Jun 142012
Two articles,  June 6 and June 7.  Scroll down to the second one:

1.  June 7

Conservative MP Dean Del Mastro came under fire during  Question Period Thursday after Postmedia News and the Ottawa Citizen reported  that he is being investigated for allegedly exceeding both his spending limit  and contribution limit in relation to a $21,000 personal cheque he used to pay  for services from Holinshed Research Group..

Records from a court case appear to contradict Conservative MP Dean Del  Mastro’s claim that he paid a research company only a small amount during the  2008 election, muddying the waters as he resists calls to step down during an  Elections Canada investigation for alleged campaign spending violations.

On Wednesday, Postmedia News and the Ottawa Citizen reported that Del Mastro  is being investigated for allegedly exceeding both his spending limit and  contribution limit in relation to a $21,000 personal cheque he used to pay for  services from Holinshed Research Group.

The revelation led NDP and Liberal critics Thursday to request Del Mastro  step aside as the prime minister’s parliamentary secretary until the  investigation is resolved, but Del Mastro brushed aside the demands, stating  that he serves “with integrity and conviction.”

In a CBC TV appearance Wednesday night, Del Mastro said his audited campaign  expenses — which showed a payment of only $1,575 to Holinshed — were accurate  and complete, and said the rest of the money was for other work.

“They undertook a small amount of work during the campaign, during the actual  campaign writ,” he said. “That’s reflected in that campaign expenditure. They  did also undertake some work at various times for my association. They would be  on separate statements.”

But documents filed as part of a small-claims lawsuit launched by Holinshed  appear to show that Del Mastro’s campaign manager, John McNutt, hired Holinshed  for election work on Sept. 14, 2008, a week after the campaign began.

According to one of those documents, a quote on Holinshed letterhead, the  company was to perform 630 hours of voter-identification calls and  get-out-the-vote calls on election day and on advance poll days for $21,000.

The small claims court file also contains a cheque from Del Mastro’s personal  account for the same amount dated Aug. 18, 2008, and an invoice for the  completed work.

In a statement of defence filed by Del Mastro’s lawyer in the legal dispute  between Holinshed and the Peterborough MP, the lawyer writes that Holinshed “had  done work for the Peterborough Conservative election campaign for the general  election.”

After the election, when Del Mastro’s official agent filed the campaign’s  return, it included a payment to Holinshed of $1,575 and one mysterious line  item worth $75,238.39. In the supplier name it said only  “Advertising/Brochures/Signs.”

Elections Canada’s auditors seem to have demanded more detail, because when  the audited return was posted online, the single line item was gone and 100  smaller line items were added, including a $10,000 payment to Holinshed, under  the header “amounts not included in election expenses.”

The expense statement showed the campaign spent $91,770.80, just $795.99  under the limit.

The Peterborough Conservative association’s annual return for 2008 shows  $9,548.32 for polling, although the supplier isn’t listed.

In a court order filed in the Ottawa courthouse, Elections Canada says it  suspects that Del Mastro violated the Elections Act in two ways, by exceeding  the amount he is allowed to spend on his own campaign, and by exceeding the  spending limit for the riding.

His campaign’s official agent, Richard McCarthy, is suspected of improperly  accepting the $21,000 alleged personal donation from Del Mastro, failing to  include all the expenses in documents filed with Elections Canada and knowingly  filing a false claim.

Under the Elections Act, each charge is punishable by a fine of up to $5,000  and up to five years in prison.

Del Mastro and McCarthy have both asserted that all such charges are  groundless, and the statements filed were accurate and complete.

In October 2009, after their business relationship had eroded into acrimony,  Holinshed wrote to McCarthy, asserting that the campaign’s return did not  include all of the work the firm did during the campaign.

“Holinshed charged $20,000 plus GST to your campaign,” wrote company  president Frank Hall. He included copies of the contract and invoice, and asked  that the campaign rectify the “reporting error.”

In the small claims court documents, Holinshed says the firm became aware of  Del Mastro’s financial report when another Conservative candidate for whom the  firm worked asked why Del Mastro paid so little for election work.

In question period on Wednesday, MPs for the Liberals and the New Democrats  called on Del Mastro to step down as parliamentary secretary to Prime Minister  Stephen Harper, in which he has acted as the government’s main defender in the  “robocalls” affair.

After question period, Liberal leader Bob Rae said Del Mastro will not be an  effective spokesman on Elections Canada issues since he’s under investigation by  that body.

“It’s not up to us to find him guilty or not guilty,” he said. “It’s up to us  to decide is this now going to be a credible spokesman for the government when  it comes to issues dealing with ethics and dealing with Elections Canada.”

NDP MP Charlie Angus also said Del Mastro should step aside.

“While an investigation is under way, where Mr. Del Mastro is compromised in  his ability to defend the government and also in his ability to attack Elections  Canada, if that’s the government’s position, then he should step aside.”

In an email Thursday, Del Mastro declined to clear up questions about the  cheque.

“I have never been contacted by Elections Canada on the matter and stand by  the accuracy of my financial records,” he wrote.

Conservative MP Pierre Poilievre told CBC TV Thursday that Del Mastro will  not be stepping down.

“He’s not stepping aside,” he said. “There’s no evidence of any wrongdoing  here.”

In an interview on CTV TV Thursday, Del Mastro said he would come forward  soon with documents showing that everything in his campaign was on the  up-and-up.

Postmedia News and Ottawa Citizen

smaher  AT  postmedia.com

gmcgregor  AT  ottawacitizen.com

© Copyright  (c) Postmedia News
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2.  June 6

The MP leading the Conservative government’s defence in the robocalls scandal  is himself under investigation by Elections Canada for alleged election-law  violations related to voter-contact calls made by his campaign in 2008.

Elections Canada says in a court document it has  reasonable grounds to believe offences were committed by Dean Del Mastro, who  serves as Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s parliamentary secretary, and by his  campaign’s official agent.

The MP leading the Conservative government’s defence in the robocalls scandal  is himself under investigation by Elections Canada for alleged election-law  violations related to voter-contact calls made by his campaign in 2008.
Elections Canada says in a court document that it has reasonable grounds to  believe offences were committed by Dean Del Mastro, who serves as Prime Minister  Stephen Harper’s parliamentary secretary, and by his campaign’s official  agent.
In a surprise television appearance Wednesday evening, Del Mastro emotionally  denied any wrongdoing. None of the allegations have been proven in court.
The allegations of Elections Act violations are listed in the court order  compelling Frank Hall, owner of Holinshed Research Group, to produce emails,  invoices and other documents related to work he did for Del Mastro.
An invoice submitted in a small-claims court dispute brought by Holinshed  against Del Mastro purports to show that Holinshed performed voter  identification work as well as get-out-the-vote calls on election day for Del  Mastro’s 2008 campaign. The company, once based in Ottawa, now no longer appears  operational.
The production order, issued in response to an investigator’s sworn  statement, says Del Mastro is suspected of incurring costs that breached his  campaign’s spending limit by more than $17,000.
He is also suspected of paying $21,000 for election expenses with a cheque  drawn on his personal bank account – which, if proven to be a personal  contribution, would dramatically exceed the $2,100 contribution limit for  candidates.
Those violations are each punishable by a fine of $5,000 or imprisonment for  as long as five years.
The production order also names Del Mastro’s official agent Richard McCarthy,  who was responsible for ensuring expense reports filed with Elections Canada  were accurate. He is suspected of improperly accepting the $21,000 alleged  personal donation from Del Mastro, failing to include all the expenses in  documents filed with Elections Canada and knowingly filing a false claim.
No charges against Del Mastro or McCarthy have been laid and none of the  allegations cited in the production order have been proven in court. The court  order was obtained by Thomas Ritchie, an investigator retained on contract by  Elections Canada last year.
Del Mastro said in a telephone interview Wednesday that he was not aware of  the investigation.
“I have no knowledge of what you’re talking about,” he said.
Later, when Postmedia reporter Stephen Maher was discussing the story on the  CBC television show Power and Politics, Del Mastro made an unscheduled  appearance to defend himself. He complained that Elections Canada has not  informed him about the investigation, which was putting him in the  spotlight.
“The reason why I’m here is things like this eat you up inside,” he said.  “I’ve got a family back in Peterborough. I’ve got a lot of friends there. I’ve  got a family in business. And it has my name on the sign.”
Del Mastro said he was in the process of reviewing records and couldn’t say  what exactly the $21,000 cheque paid for.
“They (Holinshed) undertook a small amount of work during the campaign,” he  said.
“That’s reflected in the campaign expenditure (report). They did also  undertake some work at various times for the association. Those would be on  separate statements.”
Neither the Del Mastro campaign-expense disclosures nor the annual report for  the Conservative electoral district show a payment of $21,000 to Holinshed.
Reached by the Ottawa Citizen at his home in Peterborough on Wednesday,  McCarthy said he was not under investigation, to his knowledge.
“I don’t know anything about this,” he said. “I don’t know what you’re  talking about.”
He recalled some dealings with Holinshed but said they had nothing to do with  the election.
“There was an inappropriate disbursement made to him for something that  didn’t have anything to do with the election period and then he paid it back,”  he said.
“I don’t want to talk to you about this. There is no issue.” He then hung  up.
For the past three months, Del Mastro has been the Conservative party’s  spokesman on Elections Canada’s investigation of misleading calls in the 2011  election. He answers most questions about the issue in the House of Commons and  has represented the party on TV panel discussions about robocalls.
There is no sign the Prime Minister’s Office knew Del Mastro was under  investigation until asked for comment by Postmedia News on Wednesday.
The office has yet to respond to the request.
The production order issued March 29 gave Hall until the end of May to hand  over his correspondence with Del Mastro or his campaign, the scripts used for  the voter contact calls, company payroll records and bank statements and related  invoices.
Ritchie appears to be working from some documents that were also introduced  in a small-claims lawsuit filed by Holinshed against Del Mastro in 2010 over  other work the company says it did for him after the election.
In the small-claims lawsuit the company sued Del Mastro, alleging it had not  been paid for providing a voter-tracking system called GeoVote – work it says  the MP requested Holinshed perform after the campaign.
None of the allegations in this case has been proven either.
Hall mentioned in court documents that Del Mastro had also hired the company  at the beginning of the election campaign to do $21,000 worth of voter ID and  get-out-the-vote work and had been happy with the work. That election work  allegedly included 630 hours of telephone calling and live calls on election  day, an invoice submitted in the court file purports to show. Del Mastro won the  election by a wide margin.
Holinshed was paid, Hall said in the court file, with two cheques from the  Peterborough riding association, one for $10,000 and another for $11,000. The  cheque for $11,000 was cancelled, and Hall says he received a $21,000 personal  cheque drawn on a joint account Del Mastro held with his wife – an overpayment  of $10,000 that Hall says he refunded.
The small claims court file includes a copy of a cheque, dated Aug. 18, 2008  – about three weeks before the election. The court file also includes a  Holinshed invoice for $21,000 sent to the Del Mastro campaign on Sept. 14, 2008.  It appears to have been signed by campaign manager John McNutt.
After the election, Hall claimed, Del Mastro asked him to do $1,500 of  additional work using some of the election data and to backdate the invoice to  the election period.
Hall later checked Elections Canada filings and found that the Del Mastro  campaign had declared only the $1,500 payment for the extra Holinshed work – a  payment Hall said he never received – and not the $21,000 of work he performed  during the election.
The filings show Del Mastro’s campaign was just $796 below its spending limit  of $92,567. Any substantial additional expenses that count toward the spending  limit would have breached the cap, in violation of the Election Act.
A letter in the court file shows Hall wrote to Del Mastro’s official agent,  McCarthy, to alert him to a “possible mistake” in the Elections Canada filings.  McCarthy wrote back to say the first cheque for $10,000 was issued in error and  the other for $11,000 had a stop-payment placed on it. McCarthy explained that  he shouldn’t have paid for “annual expenses” from the campaign and instead  should have pro-rated the amount for the election period.
In court documents, Del Mastro denied Holinshed’s claims and said the company  completed no work for him that was satisfactory. He further alleged that any  invoices for the work were “erroneous, false and were prepared prior to any  services being completed.”
The small claims action appears to have gone dormant.
Hall could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
Elections Canada has a track record of investigating MPs who try to secretly  use their own money to exceed election spending limits, although it doesn’t  typically impose tough sentences.
In 2008, former MP Wajid Khan – who was elected as a Liberal, then crossed  the floor to the Conservatives – pleaded guilty to exceeding election expenses  in the 2004 election in the Mississauga-Streetsville riding of Ontario, and was  fined $500. Khan ran unsuccessfully as a Conservative in 2008.
In the same year, Elections Canada entered into a “compliance agreement” with  Blair Wilson, who was elected in West Vancouver-Sunshine Coast-Sea to Sky  Country as a Liberal in 2006. In the agreement, Wilson acknowledged paying for  $9,000 in undeclared advertising expenses.
Wilson resigned from the Liberal caucus when allegations about election  irregularities were made public in 2007, and was refused readmittance in 2008.  He then joined the Green party, although Parliament was dissolved before he  could sit as the party’s first Green MP. He ran unsuccessfully for that party in  the 2008 election.

Read more: http://www.canada.com/news/Tory+robocalls+defender+under+investigation+election+violations/6740276/story.html#ixzz1xoIeIao6

© Copyright  (c) Postmedia News
Ottawa Citizen and Postmedia News

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