Sunday, September 09, 2007

Conadscam stink deepens

Accidental Deliberations points the way to a Halifax Daily News article (also noted by Keith) that removes any doubt that the CPC’s Conadscam wasn’t just about violating election advertising spending limits, but was also about funneling extra taxpayer dollars into the coffers of Conservative campaigns.

A Conservative campaign manager admitted exactly that:

The campaign manager for Halifax Conservative candidate Andrew House said the federal party suggested the deal to that riding association.

"What the federal party did was it said, 'Look, it will benefit them through controlling the advertising, but
it will also benefit the local association because you can maximize the spending,'" Jordi Morgan said yesterday.

"From our understanding of the legislation, it was totally straight up and there was nothing that was seen as underhanded or any of that."
Maximize the spending, and maximize the refund from the public coffers.

We’ve seen in the recent past that the Cons aren’t very good at interpreting election law; indeed, they’ve broken it before. Harper himself violated the donation limit. Remember this Conservative about-face last Christmas?
After months of heated denials, the federal Conservative party has quietly admitted it failed to publicly disclose hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of donations.

And the muddle over the disclosure meant that at least three party members -- including Prime Minister Stephen Harper -- donated more than the legal limit last year.

Last Thursday, the party filed a revised financial report for 2005 with Elections Canada, acknowledging that it did not report delegate fees collected for its national convention that year as donations, contrary to political financing laws.
So, as I said they’ve shown before they have either have no understanding of, or respect for, election and political financing law, so it’s unsurprising that they’re wrong here too. Don’t they have any lawyers in the Conservative Party? Or do they just not care to listen to them if their interpretation of the law gets in the way of their goals, by any means necessary?

The Daily News article also details the transfers to a number of local ridings for the purchase of national advertising :
The House campaign got a cheque for $4,733.48 from the Conservative Fund of Canada on Jan. 12, 2006. It transferred $4,736.48 back to the party's national fundraiser Jan. 23.

Rakesh Khosla's campaign in Halifax West shuffled $11,841.20 with the national party.

Robert Campbell's Dartmouth-Cole Harbour riding association exchanged $3,947.07.

That translates into ill-gotten refunds from the taxpayer of $2840 for the Halifax Conservatives, $7104.72 for the Halifax-West Conservatives, and $2368.24 for Dartmouth-Cole Harbour Conservatives. Their cuts for funneling money from the national campaign through their books to let the national campaign spend over its Elections Canada mandated advertising spending limit.

Naturally, although they’ve been caught with their hands in the cookie jar the Conservatives are still insisting they did nothing wrong. Although, before they finally admitted they broke the law in the donations case, they kept on protesting their innocence there too:
When The Canadian Press first reported Baird's comments and the apparent breach of the law, Tory officials angrily insisted they'd "fully complied'' with the law and that delegate fees could only be considered donations if the convention turned a profit.

Tories persisted in this argument even after Elections Canada officials made it clear that profit had nothing to do with it and that the Tory interpretation of the law was incorrect.

"I can fax you scads of material on this. This is the way it's been done for time immemorial,'' Conservative party legal counsel, Paul Lepsoe, told CP last summer.
Then, fast-forward to their coming clean a few months later, conveniently during the holidays when they hoped no one would notice:
Harper spokesman Dimitris Soudas said that while the Conservative party continues to believe convention fees shouldn't be subsidized by taxpayers, it "has indicated from the beginning that it will comply with any requirements'' imposed by Elections Canada, and it has filed the revised financial report "to reflect this decision.''
So, how long will it be before the Conservatives admit they were wrong here too, and that the Conservative Party of Canada, once again, flagrantly abused Canada’s election laws? Christmas is a little ways ways off. Maybe Thanksgiving?

Keep an eye on the news during while you're eating turkey, the Conservatives may try to hide an mea culpa in the stuffing.

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Scott Tribe said...

I think we should go with "Con Air" to describe this scandal.

Aaron said...

"Con Air" sounds like a new airline.

An effective label for the affair would immediately communicate what is was about. For instance, Adscam clearly references a scam involving advertising. "Conservative money laundering scheme" or "Conservative money laundering" or even the "money laundering con" points directly to the fact that the conservatives have done something wrong and it involved the shifting a funds between different acounts.

Conservatives can twist themselves into knots explaining why it was not money laundering technically (according to them) but in doing so they would already be reinforcing the term and losing the argument.

Although I am somewhat familiar with the CONservative money laundering scheme, I would need to have it explained to me how "Con Air" refers to this situation. I might even ask myself whether "Con Air" refers to the Conservative money laundering scheme or some other scandal. What does an airline have to do with money laundering? If you have to clarify, you are already losing the argument.

Aaron said...

Conservative "Accounting Fraud" would also work. It straitforwardly indicates the source of the scandal. People are familiar with the concept of accounting fraud (at least superficially). And it has the added benefit of playing on the "Accountability" angle. The Conservatives were elected nominally on a mandate of accountability, but instead gave us a Conservative accounting fraud.

A BCer in Toronto said...

I'll leave the naming debate to others. Con Air reminds me of a rather lame movie though.

burlivespipe said...

Interesting to see Harper throw his 2 cents in to the fray on Elections Canada's decision to allow veiled women to vote... Of course, if he can pry open any reason to de-legitimize and kneecap someone, he never skips a beat.
That being said, I also find their ruling a little perturbing. How hard is it for someone to lift their veil to acknowledge their voter Id? Will hockey goalies be next?