The Senate scandal's $90,000 question - Macleans.ca
 

The Senate scandal’s $90,000 question

Why would Nigel Wright go to such extreme lengths to protect Mike Duffy?


 

OTTAWA – It’s the $90,000 question in the Senate expenses scandal: Why would the prime minister’s chief of staff go to such extreme lengths to protect Sen. Mike Duffy?

The question became all the more perplexing this week after documents filed in court by the RCMP revealed that Nigel Wright — and other senior staff in the PMO — thought Duffy was a liar, a loose cannon and a troublemaker.

Yet Wright gave $90,000 out of his own pocket so that Duffy could reimburse his dubious expense claims at no cost to himself.

If Duffy was so much trouble, why would Wright not simply have insisted that Duffy repay his expenses or have his Senate salary garnisheed, as was done with fellow alleged miscreant Patrick Brazeau?

When news first leaked about the transaction last May, the first explanation offered by unnamed insiders — but later denied — was that Wright and Duffy were friends.

The RCMP documents suggest nothing could be further from the truth. Indeed, as the negotiations over Duffy’s repayment dragged on and the true extent of his expense claims became clear, they show Wright and other top PMO aides became increasingly exasperated with the senator.

After initially believing Duffy had followed the rules, Wright eventually concluded that Duffy “morally should not be claiming” a housing allowance for his longtime Ottawa residence, even if there might be a “technical argument” that could be made for it, according to the documents filed by RCMP Cpl. Greg Horton.

At several junctures, Wright thought he’d successfully persuaded the senator to repay his dubious claims, which were initially believed to be about $32,000. But Duffy continued to resist, at one point asking to see a legal analysis as to why he was not entitled to the claims.

“Mr. Wright told Sen. Duffy there is no legal analysis and that he (Wright) wasn’t looking at this from a legal perspective but rather from a moral perspective of what he should properly claim,” writes Horton, who interviewed Wright and reviewed hundreds of emails.

“By this point, Mr. Wright was not happy with Sen. Duffy and no longer wishing to debate the matter. He told Sen. Duffy that from that point on they will deal lawyer to lawyer on the matter.”

Duffy has steadfastly refused to comment on the RCMP documents since they were released earlier this week, and declined again Friday.

In a Feb. 20 email to Wright and another PMO staffer, Duffy cites Wright as telling him he is “in violation of the housing allowance policy” and says his lawyer wants to see the legal analysis.

“I did not say that,” Wright angrily responds, “and if you continue to misquote me, then we will be speaking only through lawyers going forward.”

At another point, Horton writes that Duffy again “argued that he was entitled to his entitlements” and told Wright he wanted an apology from the Senate internal economy committee, which had referred his expense claims to an external auditor.

“Mr. Wright now was angry and told Sen. Duffy the government would not stand behind him,” Horton writes.

Eventually, Duffy agreed to repay the expense claims but only on five conditions spelled out by his lawyer, including that the arrangement would “keep him whole” and his legal fees would be reimbursed — which Horton took to mean that Duffy “would not be financially out of pocket.”

Wright arranged to have the Conservative party reimburse Duffy but the party balked when it became clear that the tab was actually more than $90,000.

“Mr. Wright was angered by the amount of money owed, initially believing that the allowance related just to accommodations,” writes Horton.

“He did not realize that Sen. Duffy had been claiming for meals and incidentals as well. He was incensed that Sen. Duffy was getting paid for meals he ate in his own house in Ottawa.”

“I am beyond furious. This will all be repaid,” Wright says in a Feb. 26 email to his executive assistant after learning the real tab.

In a March 1 email, Wright tells PMO lawyer Benjamin Perrin: “Sen. Duffy would make this easier if he did not have outbursts in Senate caucus that make senators oppose anything that helps him save face for expense claims that they see as inappropriate and as putting their own reputations in harm’s way.”

Wright was not the only one to lose patience with Duffy. The documents reveal that other PMO staff and fellow senators were fed up, particularly with what they saw as his lack of discretion, as they worked to hush up the entire matter.

“Even though he claims he is careful in what he says and does, the evidence is the opposite!” Marjory LeBreton, then government leader in the Senate, wrote in one email. “We have to be very careful what we say to him.”

The day before news broke in May about Wright’s payment to the senator, Duffy was quoted by a media outlet saying that he had reimbursed the Senate for his expenses by taking out a bank loan and that Wright had “played no role.”

When asked by a PMO aide if he’d been taken out of context, Duffy responded by email that he had not known Wright was behind the $90,000 credit that had appeared in his bank account and that he hadn’t asked who was responsible because “because I did not want to be (beholden) to anyone.”

“We need to discuss this. His lying really is tiresome,” Ray Novak, the prime minister’s principal secretary at the time and now his chief of staff, wrote in an email to another PMO aide.

In a bombshell speech to the Senate last month, shortly before the chamber voted to suspend him without pay, Duffy recounted a different version of events.

After telling Wright he couldn’t afford to repay his expense claims, Duffy recalled: “‘Don’t worry,’ Nigel said, ‘I’ll write the cheque.'”

Given the evident animosity toward Duffy, why did Wright personally bail him out? The RCMP documents suggest he viewed it as a matter of noblesse oblige — his responsibility as a wealthy individual to relieve the burden on taxpayers.

“Mr. Wright explained that he is financially comfortable, having been successful in the private sector prior to agreeing to work within the PMO,” Horton writes.

“Since taking on the position within the PMO, he has not filed expense claims for anything, including meals, flights, hotels or legal fees. He estimates he is out of pocket tens of thousands of dollars but it is his global view and contribution to public policy that taxpayers not bear the cost of his position if he can legitimately afford to fund it himself.

“Because of this personal beliefs (sic) and financial ability, he took the personal decision at that time to pay back the $90,000. He did not view it as something out of the norm for him to do and was part of being a good person.”

For his part, Duffy told the Senate the whole thing was a “monstrous fraud” perpetrated “to make a political situation, embarrassing to (Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s) base, go away.”


 

The Senate scandal’s $90,000 question

  1. The only ‘monsterous’ thing here is Duffy’s ego and his lies…

    • Sorry you don’t understand Kevin, it is complicated. The attempt/act to change the Deloitte audit, the fact that the Senate report was altered through negotiation are what made the activities illegal.

  2. Really. 10 months of media feeding frenzy over the equivalent if a teacher’s salary? While unsavoury, and probably illegal, I have absolutely no doubt that Senators claiming “grey” expenses is a practice that has (nudge, nudge, wink, wink) gone on since Sir John A. bribed Nova Scotia to form the country we now know as Canada. So why the sudden media frenzy over Duffy and Wallin? You will never convince me it isn’t solely because the overwhelmingly leftist national media simply cannot abide the (to them) anathema of a “natural ruling party” led by the hated (by them) Stephen Harper, and they are frantically trying to tie this so-called “scandal” directly to him. They are apoplectic over the fact that all of the other so-called “scandals” they tried to manufacture in his last minority mandate led to a Harper majority. They hate the fact that two of their own, Duffy and Wallin, defected to the hated conservative dark side, and they are out to get them – big time – even during bullying awareness week. They love, adore, worship, get all wobbly-in-the-knees over that dreamy, poofy-haired, flaky loose-cannon drama teacher, Justin Trudeau, and they are fully onside with the Liberal campaign to simply restore the proper order of things in Ottawa, despite any lack of a plan beyond legalizing pot, and admiring a “nimble” Chinese dictatorship. To wit, Liberal Senator, Colin Kenny, who has reportedly behaved as a brutish, female-leering, power-abusing boss in the senate for a very long time, will likely get a passing nod from the very same media, desperate to bury any Liberal scandal

    • Victimhood, the last refuge of the Conservative scoundrel.

      • Yes, and they’re keen to import Repub slogans about a non-existant ‘leftist media’ to do it. Even their ‘victimhood’ is borrowed.

        • “Adscam”… long after Canadian voters have forgotten,
          the PMO & CPC still attempt to fan the ashes.

          • Well they’ll love listening to ‘Duffygate’ and ‘Ford nation’ for the next 20 years then! LOL

    • And clearly (Harper’s favorite word), “the leftist national media” have now co-opted the RCMP in their nefarious little scheme.

      • very clearly, his favourite word is “obviously”

        (as if everyone else is an idiot for not seeing things his way)

    • I hate to puncture the conspiracy theory with fact, and it might not make a difference to you anyway, but when the story about Colin Kenny broke, every major news website posted coverage of it ABOVE stories about Stephen Harper, Mike Duffy, the RCMP investigation, and a host of others.

      For better or for worse, the media generally covers what people are interested in: that’s how they sell newspapers and get viewers. If the stories continue to be about Duffygate (the Harper appointee) then it’s because people think it’s a bigger deal that Colin Kenney.

  3. Wright sounds like a decent man but decent people very often get taken down by those who are willing to go to any length to maintain their entitlements. Obviously Duffy was and now Wright is paying the price.

    • Decent until you consider that he’s in charge of a project to hide illegal spending.

  4. Li’l steve was not aware of any offer , very interesting , smells of the Cadman offer ?

    • And the Cadman affair still smells too.

  5. “Since taking on the position within the PMO, he has not filed expense claims for anything, including meals, flights, hotels or legal fees. He estimates he is out of pocket tens of thousands of dollars but it is his global view and contribution to public policy that taxpayers not bear the cost of his position if he can legitimately afford to fund it himself.”

    What self-serving, sanctimonious BS. Wright wasn’t nobly “[contributing] to public policy” at his own exense. He was volunteering his time to further the Con agenda.

  6. DOES THIS HAVE TRACTION? Who pulls the strings of the ‘Iron Laddie’ and is also a ‘major’ contributor to party funds held by Gerstein? Nigel Wright had Lockheed Martin connections – linked to the F35 fiasco where billions might have been spent? Google: Lockheed Martin ROBERT J. STEVENS – CEO until 1/1/2013

  7. The $90,000 question should be expanded somewhat, given the recent RCMP documents.

    “Why would the prime minister’s chief of staff, along with many other senior people in the Prime Minister’s inner circle, go to such extreme lengths to protect Sen. Mike Duffy, and how could the Prime Minister not be aware of any of it?
    What else does Duffy, Wright, Harper, and others know that they don’t want to reveal? What are they hiding that could be so devastating to the government that all these intelligent people would risk making a relatively minor embarrassment blow up into a colossal scandal, and even risk criminal charges on themselves?
    Are they all just stupid? No. Whatever you think about their policies, these are all very smart people with political experience and legal competence.
    Were they in denial? No. Wright himself admitted the obvious when he predicted that it would “end badly”. The frenzied attempts at covering up, lying, and hiding the truth all point to the fact they all knew they were doing something wrong.
    So what is it? Until people are forced to testify under oath, whether at a criminal trial or a public inquiry or both, we won’t know the answer.
    The RCMP investigation is just in its early phase. There’s a lot more coming.

    • Except that Wright can give Duffy 90K of his personal money and it’s not your business.

      • It is when it us illegal.

        • Which it isn’t as there is no benefit to Wright that can be identified.

          • Uh, no. Turns out you can’t just give large sums of money to public officials.

            Why are you lying, CPC operative?

          • Anyone can give to a friend and they also have friends. So, we are back to benefit to Wright which is zero. That doesn’t mean Duffy is home free.

          • It benefited him professionally, as it allowed the PMO to have Duffy’s Senate expense report changed so that it was less embarrassing to the Harper government. Are you folk really that dense or has the media been under reporting this scandal?

          • The expense report was history, and therefore fixed, and can’t be changed. Nice try, but no cigar.

          • Not sure if you are being dense or disingenuous. Anyway, here is a link to the timeline:

            http://www2.macleans.ca/2013/11/20/anatomy-of-a-scandal-a-timeline-of-the-senate-expenses-saga/

            As noted, the Senate expense report that was negotiated between Duffy, senior Conservative Senate leadership and the PMO, was released by Senate on May 9. The extensive negotiations which ultimately led to the criminal deal took place during February.

            1) Most years, February occurs prior to May.

            2) Be careful what you lie about. When it only takes 30 seconds to prove your lying, you look both dishonest and stupid.

            3) Senator Tkachuk has admitted to the negotiations involving the PMO during an interview on CBC’s The House months ago.

          • Your referenced article is politics, milder than usual. Everyone has their version, for obvious reasons. You may think you have something to support your views, the due process will decide. And RCMP allegations, are not court rulings, as we have seen before. I like this one as more honest, factual, and appears not self-serving: http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/mike-duffy-s-90k-cheque-no-crime-says-former-house-law-clerk-1.1367651

            My opinion is no crime and no breach of trust is indicated, as far as Wright and the PMO, and for them, the whole affair, is a non issue, and stretching the law quite a bit.

            If Senator expenses are not valid, they should be repaid. If repaid and the rules were not clear, then the rules and process should revised and made clear, and no further action and end of story.

            I consider the whole thing as manufactured from here on, nit-picking at an imperfect process, namely politics. Unless there is more to it, the RCMP should drop it. Why Duffy’s expenses were to be helped with, and not the others, is now the only legitimate question.

            Instead of an ability at logical discourse, you use words such as dense, disingenuous, lie, stupid, dishonest. That is a tactic of people with weak abilities, positions and views, seen in 5 seconds or less.

          • If Duffy’s expense report was an embarrassment, then why not also the ones of Wallin and Brazeau? And why weren’t the Liberal ones embarrassing to Liberals? A suggested professional benefit for Wright, is really grasping for straws. Wright has already obtained professional benefits in life. All your opinions are weak minded. None of us are dense like you are.

  8. Who might pull the strings of the ‘Iron Laddie’ and is also a major contributor to party funds held by Gerstein? Nigel Wright had Lockheed Martin connections perhaps linked to the
    F35 fiasco where BILLIONS might have been spent? Cons Party String Puller? GOOGLE: Lockheed Martin – ROBERT J. STEVENS – CEO until 1/1/2013
    Anyone submitting to the principle of ‘Judgement without Due-Process’ must be lashed adjacent to the House & Senate, placed in STOCKS, and ‘liberally’ or ‘NDPd’ into ultimate disgraced humiliation. OUTRAGEOUS. I rest my case and hope for compassion.

    • I can never understand Lieberal drivel such as your post.

      • Voted Conservative – never again pal.

  9. Noblesse oblige? What poppycock! The embarrassment was that Duffy WAS legally entitled to his entitlements. The fraud was that the PMOs office forced Duffy to pretend to pay money he didn’t owe! Can’t these journalists get off the asses and do a little of their own reading and thinking instead of repeating the same misleading information?

    • If Duffy didn’t owe the money, then why does the media insist he does, and why does the RCMP care about money not really owed?

      • The RCMP are investigating the coverup as well as the illegal donation to an elected official.

        • Senators aren’t elected. You lose fella.

          • i win bud

  10. This is a very good and accurate analysis.

    1. Wright has not been charging expenses, a decision he made himself. This defines him, as a noble and well intentioned person. I wish we had more like him.

    2. I think the rational attributed to the PMO’s office makes sense: “to make a political situation, embarrassing to (Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s) base, go away.” How to get rid of the embarrassment known as Duffy.

    • I’m not as sure as you are that Mr. Wright was concerned about the taxpayer. More like “Let’s just make it go away!”

      • Sounds like a good objective to me, and something most taxpayers would like also.

  11. I think it’s time to start thinking about this differently. Wright couldn’t stand Duffy for good reason. I don’t think Wright was being altruistic on the taxpayers behalf at all, I think the Deloitte Audit was about to uncover something so unsavoury Wright had to protect the PM. What would that be? Perhaps Duffy was given a nod and a wink to claim his per diems (dble dipping for a mortgage free home/meals) in exchange for him coming into the Senate and be the biggest moneymaker the Cons ever had. Perhaps it was a previous deal that was going to be uncovered, fraud against the taxpayers given the okay by the law & order gov’t.

    • Actually, Deloitte did not allow any compromising of their report. When they sign their professional name on it, they mean it.

      • I hope so, meantime they’re being hauled before a Senate committee that has some pointed questions about the independence of their work.

        • Hopefully, it’s only because everyone wants clarity, and the Senate wants all the information. Asking Deloitte is very reasonable, and that is not accusing in any way. Many throw allegations without facts, and media likes noise, so clarity is important. We’ll see. Keep in mind, that I make reports too, and usually, there is a review and commenting process before final release. If the comments make sense and are valid, I incorporate them, which means revise the report. There is nothing wrong with that, and it is normal process.

  12. 90K is one of the smallest money scandals in history. Obviously, this is a Toronto Scandal.

    • I agree with this guy. Forget about this chump change and start giving us some answers about eHealth, the moved gas plant, ORNGE…

      • I disagree with your guys oppion, the chump in charge is trying his best to run this country . Also he is working hard to give us awnsers about heAth care

  13. DUE-PROCESS, INEXPLICABLE TO THE PARTY BASE: The Senate scandal now a PM’s integrity, credibility and trustworthiness scandal. ‘Gerstein-Wright’ bank transfers: must testify under oath.
    HOUSE OF CARDS: Harper; Perrin; WRIGHT; PMO class of 2013, Woodcock, van Hemmen; Runia; GERSTEIN; Hamilton; LeBreton; Rogers; Stewart-Olsen; Tkachuk; Novak; Byrne; Kinsella; Conservative Senators/Back-Benchers; Calandra; Ford:

    Apologies Senator Duffy: (Audio): http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/duffy-speechmp3/article15006064/

    GERSTEIN: http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?search=Senator+Gerstein&button=&title=Special%3ASearch

    F35 untendered $billions fiasco – STEVENS – CEO Lockheed Martin until 1st/Jan/2013

    FOOL ON THE HILL -Beatles
    Day after day,
    Alone on a hill,
    The man with the foolish grin is keeping perfectly still
    But nobody wants to know him,
    They can see that he’s just a fool,

  14. all of you are wrong

    • Lama joe , you are probaly some 10 kid who does not even know what politics are.

  15. You guys are all wrong

    People can do as they please

    • your wrong bud