Sunday night, I broke the story that Garth Turner, Liberal MP for Halton was collecting funds from donors into a trust. As specified by Elections Canada, trusts are generally forbidden as one cannot pay out of a trust the many donations that went into a trust. Check the full story here.
Garth’s response was both predictable and unpredictable. Predictably, he alluded to some well-organized conspiracy that was out to get him and immediately claimed victim status. Unpredictably though, he acknowledged his mistake and has taken steps to significantly reconfigure how he will be collecting money in the future. However, there are significant questions that remain.
- Since this comes on the heels of Liberal questions in the House about election spending, they have much to do to get their own campaign finances in order. This week, we’ve seen apparent campaign finance discrepancies by Bonnie Crombie (more on that soon), Blair Wilson and now Garth Turner. How can they criticize the Conservatives before they sort out their own affairs?
- Since many cheques to Garth Turner were made out to “Garth Turner Campaign, in trust”, does this mean that he’ll have to return all of that money? All cheques should have been made out to the “Halton Federal Liberal Association”.
- In April of this year, Garth held a fundraising event with former Liberal leadership candidate Ken Dryden. Garth wrote:
“Tonight was also an important milestone in my local election campaign. We exceeded our fundraising goal and, in the past three weeks, have raised five times more funds than the local Conservatives did in an entire year. All those bag signs, arterials, stakes, wire frames, ties and pounders in my garage are now paid for in full. We have cash in the bank � enough to get seriously and immediately ballistic the moment the writ is dropped.”
Ballistic or busted? Were these fundraising efforts for naught? If that campaign materials was purchased by a private account and not the one held by the Federal Liberal Riding Association, Garth cannot use these campaign materials.
- This represents a huge oversight by Dion’s new czar of fundraising. Does this represent poor judgment on behalf of the Stephane Dion? Will Garth resign this position? What can be said of the fundraising health of the Liberal party if Garth has been directing it?
- Garth claims that he transferred money from a business account to the Liberal Electoral Association. Last time I checked, this is not allowed. Ironically, Garth criticizes the Conservatives for transferring money between EDAs and the federal party (which is allowed). “In and Out” is it called? Or is this “Out to In”? I’ve lost track.
- If the Liberal Electoral Association accepted money from this business account (as Garth claims) they would also seem to be in violation. Could this association become de-registered by Elections Canada?
- Garth is right in that being an independent can be tough. Independents do not have riding associations (EDAs). They can raise money, but they cannot issue tax receipts. Garth writes:
“When Mr. Harper threw me out of caucus, I sat as an indie for a number of months, during which people sent me money because they took pity on my soul”
I hope these people don’t expect to get tax receipts. But really, now that Garth is a Liberal, what is the status of this money? He can’t transfer money from this “business account” (in trust) to the Liberal EDA.
- What are the consequences of this oversight? If this gets investigated, will Garth step aside? Will Dion ask him to step aside?
- In a past life, wasn’t Garth a finance guru? Wasn’t he Minister of National Revenue? Is this mistake oversight or a sophisticated financial operator pushing the envelope?