Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Note To Tories

Please do not repeat this over and over:
"The only point where we get hung up is whether it is acceptable for local riding campaigns to advertise or promote national leaders, national issues and national themes."
No one cares -- not even a little bit, if local campaigns highlight national leaders, issues or themes. We do care that you follow the spending laws in doing so. We care that you don't appear to fake invoices to advertising companies and we care that you don't try to cover up these actions by trying to tear down the idea of government itself.
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  1. You've got the facts wrong. The CPC has not been accused of faking invoices. What the affadavit alleges is that the ADVERTISING company sent the same invoices to a whole group of candidates participating in the ad buy. But this actually means nothing. Everyone already knows that the candidates transferred the money to buy the ads to the federal party, so that the federal party could buy the ads on their behalf, and then the federal party transfered the same amount back (which is entirely legal), and the advertising company was asked by the federal party to provide the invoices to the candidates individual campaigns instead of one bulk invoice to the federal party. Since it is not in dispute that the individual campaigns actually paid for the ad buys, the invoices having the same number or same formatting or spelling errors is completely immaterial. What an advertising firm does for their own record keeping doesn't make any difference to the electoral legality of it.

  2. See, I didn't think Greg's comment about the "faked invoices" was about the multiple invoices with one invoice number going to multiple people (which aren't necessarily "fake" in that regard but merely tend to show that this was indeed a single national ad-buy clumsily disguised as multiple local ad-buys by having the candidates pretended the ads were local, and giving them each individual invoices for the ads to make them look "local" even though they were clearly "national" ads). As in many scandals, I'm less angry that they tried to pull this stunt than I am that they did it so poorly! If you're going to try to pull one over on us, do a good job for Pete's sake!!! However it's true that maybe the invoices aren't fake (though, even then, a single invoice number suggests a single national ad-buy, not multiple local ad-buys).

    What I thought Greg was referencing however when he mentioned "faked" invoices wasn't the fact that the invoices all had one invoice number, it was this:

    "As an example of the invoices filed with Elections Canada, I showed the representatives of Retail Media an invoice in the amount of $39,999.91 (Appendix 23) filed by the candidate for the electoral district of York South-Weston, who was one of the 14 candidates (paragraph 37) contacted by Elections Canada for additional information subsequent to the filing of Candidate's Electoral Campaign Returns following the 39th federal general election. Upon viewing the document, which bears the letterhead of Retail Media, Ms. Dixon speculated that this invoice must have been altered or created by someone, because it did not conform to the appearance of the invoices sent by Retail Media to the Conservative Party of Canada with respect to the media buy."

    Now, admittedly, this whole thing smells so fishy that it can be tough to tell what's a salmon and what's a trout, but THAT's the "fake invoices" bit isn't it? That the individual local invoices don't look like the types of invoices Retail Media gives out to clients, suggesting that, perhaps, the invoices provided to Elections Canada weren't from Retail Media (and further suggesting that, perhaps, Retail Media did one National ad-buy for the Tories, who then tried to make it look like multiple local ad-buys after the fact). The multiple invoices for one ad buy could very well be evidence of "fake" local ad-buys (which is to say one real national ad-buy "faked up" to look local). It's not JUST that there's only one invoice number, it's that the multiple invoices apparently don't look like real Retail Media invoices. What the single invoice number suggests is that Retail Media only did one national ad-buy for the Tories, not multiple local buys. What the (apparent) "fakeness" of the invoices given to Elections Canada suggests is that Retail Media only issued a single invoice but that SOMEONE provided multiple smaller invoices to Elections Canada (and we'll have to wait and see if that's kosher or not).

    Anyway, I think paulm is right that it's not in dispute that the local ridings paid for the ads. Of course, THAT'S THE WHOLE POINT! The local riding associations HAD to pay for the ads, because the national party had hit the spending limit. What IS in dispute is whether these were multiple "local" ads paid for by the local campaigns through the auspices of the national party (which is apparently OK) or NATIONAL ads, made to LOOK like local ads so that the party could do a national ad-buy $1.2 million above their national spending limit. The fact that the Advertising company apparently didn't even bother to assign separate invoice numbers to the invoices (did they just made one invoice and then photocopied it dozens of times?) speaks to the fact that this was one national ad-buy being bought with local funds, not a series of local ad buys purchased separately and coordinated by the central office. The fact that the invoices don't look like the types of invoices the advertising company issues is even MORE worrying. The question isn't "were the ads paid for by the local ridings or by the national party?" The answer is clear, the money came from the local ridings. The question is, was this one national ad-buy gussied up to look like dozens of local ad-buys, or were these legitimately local ad-buys coordinated through the national office?

    Even if the invoices are all 100% legitimate, a single invoice number STILL suggests the latter.

  3. This Globe and Mail article has more, including the official agent of one of the Tory candidates stating not that she didn't recognize the invoice, but that "she had no knowledge whatsoever of Retail Media".

    It goes on "Ms. Soderberg said she was approached by Conservative Party campaign manager Rom Cimaroli, who proposed a deposit of about $40,000 into Mr. Halicki's campaign account. The funds would be immediately transferred back to the party and recorded as an advertising expense, the affidavit states. Despite some misgivings, Ms. Soderberg said she was reassured by party officials that the transaction was legal. 'As a bookkeeper I know that sometimes you have to use creative accounting between two small companies, but I found this move was being a little too creative.'".

    So, apparently, it's not just that the official agents of the candidates didn't all know what the supposedly "local" ad-buy was, some didn't know any more than that some money was briefly transfered to their accounts and then transfered right back out again!

    How on Earth is that NOT a national ad-buy? I don't see how you can justify something as a "local" expense if the official agent of the local candidate never sees an invoice, never discusses the ads in question with anyone, and has never even heard of the company producing the ads.