Mon, April 21, 2008
Tories battered
Evidence mounts of vote scheme

OTTAWA -- Conservative Party brass spun into damage control mode yesterday as new documents reveal a mounting log of interviews, e-mails and invoices to support allegations the party overspent by more than $1 million in the last federal campaign through a so-called "in-and-out scheme."

Documents used to execute an RCMP-aided search warrant at Tory party headquarters last week were unsealed by a Toronto court Friday night but weren't released until today. Conservative officials released documents to some media outlets, including the 68-page affidavit from Ronald Lamothe, an assistant chief investigator in the Office of the Commissioner of Canada Elections.

In the statement, Lamothe said that he has "reasonable grounds" to believe the party exceeded its election spending limit and that candidates "improperly" claimed expenses.


"I have noted a consistent pattern created by the Conservative Party of Canada or the Conservative Fund Canada to deposit funds into the accounts of various campaigns, only to have the same or similar amounts transferred, always under the control of the Conservative Party or the Conservative Fund Canada, back to the Conservative Fund Canada, the chief agent of the Conservative Party of Canada," he stated.

According to documents, Lamothe had sought to have the information to obtain the search warrant remain sealed because he thought making it public would hurt the probe.

The Conservative Party insisted everything was above board, and called the raid "retaliation" for the civil suit launched by the party.

"We are engaged in a legal dispute on what constitutes a national campaign and a local campaign. Period," an unnamed official said.

But Liberal MP Ralph Goodale said the Conservatives are spinning damage control in the face of mounting evidence.

"The argument they're trotting out are the same ones they've tried to bluff people with for the last year," he said. "This is not a trivial, little administrative matter."


Lamothe's investigation stems from a May 17, 2007, referral from the political financing, audit and corporate services section of Elections Canada, which asked to probe whether the Conservative Party incurred election expenses for media advertising claimed by candidates.

The alleged scheme enabled the party to spend $1 million over the limit and allowed 67 candidates to increase their reported election expenses with expenses they did not incur or pay for and claim a rebate, according to the documents. The spending cap for the Conservatives in the last election was $18.3 million.

According to an interview summary with Quebec Tory candidate Jean Landry, he was told by province's party organizer Pierre Coulombe that $30,000 would be deposited in his campaign account. Coulombe told him the party would count on an $18,000 return on it because Elections Canada would give him a 60% reimbursement when it was claimed as an election expense, according to the documents.

Another organizer provided "verbal instructions" on how the "infusion of funds" should be reported in his campaign return, the statements said.