The Laurier-Sainte-Marie mystery solved?

by Aaron Wherry

Cheques are produced and memories are refreshed in connection with donations to the Conservative party in Laurier-Sainte-Marie.

Italo Barone, who owns a banquet hall in Montreal’s Little Italy, earlier had stated that he had never donated to the Conservatives, and had emailed the financial agent for the riding association in Laurier-Sainte-Marie asking for a copy of his cheque from 2009. On Friday, after the story appeared in print, he learned that he was mistaken. “This morning I was informed that we did make cheques to the Conservatives,” he said. “I have a friend who was volunteer fundraiser for them, and he asked me for a favour and I said yes.”

… Montreal construction entrepreneur Rocco Carbone confirmed Friday night he had in fact made the donation.  

… Many of the donors are registered as having donated $666.66 on the Elections Canada web site but the cheques produced are in the amount of $1,000. A party spokesman said that the party is required to deduct the cost of fundraising events from donations, which could explain the discrepancy between the amounts.




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The Laurier-Sainte-Marie mystery solved?

  1. So is it a rightwing thing, or a Quebec thing that allows people to be so careless with their money and unaware of what party they support?

    • Their names are borrowed to funnel someone else’s money to the party, not their money.

      • Yah, I agree. And it happens all over Canada.

  2. Does not account for the other “supposed” donors.
    Conservatives have lots of explaining to do.

    Time for elections canada to pick up their game and start reporting to Canadians. Media can’t always be doing their job!

    • I’m all for holding politicians’ feet to the fire, but the CPC was accused of a fraudulent donation scheme, produced the supposedly “missing” cheques, and you feel they still have “lots of explaining to do?”

      • Isn’t that how it always goes? Doesn’t matter what the CPC stands accused of, they are always found to be guilty before proven innocent.

        • Poor Cons…always the victims. Sad, isn’t it? Or maybe pathetic is a better word.

      • yup. and with good reason.

      • I don’t know.

        One day, Barone is vehemently denying having anything to do with the CPC, and demanding to know who was doing the fundraising, cause he’d like to have a talk with that guy and find out how his name got on the list of donors.

        The next day, Barone explains that the fundraiser in question was his FRIEND, and it turns out that “we” (his company presumably?) wrote him a $1000 cheque to the Tories as a favour.

        Yeah. Nothing fishy there at all. From, “I’m not a Tory, I didn’t write a cheque, and I’d like to know who said I did” to “The guy who said I wrote a cheque is a friend of mine and when he asked me for a favour we wrote a cheque to the Tories for $1000″ in 24 hours? Come on. There may end up being nothing here, but you can’t say it’s not fishy.

        Producing the cheques is great and all, but wasn’t the implication that the names on the donor list were fake donors being used to launder money from real donors who were over the limit? I thought the whole point behind the scheme was supposedly “Get a cheque for $1000 from Person X who DIDN’T really donate to the party to cover up the $1000 from Person Y who donated over the limit”. Did I misunderstand? ‘Cause I’m not sure that producing the cheques is proof that there was no fraudulent scheme if the whole point of the alleged fraudulent scheme was supposedly to have cheques at the ready that you could produce when people started asking where the money came from.

        • Wells used to – still does, I suppose – have a rule of some sort, something about the simplest explanation being the most likely explanation or something like that. Ie Barone’s about face is definitely funny, but it surely isn’t impossilbe or even improbable by any means.

          This did get me to thinking about the best way (in theory) to actually launder donations, and would that best way involve getting folks who were otherwise unwilling to actually donate (or at least unwilling to admit to donating) to write ‘fake’ cheques? Or to write cheques but then get reimbursed from someone who wanted to donate over the limit? What instructions would you give to that person in terms of how they should answer an EC official? This just does not strike me as the best way to circumvent donation limits, although I haven’t really put much thought into it at all.

          Also makes me wonder if there isn’t a better way to finance political parties, some method that is easy to administer, doesn’t cost the taxpayer any more than the current system, makes any illegal donations extremely easy to spot (eliminates grey areas) and still is somehow tied to the will of the people.

          • Actually, your post made me think of something that hadn’t occurred to me, and I’m turned around a bit on the story perhaps. Maybe the simplest explanation here is that these people all DID donate to the Tories, and they’re simply embarrassed to have their friends and family find out about it. It could well be as simple as that I suppose.

          • Perhaps it’s simple to execute but it involves finding people with limited political interest (unless they would love to donate but are too poor) who are willing to engage in what is still illegal activity.

          • Here’s an idea.
            First, require anybody who donates to supply their SIN as well, which the party must record on a list.
            The lists are submitted to revenue Canada each year, and instead of a tax rebate a 1% tax is applied to the donation as an adjustment to their tax return.

            Thus, anybody who hasn’t actually donated will raise holy hell.

            Then, to make sure that parties aren’t simply hiding money they get, offer a 1% tax rebate to any supplier of goods or services to a political party.. of course, the invoices need to be submitted to get that.

            If more rebates are claimed than taxes.. you know somebody’s lying.

          • Not bad, but simpler still can be done, I suspect.

          • Without costing more in additional oversight/overhead? Okay, I’ll bite.. how?

          • Per vote subsidy….make it the only way to obtain funds.

            Granted, still needs auditing of expenses. I believe that that part would be basically unchanged.

          • Now see, I was thinking that before I did my first response, but that “tied to the will of the people” part made me think you really wanted some means that would still preserve private funding.

            I love the per-vote subsidy myself, but it does have a few problems, most of which boil down to how can we get to the *current* will of the people, as opposed to what it was during the last election. For instance, how do new parties start under a per-vote subsidy? How do they even afford to become a candidate? (Something Mr. Tan of the Rhino party actually tried to deal with in a court case.. I believe he was unsuccessful, however.. it’s been a while since I looked.)

            What if a party does something particularly heinous, so everybody knows damn well they won’t get any votes, or perhaps have announced that come next election, they’re not going to bother running anybody. Do we keep paying them?

          • Wrt ‘private’ funding, I’ll just note that those private donations automatically oblige taxpayers to supply a refund of public dollars at a starting ratio of 3 public dollars for each private dollar, so it is a bit disingenuous (not you I realize) to call those private dollars. And the per vote subsidy does a much better job of representing the democractic will of the people (15 or so million voters) than those cash donors (well under a million citizens).

            Wrt startup parties, perhaps we could keep the private donation scheme in place for those startups, as long as popular vote stays below X percent. Above that you switch to per vote funding. And to further assist fledgling parties I’d be very comfortable with a tiered system, with more dollars for the first few votes, less dollars for the last few.

            Wrt funding of either a party that has done something heinous or chooses to throw in the towel, I accept that those two scenarios could occur. But I’m not really all that worried about either of them: first they strike me as rather rare, and the consequences are basically benign. Its not like a party that chooses to cease operation can simply divert those funds into the party presidents retirement fund – I mean that type of thing must already be illegal. In fact I would guess that such a party wouldn’t actually be able to spend the funds….maybe there could be an expiry date, at which time the funds would revert back to the government.

    • EC did report to Canadians on this, in the form of auditing the CPCs donations which were clean as a whistle. The CPC has absolutely nothing to explain.

      This is another in a long line of Steve Maher epic fails. First the false accusations against Del Maestro, completely missing the fact that a Liberal was caught making illegal robocalls, he didn’t realize that fugative Nathan Jacobson was close friends with NDP MP Pat Martin while decrying the fact that he’d met a few CPC MPs at a fund-raiser one time, the lies about the PM visiting the bathroom in Brazil, the list is endless. The guy simply throws much around and hopes something might stick. He’s a hack journalist with a highly visible bias.

      If anyone has some explaining to do, it’s Stevie Maher.

      • “First the false accusations against Del Maestro”

        Aaahahahahaha! No need read past that.

      • You mean the accusations that a company owned by his relative asked people to write donations to Del Maestro, for which he’d pay them back plus $50.. and then two people produced cheques verifying it?

        http://www2.macleans.ca/2012/06/27/the-case-of-dean-del-mastro-and-the-cheques/

        Incidentally.. what the hell ever happened to that story? It’s starting to look like it got shoved down the memory hole.

  3. I have a friend who was volunteer fundraiser for them, and he asked me for a favour and I said yes.”

    “Someday – and that day may never come – I’ll call upon you to do a service for me.”

    (Yes, I know, I called people out for inferring these guys were all mobbed-up liars when they said previously that they’d never donated the money. I’m aware of the irony/hypocrisy. Still, his “friend” asked him for “a favour” so he wrote a $1000 cheque? And then forgot about it? It’s too funny.)

    • So it’s disgusting and shameful when others make jokes that play on cultural stereotypes, but it’s “too funny” when you do it? Thanks for an honest display of Liberal hypocrisy.

      • Where did you see me say that it was “disgusting and shameful”???

        I actually thought it was FUNNY when Neil defended the Tories saying “LOL, when “Rocco” the Quebec construction guy and “Italio” the Perfectly Legitimate Montreal Businessman are your “sources” for financial irregularities in politics your story isn’t going to resonate with anyone”.

        His hilarious point amounted to “Those guys are probably corrupt, mobbed-up liars. OF COURSE they donated money to the Tories”.

      • To be clear, I didn’t say that my own little joke was “too funny” I said that this explanation is too funny. One day: Whoever this fundraiser is he’s a lying liar, I’m not a Tory, and I never donated to the Tories, and the NEXT DAY: Turns out that fundraiser is a friend of mine and when he asked me for a favour we wrote a cheque to the Tories for $1000???

        Maybe I can buy that $1000 isn’t a lot of money to some people, and they might forget writing a cheque for $1000 to a political party they support. But a passionate non-Tory writes a $1000 cheque to the Tories as a favour to a friend and not only forgets about doing it, but VEHEMENTLY denies doing it when asked about it??? That’s a funny story.

  4. Italio Barone Then and Now:

    Then (Nov. 22):
    Italio Barone, who owns a banquet hall in Montreal’s Little Italy, said
    he is not a Conservative and doesn’t know where Laurier-Sainte-Marie is.

    “I have nothing to do with the Conservatives,” he said. “I want to find
    out who the guy was doing the fundraising because I have a few words to
    say to him.”

    Now (Nov 23):
    “This morning I was informed that we did make cheques to the
    Conservatives,” [Italio Barone] said. “I have a friend who was volunteer fundraiser
    for them, and he asked me for a favour and I said yes.”
    —–
    Then:

    Eleven donors to Conservative riding association say they never gave the moneyhttp://o.canada.com/2012/11/22/eleven-donors-to-conservative-riding-say-they-never-gave-the-money/

    Now:

    Conservatives produce copies of cheques from riding association donorshttp://o.canada.com/2012/11/23/conservatives-produce-copies-of-cheques-from-riding-association-donors/

  5. This no way is not going to never negate negative notions from the nattering nabobs of negativism.

  6. Questions –

    Does this account for 100% of the suspicious donations?

    Are they allowed to take roughly $400 off for expenses? (yes a rep said it was OK, but they also kept saying it was OK to funnel donations into no-chance ridings to circumvent spending limits. Somebody should check that out.)

    • Can you provide any evidence of any “suspicious donations”? Because it seems that Maher tried his damndest, and failed miserably. Next I’m sure he’ll be contacting donors with Alzheimer’s to back up his wild fantasies.

      • So, one day the guy says he’s not a Tory, never donated to the Tories, and would like to find this fundraiser who says he did and give him a piece of his mind.

        The next day he explains that the fundraiser in question is his FRIEND, and his friend ask them for a favour, and so they cut the Tories a $1000 cheque.

        That’s not suspicious???

        • No, it’s not suspicious. It sounds more like Maher was targeting donors who might be suffering from dementia or other mental illnesses and using them to concoct a story without any basis in reality.

          I do find it suspicious that Maher is calling donors and harassing them about weather or not they donated to the CPC, even though Elections Canada audited lists confirm that they have.

          • I doubt that first part is true. Maybe it’s just me, but if I were the Tories I wouldn’t be having my fundraisers soliciting $1000 donations from their friends who might be suffering from dementia or other mental illnesses.

          • You’re right, he probably wasn’t targeting the mentally ill. He probably just knew ahead of time that if he called a few hundred people on a donors list that a handful of them would forget having made donations, and that he’d be able to make a “story” out of it.

            Maher isn’t a journalist, he writes fiction.

          • Rick, realizing his “defence” of the Conservatives is that they they were soliciting donations from the mentally ill and senile, agrees that LKO is “probably right”. Heh. Talk about writing fiction and making it up as you go along.

          • I’ve said this already, but I’ll say it again. I’ll buy the notion that to some people $1000 isn’t that much money, and that someone could write a cheque for $1000 to a political party that they support and then forget that they wrote it. However, I’m having a lot more difficulty believing that someone could write a $1000 cheque to a party that they DON’T support, as a favour to a friend, and then forget about THAT.

          • It sounds more like Maher was targeting donors who might be suffering
            from dementia or other mental illnesses and using them to concoct a
            story without any basis in reality.

            ***

            I’m saddened that even a CPC supporter with a penchant for utter falsehoods (like his very identity) would stoop to write that.

          • You must be saddened that the Conservative party is taking advantage of the mentally incompetent.

          • “It sounds more like Maher was targeting donors who might be suffering
            from dementia or other mental illnesses and using them to concoct a
            story without any basis in reality.”

            Your CPC co-conspirators probably winced at little when they read this. I don’t think you’re helping their narrative with this kind of loopy comment..

          • You mean the way LKO is embarrassed when he sees your contributions not to mention GF or len.

          • I see I’ve already flushed out one of Omen’s co-conspirators.

  7. Is it time Canadians start taking the so-called “reporting” of Stephen Maher with a massive grain of salt? He’s clearly gone over the deep end with his obvious bias on display. I mean, the donations were audited by Elections Canada, does Maher really think he’s so much smarter than that entire organization?

    What I also find deeply disturbing is that a journalist is calling people and asking them if they donated to a particular political party? He knows they did, because he has the list. The only reason to be making the calls seems to be to harass CPC donors. This coming from a so-called “journalist” is very very scary.

    • I guess HQ won’t be sending the talking points until Monday. You are embarrassing when you try to do it yourself.

      • Can you name a single journalist in Canada who’s chased more fake stories than Stevie Maher? He’s a typical partisan hack who’s journalistic integrity is in shreds.

        • Can you name a single journalist in Canada who’s chased more fake stories than Stevie Maher?
          ***

          Ezra Levant.

          • Care to give us a list ?

    • “The only reason to be making the calls seems to be to harass CPC donors.”

      Or, oh I don’t know, to get answers like,

      “I have nothing to do with the Conservatives,” “I want to find out who the guy was doing the fundraising because I have a few words to say to him.”

      Followed the next day by the same person saying,

      “This morning I was informed that we did make cheques to the Conservatives. I have a friend who was volunteer fundraiser for them, and he asked me for a favour and I said yes.”

      Nothing suspicious there. Just creepy, albeit maybe not knock up the babysitter and ditch the wife creepy.

      • So he had to make the phone calls to answer questions raised by the phone calls he hadn’t yet made? If he hadn’t made the phone calls, none of these “questions” would have been raised!

        I’d even go so far as to say that Steve KNEW ahead of time that if he called a few hundred donors, a few would forget having made donations, even though they had, and that he could make a “story” out of it.

        It doesn’t even border on journalism, it’s much more like fiction.

        • No, he just had to look at the odd amounts of the donations.

    • I don’t think Maher has a strong bias towards any particular party. I think its actually far more accurate to argue that the man believes himself more competent than Elections Canada. Elections Canada takes time with its investigations to ensure that its presents the best evidence possible, but that’s to slow and not exciting enough for some journalists and opposistion MPs (I mean that as in the institution as a whole not the particular MPs who sit on that side of the bench now. If this was an NDP government say with questions of fraud leveled against them the Tories would be doing the exact same thing as the NDP are doing now).

  8. @WilcoxPass:disqus made a point upstream that has me re-thinking this story, and perhaps there really isn’t any great conspiracy a foot.

    This hadn’t occurred to me, but I do think that it’s possible that all of these people DID donate $1000 to the Tories, and didn’t forget it, but they’re simply embarrassed to have their friends and families find out about it. So, at first they vehemently deny making the donations, until they realize that denying the donations actually makes this a bigger story, so they come up with excuses like “my friend was fundraising for them, so I wrote a cheque as a favour to him”.

    Please poke holes in that theory if it misses something, but I think that it does have the dual advantages of being both plausible and simple. Is there an aspect of the story that doesn’t jive with that theory?

    • That’s me above btw. Because disqus can be annoying, it tagged it as “Guest” the moment I hit the delete button by accident when trying to edit “a foot” to “afoot”.

      • Another simplish explanation is that Barone basically wasn’t paying full attention when his friend approached him several years ago, possibly coupled with a friend who played a little loose with the actual destination of the donation; voila a donation is made to the CPC by someone who is actually not all that interested in doing so.

        As an aside, the fundraising fee seems pretty steep, but it must be so, because there is no advantage (other than to taxpayers) to overstate those costs (I think).

        • On the second point, wouldn’t the advantage hypothetically be that you get $1000 from a donor, spend $200 of that on the dinner event where they meet the PM, but then tell Elections Canada that you spent $400 on the dinner event? Wouldn’t doing that mean that you now have $200 in your pocket from the donor that EC thinks has already been spent, and you can spend it on something else without anyone knowing?

          • It has both the advantage LKO points out, plus it has the second advantage in that the people who bought tickets to that dinner have an additional $333 they can provide and still be within their donation limit.

            It’s basically a way to give people with big money the opportunity to give more of it than our pesky election laws allow.

          • Hmmm, could be….

            I suppose I was looking at it somewhat from the perspective of Mr Baarone. I assumed that part of the pitch he got from his friend involved mention of the generous tax rebate, and if that is the case I suspected that Mr Barone might be a bit ticked off to learn that only 2/3 of his donation was actually eligible for the refund.

          • Can donors really do that though. It seems to me that if political parties incur fundraising expenses that are taken out of the donations from donors, then said donors still donated that money to the party. Regardless of whether the party used all of my $1000 on other expenses, or used some of it to pay for the fundraising event, it was still THE PARTY spending the money, wasn’t it?

            It would also appear that many donors who DID remember making donations felt that they had made $1000 donations. If what you suggest is correct, what happens when said donors list a $1000 donation on their taxes, only to discover that they only “really” donated $$666.66?

          • http://www.elections.ca/content.aspx?section=res&dir=loi/inf&document=fs29&lang=e

            Item 28: “If tickets are sold to raise funds, the amount of the contribution is the difference between the price of the ticket and the fair market value of what the ticket entitles the bearer to obtain”

            In other words, you bought your own dinner, and the excess was a donation. Even though they arranged it all, and the dinner was expressly to get donations.

            Of course the real fun part is item 29: “The fair market value of what the ticket entitles the bearer to obtain should be based on a reasonable estimate of the cost of purchasing similar tangible benefits in the marketplace.” (emphasis added)

            Wondering why they chose such an odd amount? I’m betting EC generally doesn’t bother looking at events for which the “estimate” is a third or less of the total ticket price.

            Also, item 31 addresses your argument. The people get advised at the time of purchasing the ticket how much of it is considered to be the “donation” cost. So when they bought the ticket, presumably someone told them it was a $666 donation. Although you bring up an interesting point. Perhaps someone should look at the donation receipts that got given out to the attendees, to make sure that’s what they actually say.

          • The first part makes some sense I suppose, in terms of being able to set aside some money of which EC is not aware.

            I’m a little less sure about how easy it would be to then spend that money without drawing attention. Easy if it is only $200 from one ticket to one dinner, but if this was the SOP for all tickets to all dinners, a political party could end up with $100,000s. Spending that money without leaving a paper trail strikes me as a bit harder.

            All of this still makes me mildly queasy – is there really no better way to fund this little old thing we call our democracy?

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