OTTAWA — Two donors to Conservative MP Dean Del Mastro’s 2008 election campaign have produced copies of cheques they say were reimbursements paid by a small electrical company owned by his cousin.
The cheques show the donors each received $1,050 from Deltro Electric Ltd. of Mississauga, Ont., two days before they made $1,000 donations to Del Mastro’s electoral district association in Peterborough.
The donors also produced copies of the personal cheques they sent to the riding association in September 2008.
The cheques could be key pieces of evidence should Elections Canada extend its ongoing investigation of Dean Del Mastro’s 2008 campaign expenses to the donations that funded it.
Under the Elections Act, it is a serious offence to conceal the real source of donations to an election campaign.
Deltro owner David Del Mastro has denied issuing any reimbursements to his cousin’s campaign contributors and says he only asked people to give voluntarily.
One of the cheques obtained by the Citizen is payable to a former Deltro employee who, earlier this month, signed a statutory declaration describing how Deltro staff were asked to enlist family and friends in the alleged reimbursement scheme.
David Del Mastro “advised me at that time that he wanted to make a large monetary donation to the re-election campaign of his cousin, Dean Del Mastro Member of Parliament,” the statement said.
“My employer assured me that if I would do so, my employer would cause his company, Deltro Electric Ltd., to reimburse me for the full sum of $1,000, plus a further bonus of $50, and that I would receive an income tax receipt for the donation.”
Cheque in the amount of $1,050 drawn on an account belonging to Deltro Electric, owned by MP Dean Del Mastro’s cousin, is alleged by the cheque’s recipient, a Deltro employee, to be reimbursement for a $1,000 donation to Del Mastro’s re-campaign. Images of this cheque and others were captured by the donors’ banks when they were deposited in ATM machines. At the Citizen’s request, the donors asked their bank to produce copies of these images.
The alleged scheme was intended to circumvent the limit on political donations, the former employee said. The Conservative government lowered the limit to $1,100 through their 2006 centrepiece ethics legislation, the Federal Accountability Act.
The statement listed the names of seven friends of family members of the employee who also participated in the scheme.
The employee also listed the names of 11 Deltro employees, their family members or friends of the owner who, Elections Canada records show, also all gave $1,000 to Del Mastro’s campaign or riding association.
The former employee and two other donors with the same story of donations and reimbursements spoke on the condition of anonymity.
Reached on his cellphone Wednesday, David Del Mastro said he had no comment and hung up before he could be asked about the cheques. He did not respond to a fax and email requesting comment.
He has previously denied he ever reimbursed anyone for giving money to his cousin’s campaign. Claims to the contrary were likely from a disgruntled former employee, he suggested.
He said it was reasonable to believe that 19 people would give so much money to a candidate running in a riding three hours away just because he asked. Four other people with ties to Deltro who donated $1,000 each, and were contacted by the Ottawa Citizen, have all said they gave voluntarily and were not reimbursed.
The cheques from Deltro do not indicate why they were issued. The “memo” field on both is left blank. Images of the cheques were captured by the donors’ banks when they were deposited in ATM machines. At the Ottawa Citizen’s request, the donors asked their bank to produce copies of these images.
The donors who provided the cheque images understand they face potential legal jeopardy by admitting participation in the alleged scheme. They hope Elections Canada will consider that they came forward voluntarily should the agency launch an investigation.
On the way into his party’s caucus meeting last week, Dean Del Mastro described a previous story about the alleged reimbursements as “silly.”
Asked for comment Wednesday, Del Mastro wrote in an email that “all donations to my campaigns have been received in the proper form, properly recorded and reported and receipts issued as per Elections Canada guidelines. Always have been, always will be.”
Elections Canada is investigating allegations that Del Mastro’s campaign exceeded its spending limit by hiring an Ottawa company to do $21,000 worth of voter identification and get-out-the-vote work.
According to court documents, Elections Canada has obtained a personal cheque that Del Mastro wrote to the company in that amount.
There is also an allegation, made by an Elections Canada investigator, that a document submitted to the agency by the Del Mastro campaign purporting to show a refund by the company was “a false document.”
Del Mastro insists his postelection filings were in order and has denied any wrongdoing.
He told a Peterborough TV station last week that he expects he will be cleared of any wrongdoing over his expenses and said he has the full support of the prime minister.
Ottawa Citizen and Postmedia News