Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Is there a word to describe this?

Kickback is such a strong word. It implies criminal intent.

That question came from Pat Martin of the NDs in questioning David Lowry just a few minutes ago (I managed to watch part of the hearings this afternoon on CPAC, for some bizarre reason there was no morning session when I attempted to watch live streaming). As I wrote in my last post this morning, we have to be careful here. Parliament or its members can allege illegal activity but it's up to the police to decide whether to press charges and for the Crown to pursue those charges.

However, if you're given money for a local campaign, supposedly to pay for flyers, signs and your candidate's personal website -- and then you're told to flow it right back to national headquarters in Ottawa, as Lowry admitted happened (he never even saw a paper cheque, it was done by wire transfer, and just pennies under the $50,000 of room he had left), what would you call it? I call it a reason to investigate further, without specifically saying what it might be (or not).

Lowry also notes that he didn't pick the stations the ads were aired on. Well, that's a surprise. In his defence, though, it's kind of hard to target a specific audience when there are between 60 to 80 or so districts within listening range (factoring in repeater transmitters which some stations have extending their range), 23 in Toronto alone, but doesn't common sense dictate you air ads at target niches where you think your opponents are vulnerable? I hardly think most listeners to a hard rock station would necessarily want to hear from a party whose bureaucrats consider rock to be Satan worship.

Here's something else I'd like to ask, that I don't think the committee has even considered, and perhaps not a lot of reporters either.

Under the 2001 omnibus anti-terrorism legislation passed by Parliament after 9/11, any transaction over $10,000 or a combination thereof within 24 hours must be reported to a federal agency called FINTRAC, the Financial Tracking Commission. This affects everyone: Baniks, trust companies, credit unions, even casinos and lottery agencies. And definitely, that also includes political parties. It doesn't matter if it's the payer, payee or a third party handling the transaction but it must be noted.

This provision was planned long before the 9/11 atrocities (it was intended to stop biker gangs and the mafia, no one even thought of using it against terrorists like Al Qaeda) but its broad effect is meant to protect law-abiding citizens against those who want "vigorish" or some kind of commission for protection. It's also a tool to help law enforcement focus in on suspicious activity. "In and out" is something I would definitely call suspicious, and unethical if not outright illegal.

Failure to report such transfers carries stiff maximum penalties: $25,000 each instance for an individual, and $5 million for a corporation. (Let's see, 67 times 5 equals, oh, $335 million. Let's see a political party pay that fine.) And, oh, neglect is not an excuse for this offence any more than any other offence classified as criminal by Parliament.

I'm wondering why the bank handling the Conservative HQ account, or Western Union or whoever it was, didn't notice something was weird when tens of thousands at a time were going out to candidates and then identical or nearly identical amounts was flowing back to Ottawa, and within just a few days or less.

When I think about this, I think about variations of Nigeria 419 scams where in the rare case you actually get a hold of the money, you only keep 30%; the rest is supposed to be wired somewhere else for security until a later date. Later, you learn the cheque bounced and you're left holding the bag. A friend of mine nearly got hosed last year like this, except the sender was from Switzerland and the amount was relatively small -- $2000. Good thing she asked the bank to put a hold on the amount.

The difference here is you get the money, send it all back, and you're entitled to 60% as long as you get 10% of the vote. But do you get to keep the money, or do you have to send it back to Ottawa to cover their national cum local expenses? If it's true, then it makes the whole protection money racket look like small potatoes.

I'm just speculating here. Whatever the truth is this is going to get a lot worse, before it gets better. And if the Cons are banking on the people ignoring this since the MSM is largely ignoring it, they obviously haven't heard of blogging.

By the way, at least one more candidate, David Marler (who ran in Brome-Missisquoi) said that he's no longer a member of the Con party after this. No kidding.

You just can't ask for better TV than this. Forget Canadian Idol or America's Got Talent. Wasn't it Eddie Greenspan who said, "The only thing that's surprising is reality?"

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Anonymous said...

There was no committee hearing this morning. It was adjourned as no witnesses showed up.

Excellent post!

BlastFurnace said...

Thanks, Penlan. Just for the record, I checked the committee's website, and it showed a start time of 10 am. O'Malley's live blog from this morning noted, as you did, no witnesses showed up.

Is this because Harper or his handlers had corralled the witnesses and told them what to say? Frankly, I wouldn't be surprised. It's how both Bush Administrations have tried to snowjob Congress on the environment -- as Al Gore has documented.

Anonymous said...


It seems that the CPC has been telling witnesses not to appear. That it would be "in their best interests". That they don't have to. Almost sounds like a threat to me. This according to Mr. Lowry one of yesterday's witnesses. And I believe there are others who have been told the same thing.

So that could be a possibility why the 4 witnesses did not show up yesterday morning, nor did they notify the committee that they wouldn't be there. Zero communication from them - all from Quebec.

This is a very serious matter as it would be interference & contempt of Parliament, from what I understand.

But the good thing is that more & more of the CPC's tactics are being revealed & once the House resumes sitting a lot of charges could be brought against them in this regard.

I would agree with you on the environmental front. That the CPC is a mini version of the Bush Administration. The difference is that they have no influence on the other Parties but are snow-balling the people as best they can. Or perhaps they are having an influence, to some degree, on the NDP who are constantly bashing the Liberals on every single front, working hand-in-hand with the CPC.

Anonymous said...

"Or perhaps they are having an influence, to some degree, on the NDP who are constantly bashing the Liberals on every single front, working hand-in-hand with the CPC."

Isn't this post about a question asked by a New Democrat? Why would Pat Martin stick it to the Tories when they're working hand in hand. I guess I can see your point since the NDP ass been supporting the Tories agenda for over a year now, voting for their regressive policies on the environment and immigration... wait... that was the Liberals. Enough of this bullhonkey that the NDP is working with the Tories, you should check your own record before towing the Liberal line (next you'll say that it's because the NDP voted against Paul Martin that we have a Tory government.. too bad all those New Democrats went to peoples houses with loaded pistols and forced them to vote Tory, next time they'll have to ask Jack to make them vote NDP).