That's the question raised in an Ottawa Citizen piece today based on information contained in the documents and affidavits supporting the warrant that led to the RCMP raid on Conservative Party headquarters last week:
In the affidavit to support the search, an executive for Retail Media, the agency that purchased broadcast advertising on behalf of the Conservative campaign, is said to have raised doubts about the veracity of an invoice used to back up one Ontario Conservative candidate's expense claim for $39,991.
Marilyn Dixon, chief operating officer of the agency, "speculated that this invoice must have been altered or created by someone, because it did not conform to the appearance of invoices sent by Retail Media to the Conservative Party of Canada with respect to the media," according to the sworn affidavit of investigator Ronald Lamothe.
Mr. Lamothe also notes in his affidavit that invoices on Retail Media letterhead filed by nine Conservative candidates outside Quebec bear the same invoice number and each contain the same typographical error -- spelling "invoice" as "nvoice." A similar typo appears on other invoices, the affidavit says.
As Liberal MP Dominic LeBlanc says, that raises the possibility of criminal acts of fraud or forgery which, at the very least, merit an RCMP investigation. And a criminal investigation would be a whole other kettle of fish than the Elections Canada investigation the Conservatives are already facing.
"Our initial impression is that some of the allegations made by Elections Canada in the sworn affidavit lead us to a concern that there may have been forgery or fraud that could ultimately run afoul of the Criminal Code," said Mr. LeBlanc.The Conservative response to these allegations, in my view, raises more questions than it answers:
The Conservatives maintain that the documents provided by candidates to Elections Canada were legitimate. A Conservative official, speaking on background, said the party received an invoice from Retail Media with totals for all the candidates listed together.That seems to support the contention that this wasn’t really local advertising at all, but was actually, as the opposition and Elections Canada has insisted, national advertising funneled through local campaigns.
To simplify, party officials cut and pasted the amounts for each individual campaign onto individualized documents to show each campaign how much each had spent for the advertising, without showing every campaign the figures for other candidates. But these documents were not intended to be official receipts. The source compared the move to dividing up a restaurant check at the end of meal.
If, indeed, this was just local advertising, then why didn’t Retail Media invoice each campaign directly, instead of sending a group bill to the central party? Why did the CPC apparently need to create new invoices for each campaign? And why do it on Retail Media letterhead? If all was aboveboard, and this was just a group ad buy, why didn’t the CPC invoice the campaigns on its own letterhead, collect the money, and pay Retail Media?
I don’t know about you, but when I divide up the restaurant check at the end of the meal I don’t photo-shop new receipts for each person. I actually usually ask for separate checks, but then again I’m not trying to funnel by lunch through my co-workers to get around my meal spending limit, and get them more frequent flier miles on their credit card. Recommend this Post on Progressive Bloggers