Paging Joe Comartin…

In justice news

Ex-Liberal official guilty of fraud not going to jail

MONTREAL — Benoit Corbeil, a former top federal Liberal party official, won’t be going to jail after all.

Corbeil who pleaded guilty to influence peddling and fraud charges had his 15 month jail sentence reduced to 12 months served in the community by the Quebec Court of Appeal in a ruling issued on Wednesday.

In upholding his appeal on the fraud charge, but upholding his conviction on the corruption charge, the court also absolved him of the order to repay $117,000 to the Liberal Party of Canada.

Did you really expect anything different?

Now, will we see opposition MPs call the Minister of Justice to the mat to explain how this judicial outcome could have occurred?

Explain Rahim Jaffer sentence, ministers told

Joe Comartin doesn’t believe Rahim Jaffer received favourable treatment for his driving conviction but he wants the federal and Ontario governments to tell Canadians that.

Mr. Comartin, the NDP justice critic and former long-time trial lawyer, believes there is a risk that the Jaffer case will shake the integrity of the judicial system.

It seems that we need tougher sentencing guidelines for committing fraud while Liberal. The Crown could not proceed on the heftier charges in the Jaffer case because he was not searched in compliance with his Charter rights. However, Corbeil was convicted.

Michael Ignatieff’s new Director of Communications has an interesting background

“Everything old is new again” is the buzz coming from Liberals and journalists in Ottawa. Peter Donolo’s the new boss of the OLO shop (the Dunno-LO as one journalist told me weeks ago) and today we’ve learned that he’s finally put some new key players in place after the wholly awkward ejection of Davey/Fairbrother.

Among the “fresh” faces is Michael Ignatieff’s new Director of Communications, Mario Laguë, a man the CBC’s Rosemary Barton tells us is among the new gang that “[knows] Quebec inside-out”.

But, a Lexis-Nexis/Informart plunge into the past tells us more!

It appears that Mario Laguë was not only hired by Paul Martin to put a brave face on the sponsorship scandal, but Ignatieff’s new D.Comm was also part of a three-man panel with Chuck Guité that hired then Public Works Minister Alfonso Gagliano’s Chief of Staff to replace Guité, who was retiring. Stephen Harper, then opposition leader, criticized the hire saying the sponsorship scandal could have been stopped if a senior bureacrat was hired in the position instead.

Affidavit shows how Guité was replaced Document reveals membership of team that chose boss for sponsorship program — The Globe and Mail, October 18th, 2005 by Daniel Leblanc.

OTTAWA — An affidavit prepared by the Public Service Commission for the Gomery inquiry sheds new light on the controversial hiring of a former Liberal aide to head the sponsorship program in 1999, including the role of a federal official who would become an aide to Prime Minister Paul Martin.

The inquiry heard conflicting testimony about how Pierre Tremblay, then the chief of staff to then public works minister Alfonso Gagliano, was hired to replace retiring bureaucrat Chuck Guité. Mr. Guité said he rigged the process at Mr. Gagliano’s behest; the former minister denied any political interference.

The affidavit, which went unnoticed when it was tabled in May, shows that Mr. Tremblay’s hiring was approved by a three-member selection board made up of Mr. Guité, Public Service Commission executive resourcing consultant Michael Carey, and Mario Laguë, a long-time Liberal supporter who became Mr. Martin’s first director of communications when he became Prime Minister. The affidavit said Mr. Tremblay was hired “based on the recommendation of the selection board.”

Conservative Leader Stephen Harper said yesterday the problems with the sponsorship program could have been stopped if an experienced civil servant had been hired in 1999 instead of Mr. Tremblay. The problems continued until an RCMP investigation was launched in 2002, but by then Mr. Tremblay was working in another federal agency.

When Prime Minister Paul Martin was in office he hired Laguë to “cover-up” the sponsorship scandal according to opposition Conservatives at the time.

Assistant to PM contributed to cover-up, opposition says Mario Lague included in strategy sessions when problems first surfaced, e-mail says; Mario Lague included in strategy sessions when problems first surfaced, e-mail says — The Globe and Mail, February 20th, 2004 by Campbell Clark

OTTAWA — Prime Minister Paul Martin’s communications director was a key player in the Chrétien government’s efforts to put the best face on serious problems in the sponsorship program in 2000, government records show.

Opposition politicians focused many attacks in the Commons yesterday on Mario Lague, Mr. Martin’s communications director, insisting he was involved in efforts to “cover up” the sponsorship scandal, which saw millions misused from 1996 to 2002.

Mr. Martin fought back, asserting that Mr. Lague “was not involved in the management of the sponsorship file.”

However, records show that Mr. Lague was included in top-level meetings to plan strategy when problems began to emerge. An e-mail from September, 2000, obtained by an independent researcher and provided to The Globe and Mail, indicates that Mr. Lague was one of a small group of senior officials and political aides who plotted to put the best face on a damaging audit.

Bob Rae leadership campaign staffers linked to Sponsorship Scandal

Former and likely future Liberal leadership candidate Bob Rae is working this weekend to get himself elected to the House of Commons in the riding of Toronto Centre. Rae is putting himself up as a fresh new ethical face for the Liberal Party, but this will ring hollow with voters Monday as he hired two campaign workers during his failed leadership bid that previously received Adscam money. Gomery described the Sponsorship Scandal as “elaborate kickback scheme” conducted by members of the Liberal party and their associates in Quebec.

When Rae was running to replace Bill Graham/Paul Martin as the new leader of the Liberal Party, he hired two staffers Franco Iacono and Gaetano Manganiello, two former employees of the Liberal Party of Canada.

Here is Rae’s expense filing with Elections Canada for these two individuals:

Franco Iacono

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Gaetano Manganiello

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Rae declared that $14,750 was paid to Iacono for “Salaries and Wages” while $3,000 was claimed for Manganiello in “Salaries and Wages” while $1766.26 was paid for “Miscellaneous expenses”.

What services did these two men provide for Bob Rae’s leadership campaign?

This is an important question because both Iacono and Manganiello testified before the Gomery Inquiry into the Sponsorship Scandal.

Iacono testified on May 4th, 2005 and Manganiello on May 25th, 2005.

From Iacono’s testimony before the Gomery Commission, we learn that from 1996-1997, Iacono worked for Alphonso Gagliano as a special assistant (including when Gagliano was at Public Works until September 1997. We then learn that Iacono worked for John Manley, the federal Business Development Bank and for Herb Dhaliwal before attaining employment at the Sussex Strategy Group. Prior to the 2000 election Iacono was hired by then-Liberal Party deputy director Benoit Corbeil to be the party’s regional coordinator for the island of Montreal. Iacono explained how he was paid, “I was happy to be hired for the work assigned. Mr. Corbeil simply told me to invoice COMMANDO at the address he had given me in the amount of $8,500.” According to Iacono, Corbeil told him to file an invoice for “Consulting services rendered.” We also learn that in all Iacono’s previous work for the Liberal Party he had never been paid in this way, but he didn’t question it because “In my mind, then, it was quite clear and logical, since I had a need and Mr. Corbeil had found a way to satisfy that need. It was that simple.” When Gomery said “Now, those three things [an invoice to someone other than the Liberal Party with a false description of services provided, and a payment made outside the election period] suggest to me that you may have participated in a situation that was deliberately falsified,” Iacono replied “I have to say no.”

What of COMMANDO? In Phase 1 of Gomery’s report, the Commissioner writes on p. 263,

Further contributions to the LPCQ were made by cheque, rather than in cash, but were disguised by using as an intermediary a corporation in Quebec City named Commando Communications, an inactive entity owned and controlled by one Bernard Thiboutot. Mr. Thiboutot worked for Gosselin Communications as the head of its Quebec City office, but in the year 2000, when Groupaction’s contributions were made, the assets of Gosselin Communications had already been purchased by Groupaction and Mr. Thiboutot was in effect working for Mr. Brault. He was an active supporter of the LPCQ in the eastern Quebec region.

On January 6, 2000, and again on November 1, 2000, Commando invoiced Groupaction for $10,000 for services rendered, but according to Mr. Brault, these invoices and the cheques in payment of them are evidence of political contributions that he was asked to make, to pay unexplained expenses of the LPCQ in Quebec City. Mr. Thiboutot does not deny the payments or that they were paid to Commando as political contributions.

On October 1, 2000, Mr. Thiboutot sent a further false invoice to a Groupaction subsidiary for $50,000, describing the services rendered by Commando as research and analysis. On October 13, 2000, only a short time before the federal election campaign commenced, the invoice was paid, and Mr. Thiboutot acknowledges that the proceeds were used to pay five employees of the LPCQ for their work in the forthcoming election campaign. Each of the workers sent Commando an invoice for the amount received.

And Gaetano Manganiello? Before the Commission, Manganiello testified that he worked in the PMO as a Press Office Assistant until August 2002 and then went to work for Maurizio Bevilacqua. Manganiello went back to PMO in December 2003 where he later took up a job as Media Advance Officer in May 2004. Manganiello goes on to describe that he worked for the municipal campaign of Benoit Corbeil in 1993. Later, in 1997, Corbeil had Manganiello do logistical work for the Liberal Party in Quebec. Manganiello testified that Corbeil then put him on the Pluri Design payroll,

“I would say late — early fall — early fall 1998, Mr. Corbeil walked into my office and informed me that the Liberal Party was in dire straits financially and he wasn’t sure if they would able to continue paying my salary. However, he also assured me that — not to worry, that he would do everything possible to keep me on the payroll and to keep me working at the Liberal Party because my job was required — was essential for all the administration. … I would say maybe several days later or a week later, I was informed by Mr. Corbeil that Pluri Design would assume my salary. They would be paying my salary, but I would continue working at the Liberal Party. … I did not find anything bizarre. I was happy that someone had assumed my salary because I thought I was going to loose my job at the Liberal Party. But, again, he was my superior. So when he approached me and told me that Monsieur Corriveau of Pluri Design would pay my salary, I just assumed everything is okay and I knew Monsieur Corriveau was being someone involved with the Liberal Party. I met him in 1997 in my role in logistics. So I didn’t think anything of it.”

Manganiello went on to testify that he was paid $32,000 more via Pluri Design for what he described as basically the same duties as before.

On page 300 of his phase 1 report, Judge Gomery writes,

The combination of Mr. Brault’s testimony, which I find to be credible, about payments made by Groupaction to PluriDesign for no consideration other than Mr. Corriveau’s political influence, with the admission made by Mr. Corriveau to Mr. Dezainde, leaves me with no alternative but to conclude that Mr. Corriveau was at the heart of an elaborate kickback scheme, according to which at least some of the sums of money paid by Groupaction to PluriDesign, on the strength of false invoices, were used by Mr. Corriveau to the advantage of the LPCQ, by salaries paid to its employees, by services rendered by PluriDesign employees to the LPCQ , or otherwise. The consideration for these payments was the influence of Mr. Corriveau in obtaining sponsorship contracts for Mr. Lemay’s companies which were, at Mr. Corriveau’s request, managed by Groupaction.

One of the ways in which Mr. Corriveau used the sums received from Groupaction for the advantage of the LPCQ was in putting LPCQ employees on the PluriDesign payroll. Documentary evidence forced Mr. Corriveau to admit that three full-time LPCQ workers, Gaetano Manganiello, Philippe Zrihen and Jean Brisebois, were remunerated a total of $82,812.27 by PluriDesign in the years 1998 to 2000, inclusively. Messrs. Manganiello and Zrihen were on the PluriDesign payroll starting November 1, 1998, and Mr. Brisebois was added on October 4, 1999. None of these people worked in fact for PluriDesign.

Of course, this raises some important questions for Bob Rae.

Why did he think to hire these Liberal party operatives? Did he know that these men gave testimony before the Gomery inquiry? Iacono and Manganiello went on to work for Bob Rae’s leadership campaign.

After going through the drama of the Sponsorship Scandal and having an electorate focused upon ethics, why would Rae’s campaign involve these two in his leadership bid?

What should our perception be of a Liberal who hires campaign workers, after testimony given at the Gomery inquiry describing either false invoices or payment made by a third party for political work done?

What does this say about Bob Rae’s judgment?

Would Rae say that it’s dishonest for a campaign worker to submit an invoice for campaign services to someone other than the campaign with a false description of services provided?

Stephane Dion welcomed Marc Andre Cote back to the Liberal Party. Cote was originally banned from the party for receiving sponsorship funds. Dion flip-flopped on Cote, are we to conclude that the receipt of sponsorship funds does not disqualify one from being a party operative in Stephane Dion’s Liberal party? The Cote and Iacono/Manganiello examples just raise further questions.

Is anyone working on Bob Rae’s current campaign tainted by the sponsorship scandal?

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.

Convention leftovers

I’ve a few convention leftovers that I want to share.

Convention buttons were a big hit on the floor among Liberals. (See my previous post for the other buttons)

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Speaking of Justin vs. Belinda in Smackdown 2008, check out Macleans top story about the race to replace Stephane Dion, the Liberals’ interim leader.

I mentioned in one of Greg Staples earlier hotstove podcasts that if Bob Rae had won, the Conservatives would have spun the new Liberal leader as “potentially Canada’s first NDP Prime Minister”. I think that this button captures that spirit.

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Staying on Bob Rae, and mocking him on his record instead of resorting to vicious ad hominem attacks we have this amusing button handed out on the convention floor:

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This button was critical of the lack of french spoken at the Liberal convention in Montreal. I heard that a full 80% of delegates could not speak french (or were unilingual, I forget which).

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Finally, on the last ballot between Iggy and Dion, these buttons made their first appearance on the convention floor. These are obviously funny for a few reasons.

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Moving on from the buttons, this piece came from the Conservative war room to help Liberals feel especially good about themselves at their party.

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And… the best piece from the convention, in my opinion, was produced by the NDP war room who were kind enough to email me the PDF of their “map to the scars”, an Adscam tour of Montreal. Print it out, fold it up and hand it out to your friends (but tell them to vote Conservative!)

Download the Adscam map (PDF)