Tuesday, April 22, 2008

The "In and Out" scandal....

First, let me ask if we could rename this scandal slightly to the "Inside and Out" scandal, so that it can have it's own theme song! And, with all due respect to the Bee Gees, I mean the Feist version:

OK, that task completed, let's get to the scandal. There are any number of places you can go to learn more, but allow me to point to a few of particular interest.

First, from the G&M, there's: "Spending scheme raised eyebrows within Tory ranks". This is a great 3 page article on the scandal, including lots of information about how uncomfortable many TORIES were with the financial maneuvering, how little local Tory campaign officials knew about a supposed "local" ad buy, and how at least two Tory candidates outright refused to go along (good for them, I say!).

Second, there's this articles from the Globe and Mail: "Search Warrant suggests Tories overspent by $1 million". Here's my favourite passage:

As the probe expanded, Elections Canada reviewed other questionable invoices that were provided by Conservative candidates and related to Retail Media, the Toronto-based firm that made the ad buys for the national party. Of these invoices, 15 allegedly included the names of individual candidates on Retail Media letterhead, even though Retail Media told Elections Canada it dealt only with the party and “did not generate invoices to candidates or electoral districts.

For instance, one invoice in the amount of $39,999.91, filed on behalf of Steve Halicki, candidate for the Ontario riding of York South-Weston, was on Retail Media letterhead, the affidavit states.

When executives with the company were shown the invoice, one said “the 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 buy,” the affidavit states.

Barbro Soderberg, Mr. Halicki's official agent, told investigators she did not provide written authorization to anyone to incur expenses on behalf of the campaign and that she had no knowledge whatsoever of Retail Media, the affidavit states.

Ms. Soderberg said she was approached by Conservative Party campaign manager Rom Cimaroli, who proposed a deposit of about $40,000 into Mr. Halicki's campaign account. The funds would be immediately transferred back to the party and recorded as an advertising expense, the affidavit states. Despite some misgivings, Ms. Soderberg said she was reassured by party officials that the transaction was legal.

“I had contacted the Conservative Party in Ottawa and was reassured that this was okay,” Ms. Soderberg told investigators, according to the affidavit.

As a bookkeeper I know that sometimes you have to use creative accounting between two small companies, but I found this move was being a little too creative.

- emphasis added -

Paul Wells finds the (allegedly) faked invoices particularly funny. He also gets credit for this post, titled "Books the Tories will wish again and again had never been written" and his post on how this isn't the first time the Tories have been caught in "election-time fancy footwork". He also hilariously suggests that if this is their form of chess, perhaps the Tories should switch back to checkers.

Then, Mr. Wells' commentary lead me to Mr. Aaron Wherry's blog at Macleans, where he's diligently reading through the warrant for interesting quotes. I was going to post the most interesting (read "damning") quotes, but this post is already horrendously long, and there are a lot of them. So, beyond "Reading the Warrant: Part One" may I also suggest checking out:

Part Two

Part Five

Part Seven

Part Nine

Part Eleven

Part Twelve

Part Thirteen

Part Fourteen

Part Seventeen

and Part Nineteen.

All of that in the first 56 pages of an apparently 700 page document.

This is gonna take a while.

Thank God for Feist.

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