Tuesday, 30 October 2012

PC Fundraising Above Scrutiny?

I missed listening to the Alberta Question Period on Monday, but have since read the Hansard.

After this exchange:
Political Party Financial Contributions
Ms Smith: Turning to the business of the day, Mr. Speaker,
Alberta's reputation has been damaged. Our election financingprocess looks like it's been broken by abuse. We have asked theChief Electoral Officer to investigate the enormous and potentiallyillegal contribution from a single source to the government party.But even if the contribution is technically legal through a loopholein the existing law, it means the law is deeply flawed. When willthe government fix it?
The Speaker: Did you wish to direct that question to anyone in
particular?The hon. President of Treasury Board.
Mr. Horner: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Certainly, the Chief
Electoral Officer is an officer of this Legislative Assembly, andwe respect that on this side of the House a great deal. We believethat he is discharging his duties under the legislation that he has infront of him, and he's doing a good job doing that. Of course, theparty opposite doesn't really want to talk about its own history inthis regard in terms of that sort of thing. Perhaps in the 2004election campaign, when one individual bankrolled 75 per cent oftheir entire political contributions for that campaign, one mustwonder . . .
Mr. Anderson: Point of order, Mr. Speaker.
The Speaker: A point of order has been noted from the Member
for Airdrie.
The hon. Leader of the Opposition for her first supplemental.
Ms Smith: I look forward to the hon. Member for Airdrie
correcting the record.Continuing on, Mr. Speaker, given that the government's vagueanswers and insistence that everything is okay have done nothingto restore the public's confidence, surely the Premier must agreethat the shell game that is damaging our public's trust has no placein our democracy.

278 Alberta Hansard October 29, 2012
Mr. Horner: Again, Mr. Speaker, one talks about shell games
across the way. This party has followed all of the rules that are inplace. We will co-operate with the Chief Electoral Officer on thismatter to a T. But, again, somewhat hypocritical of the partyacross the way when in the 2007 by-election the same individualwho bankrolled 75 per cent of their 2004 election campaign bankrolled 99.7 per cent of that party's contributions. Incredible.

It prompted a number of Wildrose supporters to tweet things like "the #wrp (Wildrose) didn't exist in 2004" or "Doug Horner needs to bone up on his Alberta political history #wrp not a party until Jan 2008"

And from Wildrose MLA Rob Anderson:
"#wrp is diff legal entity than Alliance" and "Katz can donate to whomever he wants but not if it is illegal. Nobody has donated 400G to the Wildrose Party-that is incorrect."

Unfortunately in this case I'm going to have to say the unthinkable - the PC's are correct.  The Wildrose and their predecessor the Alberta Alliance are indeed one and the same. Why that is so, is explained in full in Chapter 6, if I recall correctly. And yes there were very large donations from the Thorsteinson family.  (Mind you they were over several years)

The multiple donations of $30,000.00 from the Thorsteinson's (2004-2008) and the ones from Katz Group, family and business associates can be seen as very similar situations.

There is some key differences that everyone seems to overlooking:

One case the investigation was started based on a written request; the other, written requests seemed to either have been ignored or no action is being taken.

One case were several cheques from many individuals and businesses; the other is reportedly one cheque for up as many as 10 different individuals and business entities.

One case Elections Alberta requested (and got) RCMP involvement (via the Solicitor General) so they could compel donors (those who got the receipts) to provide PROOF it was in fact their money  they contributed.  (Section 34(1) of Election Finance Act.) ; the other appears will never even get that far.

It is absolutely appalling that the PC's of today won't open their books to the scrutiny that they expected, they asked for and they received from the Alberta Alliance. 

Update: Oct. 30, 10:30 PM

Chief electoral officer to probe Katz donations to PCs

Alberta's chief electoral officer is launching an investigation into donations made to the Progressive Conservative party by the owner of the Edmonton Oilers, Daryl Katz.
"The allegations are that the thresholds of $30,000 have been exceeded by one individual and the election filings that we've received in our office from the political parties indicate that those contributions were receipted for individuals associated with this one person," said Elections Alberta spokesman Drew Westwater.
"We've determined that there's enough issues and concerns around the source of the donations that have been made to the party that we will launch an investigation and look into the facts of the matter to see if the allegations are true or not."

Click on link to read entire article. 

Friday, 26 October 2012

Herding Katz; The $130,000.00 Question

This week Elections Alberta publicized election financials for all parties from this year's election. Since then the top story has been the amount of money donated by the Katz Group, the family and associates.


Katz Group $ 30,000.00

Family members

Daryl Katz $ 30,000.00
Renee Katz $ 30,000.00
Ida Katz $ 30,000.00
Barry Katz $ 30,000.00

Katz Associates Individually or as a Professional Corp

J Robert Black Professional Corp. $ 25,000.00
James Low and Associates Inc. $ 25,000.00
Karvellas (Q.C.), John $ 25,000.00
Karvellas Consulting Inc. $ 25,000.00
Marcaccio, Paul T. $ 25,000.00
Paul T. Marcaccio Professional Corp. $ 25,000.00

Total: $ 300,000.00

Those names come from this Globe and Mail article and the figures from the Elections Alberta report.
The Globe article states:
But a source close to the campaign told The Globe and Mail that Mr. Katz provided a cheque for $430,000 to the PCs, a donation that was broken up into smaller pieces.
If such a cheque existed, what happened to the remaining $130,000.00? Was it returned to Katz Group? Was it "allocated" to other donors?

Apparently this donation came in the latter part of the election; which would explain why the Katz name didn't show up on the list the PC's released.

I compared that list to the one filed with their final financials, looking for other large donors that didn't show up on the first list.  Those include:

$ 25,000.00 Brad Gilewich Professional Corp
$ 25,000.00 Gilewich, Brad
$ 20,000.00 Durstling Family Trust
$ 20,000.00 Scott Family Trust
$ 30,000.00 Candor Investments
$ 25,000.00 SPC Investments Ltd

Now they add up to more than $ 130,000.00 but it gave me a starting point to see if I could find any connection to the Katz Group.

Brad Gilewich Professional Corp and Brad Gilewich:  According to LinkedIn Brad is a Partner with Price Waterhouse Coopers. Given PWC are the auditors for Katz Group I highly doubt there would be anything untoward going on here. Right?

Durstling Family Trust: Simple Google search reveals Darren Durstling as one of the trustees
Bradley S.R. Clough, along with Darren Durstling and Laurel Durstling, as trustees of the Durstling Family Trust, paid cash ($1,856,630) for a 6,180-square-foot home with pool on the north side of Mummy Mountain Park in Paradise Valley. Darren Durstling is vice president of development and one of three principals of WAM Development Group of Edmonton, Aberta.
WAM Development Group, why does that sound familiar?  Oh, they too were a large contributor to the PC's this election in the amount of $ 25,000.00.   Ironically enough they were also in the news earlier this year.  
The Katz Group will work with Edmonton-based WAM Development Group to develop the lands adjacent to the proposed site of the downtown arena, the Oilers owner announced Friday.

Scott Family Trust: Can't seem to find anything on this. Anything that even comes close isn't located in Alberta.

Candor Investments: Apparently are located in Calgary, but they don't have a website. Nor could I find any information on the principals.

SPC Investments Ltd: I could only find one document or reference to this exact name and it’s on a list of businesses whose corporate registrations had been cancelled in 2003

People and companies writing individual cheques, within election limits isn’t an issue. Unfortunately a company or an individual can also give money to family, friends, co-workers, etc. and they in turn can give it as a donation in their own name. Again nothing wrong with this, so long as they have reported the income as required by CRA given their individual situation.

However, what the Globe report was that it was “one” cheque. Which begs the question; were all the funds truly from those who ultimately received the tax receipts?  If not – that’s fraud.

Again from the Globe article (referencing the Election Finance Act):

Section 34 states that parties cannot “solicit or knowingly accept any contribution” that doesn’t actually come from the contributor’s pocket.
If it turns out to be one cheque I already know what Premier Redford’s response is going to be. 
“We have previously accepted cheques from spouses and allocated donations to both of them. We handled this situation the same way; attributing the donations to those they has said gave them money. The exchange of funds between those people or organizations is out of our hands. We can’t be held responsible for things we don’t know about.” 
That’s the gist of it, they will feign ignorance and hope that we will all say “Oh, okay you are so innocent and got hoodwinked by the big businessmen.”

When a party, constituency association or a candidate gets a cheque that exceeds the limits it is their responsibility to return the cheque, explain the limitations and advise them they cannot give money on “behalf” of someone else. 

Let’s look at this from the perspective of a donor not familiar with the laws.

Joe Blow says to his friends: “I’ve had a successful year and I want to share that with you. I’m going to make a large donation to my favorite political party and some will be on your behalf."
Friend: “Oh, that’s great Joe. Thank you.”

Joe sends off the big cheque only to have it returned with an explanation of limitations and rules.  Now ordinary, honest Joe citizen will accept that and write a new cheque contributing only what he is legally allowed.  

But we also have Joe citizens who are not so honest or ones that have been “coached” by not so honest political parties.  
Those Joe’s go back to their friends and say “You know in order to make this work you have to write the cheque.”
Friend: “But I don’t have that kind of money!!”
Not so honest Joe: “No problem, I will give it to you.”

His honest friends will realize at that point there will be a need to explain where the money came from and there will be tax ramifications; they will tell him to take a hike.  Others may not think that far ahead or not care and partake in the scheme.

As far as the multiple Katz donations from family and work associates, no one knows what happened except for those inside the PC Party. Premier Redford points to the financial report and says it’s all open and transparent. Well, no it isn’t. Until we see the paper trail that only the PC’s have access to we will not know exactly what transpired. 

Saturday, Oct. 27 @ 1:30 PM

Discovered another donor who has done business directly with Mr. Katz. 

EDMONTONJune 19, 2012 /CNW/ - Two new chapters in the Alberta aviation story will be turned June 20, with the official introduction of a Canadian aircraft-ownership innovation and a newly constructed $26 million, four-bay hangar and office complex at the Edmonton International Airport.
Aurora Jet Partners is the innovation. It has been created by Morningstar Partners of Edmonton and Opus Aviation ofVancouver, companies founded and operated by Don WheatonKim WardDaryl Katz and The Ledcor Group.

Don Wheaton Ltd. contributed $ 25,000.00 to the PC party.

It should be noted that some of these contributors also donated to other political parties in smaller amounts.

Additionally, their ties to the Katz Group don't necessarily mean that they have anything to do with what is surely going to turn into an investigation by Elections Alberta. 

Elections Alberta spokesman Drew Westwater said his office will “probably” launch an investigation into the April election campaign donations made to the PC party by Katz, his family and associates.

Update Thursday, Nov 1

The Globe and Mail today has confirmed many of the links to Katz that I've mentioned in this blog entry.

Thursday, 18 October 2012

Rogers Lack of Customer Service

This is an actual chat log from Rogers. After his last message, the box for me to type messages in closed.

This might be funny if it weren't a true story.

You can click on image to enlarge.