankers Association for 13 years before joining Fleet in 1989 to run its government relations area.

Mr. Murphy's duties include coordinating Fleet's lobbying efforts, with special emphasis on public and municipal finance. He did not return calls for comment.

|Judged on Its Own Merits'

Thomas L. Lavelle, a spokesman for Fleet, confirmed that Mr. Murphy supported Ms. Holtzman's failed Senate bid, but denied that the loan or its provisions were connected to his support.

"The loan was judged on its own merits," Mr. Lavelle said.

Officials close to Ms. Holtzman, who is campaigning for re-election, said Mr. Murphy's role in the campaign's fund-raising efforts was minimal.

"If you're trying to look at this guy as an active fund-raiser, you're way off," said campaign spokesman George Arzt. …