Public property reserved for Liberal elite

Last year around this time, I wrote about Stephane Dion’s reward to the top-tier of elite Liberal donors. Last June, the Liberal leader held an exclusive garden party at his official residence, Stornoway. The mansion is property of the National Capital Commission (NCC), a division of the federal government, and therefore public property.

This year, Stephane Dion is again using Stornoway to reward members of the Laurier Club for paying their dues to the party. If you’re a loyal Liberal and have maxed out your annual donation at $1100, you can hob-nob it with fellow Liberals of equal or greater means at the residence currently on loan to Dion by the Canadian taxpayer. Not a Liberal donor but just a chump who pays their taxes? Sorry, this party is for VIP Liberals only.

Last year I noted, “It’s not illegal to use government property in this way as a perk for top donors to a political party per se, but is it ethical?”

I still have the same question.

Here is the story from Canwest about the event,

Liberal leader Stéphane Dion is hosting several hundred of the party’s well-heeled donors tonight at an exclusive garden party in his official residence, Stornoway. Between 400 and 500 members of the Laurier Club, membership that comes only with an annual donation of $1,100 to the Liberal party, are expected to gather under a sprawling backyard tent as part of Mr. Dion’s garden-party events this year, an aide confirmed.

Laurier Club members did not have to donate to the party to attend the event in their honour, press aide Mark Dunn said.

An entrance fee would have been handy, in light of Mr. Dion’s outstanding debt from his 2006 leadership campaign, but contrary to political financing rules. In 2006, Parliament passed the Harper government’s public accountability act in 2006, lowering the ceiling on individual donations from $5,000 to $1,100.

Many Liberal hands make light work at SHAMBA

Since news about apparent Liberal links to the SHAMBA space first broke here last week, Canwest has written about the story and included a denial and excuse from former Liberal leadership contestant Gerard Kennedy,

Kennedy, however, says the fundraising venue was completely paid for in a transaction with GlobAlive Communications Corp, a telecommunications company that started the Shamba foundation.

He said the invitation incorrectly identified the venue as the charitable foundation, creating the confusion.

Kennedy said the only connection with the SHAMBA foundation was that the space has become associated with the charity because the group uses it.

He said GlobAlive rents its spaces – including that site – commercially to both charities and private users.

“It certainly smells like a desperate kind of attempt by the Conservatives,” Kennedy told Canwest News Service on Sunday night.

Desperation? I imagine that conservatives like myself, and indeed, I’m certain that most everyday non-Liberal-membership-card-holding Canadians, are concerned about the equal application of the rules concerning partisan fundraising so that it is done above board. Kennedy, as Globalive’s PR people did when they called on Friday, blamed erroneous Facebook promotion of the event. Later, the official registration form for the SHAMBA/Kennedy event surfaced making the excuse harder to believe.

Today, the Conservative Party put out the following release linking SHAMBA to another potential partisan Liberal fundraiser involving Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty,

NEWS RELEASE

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

June 3, 2008

CONSERVATIVES SUBMIT NEW INFORMATION TO CRA ABOUT SHAMBA-LIBERAL TIES

Liberals must come clean about fundraising practices

OTTAWA – The Conservative Party today asked the Canada Revenue Agency’s charities directorate to investigate another potential partisan Liberal fundraiser held at the SHAMBA Foundation in downtown Toronto. SHAMBA is headed by Anthony Lacavera, a prominent Liberal donor who has contributed in excess of $4,700 to Liberal Gerard Kennedy over the past 2 years.

Conservatives have learned that on August 16, 2007, the SHAMBA Foundation hosted a $500 per person fundraiser for the Ontario Liberal Party. The fundraiser featured an appearance by Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty. According to the Canada Revenue Agency, registered charities such as SHAMBA are not permitted to directly or indirectly involve themselves in partisan political activities.

“A registered charity cannot be created for a political purpose and cannot be involved in partisan political activities. A political activity is considered partisan if it involves direct or indirect support of, or opposition to, a political party or candidate for public office.” (http://www.cra-arc.gc.ca/tax/charities/operating/activities/other-e.html#pol)

This new information about partisan Liberal fundraising at SHAMBA comes on the heels of information released June 1, 2008 which revealed that SHAMBA recently hosted a $250 per person fundraiser for federal Liberal intergovernmental affairs critic Gerard Kennedy. According to documents posted on the Liberal Party’s website, the Kennedy fundraiser was identified as a “Political Ideals Celebration” and the registration form for the event was co-branded with Liberal Party and SHAMBA Foundation brand identities.

Conservatives have already written to both Elections Canada and the Canada Revenue Agency to investigate the Kennedy fundraiser.

Given the SHAMBA Foundation’s raison d’etre is to provide charities with no-cost event space and negotiated rates on food and beverage, Conservatives want to ensure that Kennedy did not violate Elections Canada’s rules by receiving an illegal non-monetary contribution from the Foundation.

“A non-monetary contribution is the commercial value of a service or of property or the use of property or money, with the exception of volunteer labour, provided without charge or at less than commercial value.” The Elections Canada Handbook for Leadership Contestants, Their Financial Agents, and Auditors http://www.elections.ca/pol/lea/EC20194_c2_e.pdf) (Page 15)

To date, neither SHAMBA, nor the Kennedy campaign, have disclosed:

· The original contract for the event;

· The “commercial rates” supposedly paid for use of the SHAMBA space as well as the food and beverage sold/consumed at the event; or

· Any information that could assure Canadians that terms of the contract for the event were not altered after the appropriateness of the fundraiser was questioned on the was questioned by blogger Stephen Taylor on May 28, 2008. (http://www.stephentaylor.ca/2008/05/does-the-shamba-foundation-risk-losing-its-charitable-status/)

“We need answers from both Liberal candidate Gerard Kennedy and Liberal donor Anthony Lacavera about their partisan Liberal fundraising,” said Conservative MP Dean Del Mastro.

- 30 -

For further information please contact (613) 755-2000

When Globalive’s PR people called me on Friday, I noted the firm’s name and offered to post it to give them credit for doing their job (cleaning up a mess). They said that it wasn’t necessary and that I could just say that Globalive’s PR people contacted me. However, I didn’t put it together at the time but Narrative – a company owned by Bensimon Byrne – made the call of behalf of Globalive/SHAMBA. Bensimon Byrne was the firm contracted to make Liberal Party attack ads during the 2004 and 2006 campaign. The ads (especially the aircraft carrier/teenage girl abortion/disintegrating flag spot) was a particularly – “desperate kind of attempt” – as Gerard Kennedy might say.

When a political fundraiser titled Political Ideals Celebration is held on space that is the raison d’être of a charitable organization and it is billed in this way, alarm bells go off. Did the head of the SHAMBA foundation give permission for the organization’s branding to be used along side that of the Liberal Party, of Gerard Kennedy? Presumably, the head of SHAMBA would have seen the registration form. Being the head of a charitable organization, did he make attempts to change the branding of the event?

According to this article in Business Edge News Magazine,

Asked about the amount of money Globalive invested in Shamba, Lacavera described it as “sizable” and reluctantly put it “well into the hundreds of thousands of dollars,” adding that it would likely cost “tens of thousands of dollars” to rent out a similar venue for an event.

If Kennedy paid fair market value for the space, did it cost him “tens of thousands of dollars”?

Michael Ignatieff admits debt delinquency

Michael Ignatieff just sent me an email:

The email ends with a couple of links to his donation page.

What will be the consequences for Michael Ignatieff?

Will Elections Canada provide special treatment for Liberals that run afoul of its rules?

If so, what are the broader consequences for the Conservative Party’s argument that the government body is biased against them?

How much does Ignatieff owe?

Does this indicate that the Conservatives are better at raising money from their membership than the Liberals are? Why are Liberal members disengaged? Why aren’t Liberals giving?

Does the SHAMBA foundation risk losing its charitable status?

UPDATE: Globalive’s PR people gave me a call

UPDATE: Liberal/SHAMBA association suggested by form found on Liberal Party website

Gerard Kennedy, the former Liberal leadership contender and current Liberal candidate for Parkdale High Park is holding a fundraiser tonight in order to pay off his leadership debts.

Here is the Facebook page for the event

The fundraiser is to take place with the help of the SHAMBA foundation, an organization that oversees the SHAMBA space. The concept is simple but quite original; the SHAMBA space is a rooftop patio lent out to charitable organizations to hold events. According to the foundation’s website:

The fun part – and the cornerstone of the SHAMBA foundation – is the creation of a brand new 2,500 square foot rooftop terrace designed for fantastic events that raise money for great causes. The SHAMBA Space, as we call it, is available for local charities to use at no cost to host events. In addition to donating this exquisite space, SHAMBA also negotiates sponsorships with food and beverage partners to ensure that the bulk of funds raised at an event actually go directly to the cause.

The generous concept is that of Globalive CEO Anthony Lacavera, a Gerard Kennedy leadership supporter according to data at Elections Canada.

Gerard Kennedy, like some other Liberal leadership candidates, needs to pay off his Liberal leadership debts by June 3rd or else he will run afoul of Elections Canada. Anthony Lacavera seems like a good friend with a great foundation that is helping Kennedy pay off his debts. So what’s the problem here?

The SHAMBA foundation is a registered charitable organization according to the Canadian Revenue Agency. Also, registered charities are prohibited from partisan political activity under the law.

A registered charity cannot be created for a political purpose and cannot be involved in partisan political activities. A political activity is considered partisan if it involves direct or indirect support of, or opposition to, a political party or candidate for public office.

One hopes that Gerard Kennedy will move his fundraiser to a different venue because the purpose of the SHAMBA foundation is to provide free event space for charities. According to the Facebook page, the foundation is the location for the event. If the space is not being provided for free, one hopes that Kennedy is paying fair market value for event space that never seems to be rented for a fee. Even so, should this charity be mixed up with partisan political activity?

UPDATE 5/30 4:30pm: Globalive’s PR people just gave me a call to admit that the Gerard Kennedy fundraiser was erroneously billed/described by the promoters of the event. The SHAMBA space is used for charitable events but for the intents of the Gerard Kennedy event the space should be thought of within the Globalive domain (a company) rather than that of the SHAMBA foundation (a charity); the Gerard Kennedy fundraiser took place on Globalive property rather than that of the SHAMBA foundation and though it is the same space the space takes different identities depending on the – or rather this – context. I was assured that Gerard Kennedy paid fair market value for use of the space from Globalive and that the space was not made as a donation from the company.

UPDATE 5/31 5:55pm: Here is the registration form for the event (still live on the LPC(O) website). The form clearly has the logo of the SHAMBA foundation (a registered charity). This doesn’t seem to simply be an erroneously written Facebook listing. The event is officially billed as a SHAMBA foundation/Gerard Kennedy event. I think that the earlier PR call may have been a sort of after-the-fact damage control revision of history. Charities cannot participate in partisan political activity. This form from the Liberal Party website suggests that the SHAMBA foundation and the Liberal Party have an association.

Read this doc on Scribd: Political Ideals Celebration

Dion, Stornoway and Laurier Club Liberals

Last night, members of the Liberal Party’s elite “Laurier Club” assembled at the residence of the Leader of the Official Opposition. The venue was the Stornoway mansion and the event was a garden party.

First, what is the Laurier Club?

The Laurier Club is a national organization made up of business executives, community leaders and those interested in sustaining the Liberal Party who also support the principles of parliamentary democracy and are interested in the public policy decisions affecting the lives of the citizens of Canada.

Individual membership contribution is $1000 and is in good standing for a period of twelve months starting on the sign up date. Membership does not include contributions made to local ridings, candidates, leadership and nomination contestants. Members can choose to make a one time gift or sign up for monthly contributions.

Laurier Club Members will:

* Receive invitations to Laurier Club functions with representatives of the Liberal Party of Canada;
* Attend Laurier Club functions in any region of the country;
* Attend any Party fundraising event at cost

Sounds like lots of fun for any Liberal, however, it was a Laurier Club event and to attend you must have been paid up to the Liberal Party of Canada to the tune of $1000 (if you’re under 30, you can get in for $500)

Stornoway is the property of the National Capital Commission (ie. the government). It’s not illegal to use government property in this way as a perk for top donors to a political party per se, but is it ethical?

The Prime Minister does not assemble top donors for parties or hold fundraisers for the Conservative Fund at 24 Sussex.

However, former Liberal leaders Bill Graham, Paul Martin and Jean Chretien have used Stornoway and 24 Sussex to fête top Liberal Party donors in the past.

dion-laurier.jpg

Is TVB’s Jim D. Patterson a Liberal partisan?

Yesterday, I broke the story about how a regulatory body of Canada’s private broadcasters was apparently holding back advertising produced by the Canadian Renewable Fuels Association (CRFA).

The reason for the rejection of CRFA’s advertising? Insufficient size (and duration) of a disclaimer describing who produced the ad spots as TVB categorized the commercials as “Issues and Opinions” due to the buzzworthy nature of renewable fuels.

However, CRFA was given another bizarre reason for the rejection of one of their ads: a two second clip of Stephen Harper stumping during the previous election on a renewable fuels promise needed a “letter of attestation” from the Conservative leader in order for it to appear in the commercial. In other words, CRFA needed Harper’s permission to use Harper’s image even though the use of such an image was from a public event and without media restriction. The clip was used by CRFA to remind Canadians of the promise made by the Conservatives during the previous election on renewable fuels.

CRFA cried foul and rightly argued that such a stipulation for advertising would mean that public figures that debate and write legislation for the public could have an automatic veto over any commercial that they don’t like that featured their image. It should be noted that the issue of ownership of the video content was never in dispute, but rather that the subject of the video (Harper) had not signed off on it’s use.

This got me thinking. Surely there are other examples of commercials produced using the images of elected officials. Election advertising and especially attack ads come to mind.

During the closing days of the previous election, I doubt that Stephen Harper signed off on the blurry, war drum fade-in of his image while Liberals warned of “soldiers with guns. In our cities. We’re not making this up”. Why would he give his permission for such a spot? Further, if TVB is responsible for editorial control over commercials that air on private broadcasters, why on Earth did a spot showing women hunched over cowering while a voice-over falsely accused Harper of being an ideologue that would prevent a woman from her right to choose get approved, while Corn Cob Bob got canned for using an innocuous clip of Stephen Harper (for about two seconds on less than 5% of the screen).

The TVB apparently greenlighted obviously slanderous ad copy while rejecting a happy-go-lucky ad about renewable fuels.

During the last days of the 2006 election, after the Liberals made those war drum spots (we’re not making this up), the Conservatives responded with their own ad with clips of Liberals saying the soldier ad was a “bad idea” etc and a clip of Paul Martin admitting that he approved the ads. The Liberals were quick to condemn the ad in a press release dated January 15th, 2006:

Conservatives Called on to Withdraw TV Spots
January 15, 2006

The Conservative Party of Canada has produced new television ads which the Liberal Party of Canada believes are in violation of Canada’s Copyright laws.

The Liberal Party of Canada calls on the Conservative Party to withdraw these ads.

Here’s the ad:

The Liberals lobbied to have the ad pulled because they claimed that the Conservatives violated CBC copyright by using a clip of Paul Martin admitting that he approved the controversial Liberal attack ads. A CP story from January 16th, 2006 gives us some more perspective:

OTTAWA (CP) — A new Conservative TV ad is reminding voters some of Paul Martin’s own candidates disapproved of a controversial Liberal attack which some say implied a Tory government would send tanks into the streets.

The Conservative ad recycles quotes from prominent Liberals including John McCallum, former defence minister, who last week called his party’s ad a mistake.

The 30-second Liberal spot was based on a campaign promise by Conservative Leader Stephen Harper to station 500-member battalions of Canadian Forces personnel in major cities for deployment in emergencies.

The Liberal ad outraged military personnel, who said it implies the Tories were advocating some form of martial law.

It was quickly yanked from the Liberal party’s English website, but a French version aired on television in Quebec.

Martin has said he gave an initial go-ahead, then changed his mind and pulled the ad, which McCallum and Keith Martin, a former Reform party MP and now a Liberal incumbent, later criticized.

The Liberals called on the Conservatives to withdraw the ad in a statement Sunday, saying they believe it violates copyright laws by using CBC footage which they did not have permission to use.

But the Conservatives said all their ads were approved by the party’s legal counsel and Telecaster, the Canadian advertising authority. They added they haven’t received any complaints about the ad from the CBC.

Telecaster (TVB) initially approved the ad for distribution, however, the Liberals complained and the ad was subsequently pulled.

TVB’s greenlight of controversial Liberal ads, the rejection of CRFA’s ads which favourably portray Harper’s environmental policy, along with the pulling of the previously approved Conservative response ad during the past election after Liberals complained raises a few red flags.

As with other elements of our democracy, the approval of private advertising of election ads (and non-election advocacy ads) should be accomplished on a level playing field. Why should one party (whether Conservative or Liberal) have an advantage over the other when trying to get advertising approved for consumption by the public on private networks? Of course, private networks are free to do business with whomever they choose, but would it be a scandal if the umbrella group that is is in charge of editorial content control for these networks controlled for preferred partisanship rather than what they are supposed to control for? (hate speech, indecency, promotion of unlawful acts)

According to the Television Bureau of Canada’s website, the president of the organization is a man named Jim Patterson. In this document we find out that Jim Patterson also goes by the name James and that his middle initial is D.

I decided to search the Elections Canada donations database for donations from people named Jim/James D. Patterson. The following results describe one individual who, according to Elections Canada, lives in Lakefield Ontario with the postal code K0L 2H0.

Name of contributor Political party / Return type / End period Date received Class of contributor / Part # of the return Contribution transferred to (leadership contestant) Monetary ($) Non-monetary ($)
Jim D. Patterson Liberal Party of Canada / Annual / 2005 Dec. 31, 2005 Individuals / Part 2a 450.00 0.00
Jim D. Patterson Liberal Party of Canada / Annual / 2005 May 25, 2005 Individuals / Part 2a 250.00 0.00
Jim D. Patterson Liberal Party of Canada / Annual / 2005 Dec. 20, 2005 Individuals / Part 2a 450.00 0.00
Jim D. Patterson Liberal Party of Canada / Annual / 2004 Jun. 30, 2004 Individuals / Part 2a 500.00 0.00
Jim D. Patterson Liberal Party of Canada / Annual / 2004 Sep. 29, 2004 Individuals / Part 2a 1,000.00 0.00
Jim D. Patterson Liberal Party of Canada / Quarterly / Jun. 2005 May 25, 2005 Individuals / Part 2a 250.00 0.00
Jim D. Patterson Liberal Party of Canada / Quarterly / Dec. 2005 Dec. 20, 2005 Individuals / Part 2a 450.00 0.00
Jim D. Patterson Liberal Party of Canada / Quarterly / Sep. 2006 Jul. 27, 2006 Individuals / Part 2a 83.34 0.00
Jim D. Patterson Liberal Party of Canada / Quarterly / Jun. 2006 Apr. 28, 2006 Individuals / Part 2a 83.34 0.00
Jim D. Patterson Liberal Party of Canada / Quarterly / Jun. 2006 May 30, 2006 Individuals / Part 2a 83.34 0.00
Jim D. Patterson Liberal Party of Canada / Quarterly / Jun. 2006 Jun. 30, 2006 Individuals / Part 2a 83.34 0.00
Jim D. Patterson Liberal Party of Canada / Quarterly / Mar. 2006 Jan. 31, 2006 Individuals / Part 2a 83.34 0.00
Jim D. Patterson Liberal Party of Canada / Quarterly / Mar. 2006 Feb. 28, 2006 Individuals / Part 2a 83.34 0.00
Jim D. Patterson Liberal Party of Canada / Quarterly / Mar. 2006 Mar. 31, 2006 Individuals / Part 2a 83.34 0.00
Jim D. Patterson Liberal Party of Canada / Quarterly / Sep. 2006 Aug. 31, 2006 Individuals / Part 2a 83.34 0.00
Jim D. Patterson Liberal Party of Canada / Quarterly / Sep. 2006 Sep. 29, 2006 Individuals / Part 2a 83.34 0.00
James D Patterson Lloyd, Diane / Liberal Party of Canada / Peterborough Jan. 11, 2006 Individuals / Part 2a 250.00

Is this the same Jim/James D. Patterson that is the head of the Television Bureau of Canada, the private regulatory body that has editorial control over “Issues and Opinion” advertising?

If so, should a partisan be in charge of approving ads during a time sensitive period (such as an election) where parties depend on television advertising for their most critical rapid responses? Also, would it be appropriate for a partisan to have an advanced look at a competing party’s ads?

Cue Mark Holland

This past week, the Conservatives have nodded in the general direction of Elections Canada by refiling their 2005 expenses with the government body which recently clarified its position on convention fees as political donations. This provides some declouded some of my confusion last week when I received a tax receipt to a “donation” that I didn’t make this year. The receipt instead was for 2005.

The status of convention fees was a significant point of contention this year between the Conservative and the Liberals. The Tories via their minority government’s federal accountability act legislation threw a wrench, the Grits argue, into their leadership convention plans. That convention, which wrapped up at the beginning of this month saw approximately 5,000 delegates paying about $1,000 each to participate in the process that elected Chretien-era cabinet minister Stephane Dion as the leader of that party. The Conservatives pointed out that the Liberals, by arguing for donation status for their convention fees, were in fact asking the Canadian taxpayer to subsidize their party’s convention costs as political donations receive a healthy tax refund.

The Liberals, in turn, tried to make hay out of Conservatives being caught afoul of their storied drive for accountability arguing that the Tories had over-donated to their own party and, in a weak attempt of Tu Quoque, tried to paint the Conservatives over-donations as a measure of corruption in line with the embezzlement of millions by Liberal-friendly advertising firms in previous years.

In fact, Elections Canada reveals that even under the new interpretation of convention fees as donations, a mere three delegates at the Tory policy convention had to be refunded for over-donating. Underneath it all, only three people were at or near the maximum donation amount and also attended the convention that year. One of those delegates was Stephen Harper. Harper likely made the maximum possible donation to his party that year and because he also attended the policy convention, he over-donated via his own convention fee. The Conservatives had not considered the fees to be donations in part because of their position that political conventions should not be subsidized by the Canadian taxpayer.

The PMO has expressed that while they do not agree with Elections Canada’s decision, they will comply with it. They also underscore that it has always been their position that whatever the decision rendered by Elections Canada, they would comply with it.