Abuse of electoral laws doesn’t bother you? How about tax evasion?

Understandably most people don’t really pay close attention to or study provincial electoral laws. They are dry and the way our Redford government has repeatedly stretched and abused them, surely many are wondering if we have electoral financing laws at all.

Personally, I would not be wholely against the lifting of all limits, ending the grossly generous tax-credit system for political contributions and simply focussing on ensuring full transparency of all fundraising. In the meantime however, we do have some laws regarding electoral financing and they should be abided by and equally applied to all parties. If the Redford government has not outright taken part in breaking our electoral financing laws, they certainly have been complicit in a gross and massive abuse of the spirit of the laws.

There was a similar situation a few years ago when the Wildrose Party was in it’s incarnation as the Alberta Alliance (yes they are technically the same party)., The Thorsteinson family had made unusually large contributions which rang the alarm bells of Elections Alberta. An investigation ensued which even involved the RCMP appearing in the party office demanding documents. Is the RCMP demanding documents from Katz, his family and the long list of associates that apparently all donated to the Redford government? With heavy pressure from opposition parties, Elections Alberta has almost grudgingly launched an investigation into the Katz scandal. Nothing less than such a police search of the PC offices would ensure equal application of the laws in this case.

If indeed it is true that one cheque for $430,000 was presented to the Progressive Conservative Party by Katz (the Globe has not been sued yet so I suspect that is true), then it will have to be proven that all of the people listed had shared access to accounts in such a way that they could all have come from one source such as this apparent cheque. That is the sort of thing that covers a married couple for example should they both donate through one cheque.

My wife Jane has done some incredible work in digging out who was supposedly at the source of all those donations and has documented it here.

Now is it really within the realm of credibility that all of those people had a shared account? Do you really believe that coincidentally so many tight associates and family members of Katz suddenly decided to donate the maximum legal amount individually to the Progressive Conservatives? Do you really believe Redford when she says she didn’t know anything about over 25% of her campaign funding from a single source? It would take a great deal of substance abuse to believe any of that.

There are couple of big “Ifs” in there though. If there was indeed over a dozen cheques writted from all of these individuals and it can be proven that it was their own money and not laundered by Katz through them then there is no problem. If there was a giant chain of joint accounts that led to the one account that wrote a single cheque for $430,000 (if it was indeed one cheque), then there is not a problem. Seems pretty unlikely though.

Now if this was indeed all from Katz and he gets away with it, we may as well dump our electoral financing laws altogether. Think of it this way, lets say I won the lottery and decided that I wanted to donate a million dollars to the Wildrose Party. All I would have to do is go to my local bar and shout out “Who wants a free guaranteed $1000 tax credit for their return this year?”. I could then just gather names and addresses from people and donate on their behalf. If I say only donated $5,000 per person using one million dollars, I could get 200 people tax credits equalling $200,000 taken from provincial tax revenue fraudulently. Possibly even more if I drop the donation to $2,500 each.

While PC apologists keep trying to dismiss this issue, the gravity of it simply can’t be understated. Leaving aside the clear appearance of influence peddling to a man who has a great deal to gain or lose through government actions, we have what could be a case of mass tax fraud.

The speaker of the legislature keeps trying to halt discussion of this as it being a partisan issue. Well Mr. Speaker, may opposition members speak about potential tax evasion? How many more excuses can the Speaker generate to quell debate on this issue?

This investigation is too important to get swept under the rug. We have to keep the noise up to keep this from going away before all of the facts are exposed.

Let’s focus on the real culprit in the “robocalling” affair.

 In what can only be called hysteria we see people going simply apoplectic about the revelations that fraudulent dials were used in the last federal election. The reason the reaction to this is so strong is twofold. The Liberals under Rae are so profoundly weak that they need anything to try and capture the attention of the public thus they will grasp at anything they see as a possible thread to exploit (the NDP are not far behind).  The other reason that people are so worked up is that electoral fraud is a terribly serious issue.

 Right off the start in the race to point fingers we saw people attacking Matt Meier from RackNine Inc. The National Post even used a couple of Matt’s facebook pictures from what appear to be vacations to try and portray him as some sort of political jetsetter. Let’s get this straight. Matt is simply a young business man who provided a service that was abused by a client. Blaming Matt and RackNine for what happened is akin to blaming a car dealership for selling a car that was later used in a bank robbery. I have known Matt for a few years through politics and he has never demonstrated anything but principled business practices.

 I think perhaps that some people don’t fully understand how modern dialing works and how the service provider does not know what goes out. Dialing has become much cheaper (as we can see with the mass influx of calls in the last few years). This is due to leaps in communications technology and user interface that allows for essentially self-serve service.

 I have used RackNine in both provincial and civic applications ( for legitimate and legal though perhaps annoying use). The process is very simple. After having set up an account, you can set up your dial online. You upload your list, set up the time and type of dial and record your message through the phone with a touch-tone interface. After that it all happens through the magic of automation and you never directly interact with the owner/operator while setting up the dial (unless harassing for tech support 😉 ). I can’t imagine how many dials were set up during the federal election but it simply isn’t reasonable to expect that Matt would know the content of a few if any of the dials. That is not his role.

 It looks like the fraudulent dialing may indeed have impacted one of the ridings in Eastern Canada to the point where the result is in question. It was won by less than 30 votes and yes I think it is plausible that a dial misdirecting people could swing the vote by that much. If this is proven to be the case, I would like to see the person/people directly responsible criminally charged and a by-election held in that riding. This is extremely serious business and there sould be zero tolerance for tampering in an election.

 It will not make it easier to identify and prosecute the real culprits here if we remain focused on the service provider however. Matt has demonstrated that he is fully cooperating with every aspect of the investigation. His reputation and business is on the line. We want to see people punished for this but let’s not let innocent business folks get dragged through the mud that an unprincipled client created.