Friday, March 30, 2012

iPolitics has articles posted by convicted felon Bruce Carson

It's good to know that iPolitics provides its readers with the insights if ex-felons like Bruce Carson. See here

Who better to expound on the virtues of Harper's recent budget than a convicted felon?

Would Flaherty have saved the lowly penny if it was a sitting MP?

Any explanation yet as to why Flaherty is "bold" enough to mess with Canadians' parsimonious pensions but did NOTHING to curb the MP pension abuse? I guess if the lowly Canadian penny was a sitting MP or a Senator, it would have been saved too?

Talk about blatant self the extreme.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Thumbs down on Flaherty's penny-wise pound-foolish budget:


Penny to disappear from coinage system, minting to end by fall


MPs' gold-plated pensions untouched by budget, no change before next election

Governor General's salary to be taxed, but it won't cost him a dime

Mayrand on the CONs "absolutely outrageous" robocalls

Remarks of the Chief Electoral Officer video courtesy of CPAC

"Canadians are proud of their electoral system. And they should be. However, recent events and media reports have shaken their confidence. As I indicated at the outset, the trust of electors in the integrity of the electoral process is an essential aspect of a healthy democracy.

Elections Canada performs a key function in this regard. When irregularities or improper conduct are brought to our attention, we have a responsibility to take action. We must look into them diligently, and we do. If the regime is inadequate and needs to be improved, it is my role to make those changes or to recommend legislative amendments.

We all have a role in preserving trust in our electoral process. This includes not only Elections Canada but the electors themselves, the candidates and political parties, and also the media. The quality of our democracy depends on the vigilance and conduct of all players involved.

Mr. Chair, we would be pleased to answer any questions.

Thank you."

The widespread nature of Harper's robocall election fraud

Elections Canada probing call complaints in 200 ridings
800 complaints received about robocalls and live calls, Commons committee hears

By Meagan Fitzpatrick, CBC News
Mar 29, 2012 12:45 PM ET

Elections Canada is looking into 800 complaints from voters about robocalls and live calls made in 200 ridings during the last federal election, the agency's head said Thursday.

Chief Electoral Officer Marc Mayrand wouldn't comment specifically on the ongoing investigation in the Ontario riding of Guelph, or confirm how many official investigations are underway, but he did tell MPs that 250 case files have been opened at the chief election commissioner's office.

He cautioned that some complaints can be combined into a single file or investigation.

Mayrand, appearing at the Commons' procedure and House affairs committee on the subject of "allegations of wrongdoing" during last May's general election, said 70 complaints were received immediately after the election related to improper communication. People said they received live and automated calls purporting to be from Elections Canada that told them their polling station had been changed.

Elections Canada does not phone voters to inform them of polling station changes. Mayrand said some cases involved a person falsely claiming to be calling from a party or campaign. People have also complained about calls that were harassing and rude in nature and were received at inconvenient times.

"Any action taken to deliberately misdirect electors and interfere with their right to vote under the Constitution and the Elections Act is a serious offence," he said in his opening statement. "It not only denies the fundamental rights of affected electors, but it also diminishes our democratic institution and the rights of all Canadians."

He later called the attempts to misdirect voters "absolutely outrageous" and said whoever is responsible should face serious sanctions. He also said the Elections Act should be reviewed to ensure that its penalties are strong enough.

"It's totally unacceptable in a modern democracy," he said of the attempts to misdirect voters.

When the story broke in the media in February about the Elections Canada investigation in Guelph, Mayrand said the agency subsequently received 40,000 "contacts." Those involved people expressing their concerns and didn't all involve specific cases.

The agency has 800 specific allegations of fraudulent or improper calls, he said, that are being reviewed to see if they warrant further investigation.

The commissioner's office determines whether there is sufficient evidence and if a complaint is considered too vague, it is dismissed.

"We have added sufficient resources to deal with the inflow of communication and to contact electors who have specific, factual allegations," he said.

Mayrand said people should not draw conclusions before the election commissioner has finished his investigation.

He intends to complete a report within a year about how electors are communicated to in the context of evolving technologies.

"I think we can say that Canadians are proud of their electoral system and that they should be," Mayrand said, but he added that voters' trust and confidence has been shaken by the robocall story.

He said Elections Canada diligently looks into complaints about irregularities and improper conduct.
Attention on federal budget

Mayrand's appearance at the committee took place on a day when Parliament Hill's attention will be turned to the federal budget, to be tabled by Finance Minister Jim Flaherty at 4 p.m. ET.

Mayrand said he would be willing to come before the committee when he released a statement two weeks ago. The government chose Thursday as the date for his appearance.

The chair of the committee, Conservative MP Joe Preston, said on Wednesday that the committee didn't have any other business scheduled for the day and it was the earliest Mayrand could appear.

Elections Canada previously said it is investigating the source of fraudulent phone calls, claiming to be on behalf of the electoral agency, that directed voters in the Ontario riding of Guelph to the wrong polling station. Under the Canada Elections Act it is illegal to impersonate an Elections Canada official and to misdirect voters.

Since news of that investigation was reported in the media, voters in ridings across the country have come forward with stories of similar calls, both automated and live.

Elections Canada has revealed few details about the probe because it is ongoing but some details have been revealed because of court documents. Mayrand said a final report will be made public.
Calls traced to firm hired by Tories

What is known about the Elections Canada probe is that it traced the fraudulent robocalls in Guelph to an automated calling service based in Edmonton. The company, RackNine Inc., is co-operating with the investigation to determine the identity of the client who uploaded the robocall to the service.

RackNine was hired by the Conservative national campaign and several local campaigns.

Mayrand warned in his March 15 statement that conclusions should not be drawn prematurely. But opposition MPs had already accused the Conservatives of being behind a widespread campaign of voter suppression.

There is no evidence that the Conservative campaign was behind the mysterious robocalls in Guelph, or anywhere else.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

"Ethical oil" revisited: Is voter suppression a tactic of the oil industry?

Here are two articles that link the tactics of voter suppression with "interests" in the oil industry. The first article (concerning Canada) is entitled Robocalls and the petrostate and the second article (concerning the US) is entitled In a campaign supported by the Koch brothers, Republicans are working to prevent millions of Democrats from voting next year. The Koch brothers being of Koch Industries, the privately owned US energy giant.

Robocalls and the petrostate
By Briony Penn, April 2012

Links between election fraud and oil interests are so thick, it appears bitumen itself is lubricating the connections.

OVER TWO DAYS in January, 2010, the Manning Centre for Building Democracy held a campaign school at Delta Ocean Pointe Resort in Victoria in preparation for the 2011 election. Revelations of what went on during those two days has yielded intriguing insight into what might lie behind the current robocall scandal. The Manning Centre is a Conservative think-tank operating out of Calgary, headed by Preston Manning, and board members include Gwyn Morgan, ex-CEO of EnCana Corp and other luminaries of the oil and gas industry.

Organizers of the campaign school had sent invitations to various Conservative and former Reform party members and campaign teams, encouraging them to attend. One such invitation went to John Fryer, a former member of the Reform Party but now a Green Party federal council member and campaign manager for Elizabeth May. Fryer is not the kind of politico you might expect to be attending a Manning Centre event, having won the Order of Canada for his work on international labour policy. Fryer’s experiences at the two-day event were described in a letter to the Globe and Mail on March 3, 2012, as the election fraud scandal unfolded.

Fryer wrote, “Topics covered included voter identification. Discussion ensued about suppression techniques. Instructors explained voter suppression tactics were borrowed from those used by the US Republican Party. Many kinds of suppression calls were canvassed. Another instructor gave detailed explanations of how robocalls worked, techniques for recording messages, plus costs involved. He distributed his business card upon request. Instructors made it clear that robocalling and voter suppression were an acceptable and normal part of winning political campaigns. With election ethics like this, a more compelling case for changing to a system of proportional representation where each and every vote counts is hard to imagine.”

Vancouver Observer reporter Emma Pullman had also interviewed Fryer. Pullman works for DeSmogBlog, investigating the climate denial industry and its financial backers in the oil industry. In her article, details of the workshop were elaborated upon, including the names of the instructors: Dimitri Pantazopoulos, a former pollster for the federal Conservatives, now the Principal Secretary to Premier Christy Clark; Richard Ciano and Nick Kouvalis of Campaign Research, both long-term Conservative party operatives; and Kory Teneycke, Prime Minister Harper’s former director of communications, and the main booster for Fox North TV.

Following the media exposure, both Fryer and the Observer received libel threats. Fryer was asked by a Campaign Research lawyer to publish a letter saying his comments were not intended to suggest that “Mr Couvalis, Mr Ciano or Campaign Research provided, discussed or made suggestions to participants regarding any illegal or unethical campaign or election tactics,” which he did. The Observer was asked to print disclaimers throughout its article, which they did. Fryer declined to speak with me.

When Manning Centre for Building Democracy was asked for its response to Fryer’s comments, Director of Com-munications Olivier Ballou stated that Fryer’s retraction letter spoke to the issue. But Pullman says, “Focusing on Fryer’s apology letter to the instructors misses the point. As I wrote in the article, it was the attendees who discussed using the methods that were being taught to make misleading phone calls.” The Manning Centre’s Ballou countered that no other attendees seemed to be corroborating Fryer’s story. According to a list of those who attended obtained by Pullman, most attendees were from federal conservative campaign teams in local ridings, such as those for Troy de Souza and Patrick Hunt of Juan de Fuca and Victoria. In an interview, Hunt denied there was any reference to voter suppression during the course. Preston Manning, in a recent speech, stated: “Any political strategy, tactic, or technology which deliberately employs a lie to misdirect or mislead a voter is deplorable ethically and for the damage it does to the democratic process and public confidence in all parties and politicians.”

But Hugh Kruzel, an independent municipal candidate from Victoria who attended the Delta Ocean Pointe campaign school says, “By and large I swallowed some of the kool aid about what the potential lessons learned from the US were, but it didn’t have any sticking power for me. If I heard something that I would never be involved in, I got up and had a coffee. Ethically, I would rather get out the vote than work to ensure other voices are snuffed. Can I remember exactly discussions about voter suppression? I believe some of that was discussed, even at the round table level.”

The Manning Centre and oil

So what is the Manning Centre for Building Democracy and who funds it? Started in 2005 by Preston Manning, its website says it’s “a national not-for-profit organization supporting research, educational, and communications initiatives designed to achieve a more democratic society in Canada guided by conservative principles.”

Manning’s Ballou says “private donations” fund the organization. However, Preston Manning’s own speeches on the website identify some of these “private donors” including Canadian Natural Resources, Shell Canada, Spectra Energy, and TransCanada among others—large publicly-traded oil sector companies.

One private donor identified is Gwyn Morgan. Morgan, in addition to his long affiliation with EnCana, is a colleague of and former fundraiser for Harper and the Conservative Party, advisor to Premier Christy Clark, and chair of the board of SNC Lavalin. SNC Lavalin is currently negotiating the purchase of the nationally-owned Atomic Energy of Canada Limited (AECL) who make Candu reactors. Nuclear energy has long been proposed as a key future power source for the bitumen extraction process. The Harper Record (published by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives) notes that AECL is working with Shell to explore nuclear potential in the tar sands.

Other directors of the Manning Centre include Chairman Cliff Fryers (no relation to John Fryer) a tax litigator, general counsel for Mobil Oil Canada Ltd, governor of the Canadian Tax Foundation and a director of the Canadian Petroleum Tax Society; and secretary and treasurer Blair Nixon, tax counsel to a number of natural resources companies.

The connection between the interests of oil companies and the Manning Centre is clear. The connection between the Manning Centre and activities which would lead to electoral fraud are becoming clear.

The result of such connections to, and funding from, oil companies for the Manning Centre—and other such organizations—is a skewed democracy in which petrodollars help elect politicians, usually Conservative, that are oil-patch-friendly. This can happen directly or indirectly, with oil revenue funding politicians or institutions that work to create an oil-friendly culture. The power of big oil to influence public policy in the area of climate change has been well documented by such watchdog groups as DeSmogBlog, who have been tracking the financing of fake science institutes that deny climate change and obfuscate policy. And Morgan himself gave Harper’s old advocacy group, the National Citizen’s Coalition, $20,000 for fighting Stephane Dion’s carbon tax plan prior to the 2008 election.

The aim is to get and keep Conservatives in power, preferably with a majority.

The Alberta experience

Andrew Nikiforuk, an award-winning journalist and author of Tar Sands: Dirty Oil and the Future of a Continent and a long-standing critic of Albertan petrostate politics (where the Conservative party has been in power for over 40 years) says, “A government that has access to the enormous stores of hydrocarbons can use the money to manipulate the process and keep themselves in power, and that means subverting the election process and undermining the electoral institutions.” He goes on to describe the various ways in which oil revenue lubricates the subversion process. “First there is the ability of a government running on oil revenue with no savings plan to cover up mistakes, bribe citizens and institutions, lower taxes and fund expensive infrastructure programs to win votes.”

He also suggests: “There are no institutional watchdogs in petrostates, they only appoint puppies.” The non-puppies tend to get fired, Nikiforuk says, recounting the case of Alberta’s Chief Electoral Officer Lorne Gibson. In 2007, Winnipeg-born Gibson made his first mistake by recommending charges in nine cases of illegal electoral funding where schools and municipalities had funded the Conservative Party, all of which were curiously dropped.

In 2008, Gibson followed up after the provincial election with a scathing report documenting election irregularities. These included a lack of impartiality by the governing Conservative Party in appointing large numbers of electoral returning officers having ties to the Conservatives. Gibson’s report described tactics used to appoint electoral officers, which were sometimes delayed until the day before the election, thus preventing a quarter of Alberta’s voters from getting pre-registered. The ensuing delays, confusion, jammed websites and other voter suppression tactics were well documented in Gibson’s report.

He made extensive recommendations for electoral reform and then was promptly fired for his efforts by a legislative committee stacked with Conservatives.

Subsequent to Gibson’s firing, Paula Simons, a columnist with the Edmonton Journal, wrote: “The sequence of events sends a terrible message to other independent legislative officers, such as the auditor general, the information and privacy commissioner, the ethics commissioner and the ombudsman. Are they to understand that they too might lose their appointments if they criticize and embarrass the government?”

Gibson is currently in court appealing wrongful dismissal.

Nikiforuk notes, “That culture of bending the rules has expanded beyond the borders of Alberta now into the rest of Canada with the petrostate party winning its federal majority.”

Ground Zero: Saanich–Gulf Islands

Locally, Saanich–Gulf Islands’ residents have experienced at least two elections in which irregularities occurred. Viewed as a swing riding in both the 2008 and 2011 federal elections, it was targeted by robocalls apparently trying to suppress the vote for non-Conservative candidates.

As the Liberal candidate in the 2008 election, I have personal experience with questionable third-party funding and robocalls.

Gary Lunn, Harper’s then-Minister of Natural Resources, was the incumbent. The riding’s strategic location at the edge of the Pacific put it at the heart of the national debate on whether bitumen could be safely distributed from our shores via pipelines and tankers. Lunn’s campaign was well supported by the oil patch gang, including Gwyn Morgan, who chose to retire in the area and whose wife headed a third-party advertiser (she also sits on the Council of Advisors for the Manning Centre).

There were five such third-party organizations registered to support Lunn in that election, four of whom had the same address—a law office under the name of lawyer Bruce Hallsor. Hallsor is a prominent Conservative operative. A former member of the BC Chief Electoral Officer’s Advisory Committee, vice-president of the Conservatives’ Saanich–Gulf Islands Electoral District Association, and former director of Fair Voting BC, he was also named in Election Canada’s investigation of a so-called “in-and-out scheme” in his capacity as co-chair of the Conservative campaigns in BC in 2006.

The in-and-out scheme was an illegal mechanism whereby the Conservative Party shifted national advertising money in and out of local riding campaign accounts in order to claim it as local spending. On March 12, 2012 the Conservatives lost their federal court appeal and were found guilty of illegal election financing during the 2006 election. They were fined $52,000 although they exceeded spending limits by $1.3 million.

In the 2008 election, third-party advertisers—each allowed to spend $3666—flooded the Saanich–Gulf Islands riding with pro-Conservative ads. Under the Canada Elections Act such advertising could only come from third- party groups that were at “arm’s length” from campaign workers. But at a meeting convened by Elections Canada officials prior to the election for all candidates, their managers, agents and riding association presidents, Hallsor was sitting next to his Conservative candidate. It’s also illegal to split one third-party group into multiple organizations to increase funding, yet four third-party advertisers shared Halsor’s law office address.

Besides the ad expenditures, on the eve of the election a robocall went out to thousands of NDP supporters, purporting to be from Progressive Voters Association of Saanich–Gulf Islands, urging them to vote for the NDP candidate. No mention was made in the call that the candidate had stepped down, or that his withdrawal had been too late to have his name removed from the ballot. In effect, it split the progressive vote enough for Lunn to win the seat.

Fast forward to the 2011 election. Saanich–Gulf Islands was again viewed as a close race and complaints of robocalls aiming to suppress the vote were again heard. The Green Party’s leader Elizabeth May, who defeated Lunn, has called the robocall scandal “a genuine emergency with regard to the essential integrity of our democratic institutions,” and called (unsuccessfully) for an emergency debate on the matter.

Local political support for a pipeline from Alberta’s tar sands to the coast, and for tankers to transport bitumen through hazardous narrow passages along BC’s coast, has come solely from the Conservatives. In both recent Saanich–Gulf Islands’ elections, the Northern Gateway pipeline had been a central campaign issue. The very first public demonstration—ever—in Sidney was held to protest the northern Gateway pipeline. It was supported by Liberals, Greens and the NDP—as was the moratorium on tanker traffic on the northern coast. With a Conservative minority government, there was no way the pipeline was ever going to fly. But a majority government would be a game changer. The oil could flow.

Jim Harris, writing for Huffington Post, claims, “Harper won his ‘majority’ with 6848 votes. That’s the difference between a Conservative candidate getting elected and the second-place candidate in the 14 closest races that the Conservatives ‘won.’”

Can Elections Canada be trusted?

Elections Canada is now combing through at least 700 individual complaints (31,000 counting those sent through internet forms organized by advocacy groups) in dozens of ridings stemming from the current robocall scandal.

The experience in Saanich–Gulf Islands does not inspire confidence that Elections Canada will get to the bottom (or top) of who misled citizens about polling stations in an effort to suppress non-Conservative votes.

After the 2008 election, both Liberal and NDP Saanich–Gulf Islands riding associations sent a complaint package to Elections Canada about the irregularities. On March 2, 2009, Elections Canada responded: “Our investigator found no one who had actually been influenced in their vote because of the purported telephone call. Nor was he able to identify the source of the person or persons who actually made the calls. As a result of the foregoing, our investigation has now been concluded.” With regard to the third-party advertisers, they wrote “it is within the discretion of the Political Financing and Audit Directorate to refer the matter to the Commissioner for his consideration.” As far as I know, no follow-up ever took place.

After the 2008 experience, it was clear where all this would lead. Duff Conacher of Democracy Watch saw evidence of collusion between third-party groups. He said, “If they are allowed to get away with this [in Saanich–Gulf Islands] what happens if there’s a case where the candidate is still there? Someone could do bulk calling on behalf of whichever candidate you think will split your candidate’s vote.”

Conacher had completed an analysis of Election Canada’s enforcement since 2004 “revealing that the main problem is no one can tell whether Elections Canada has been enforcing the law fairly and properly because it has failed to report details of how it has investigated and ruled on 2284 complaints in the past years.”

In 2009, Will Horter of the Dogwood Initiative, a public-interest non-profit that has been lobbying against oil tankers on the coast, wrote “If someone with subpoena powers doesn’t step up with some investigative muscle, I predict many more Karl-Rove-like black-op operations in future elections.”

Given the Saanich experience, and Alberta’s record before that, is there any reason to be confident Stephen Harper’s Conservative government will not interfere with Elections Canada as they try to investigate the robocall scandal? Will the details be made available? Will the scandal be contained by making “Pierre Poutine” the fall guy? Where is the deeper analysis in the corporate media of the structural erosion of the country’s democratic processes? And who is tracking the oil money lubricating the decline?

These are all question that need to be answered, and soon. Andrew Nikiforuk considers this a political emergency for the country. “Once petrostates seize power, the bar is lowered on everything and it is very difficult to raise it back up.” He cites eroding labour health and safety standards like that which led to two Chinese temporary workers being crushed to death at the Canadian Natural Resources Horizon project. Chinese company Sinopec is appealing to the Supreme Court of Canada to overturn a ruling that would force CNRH to stand trial for the deaths and face 53 safety charges.

This November— if Harper doesn’t stop the process prematurely—the Joint Review Panel for the Enbridge Northern Gateway Project will be in Victoria to hear appellants’ comments on the pipeline. Two of the panel are from Calgary and the third is a manager of a mineral exploration company out of Ontario. Given the money at stake and the way petrodollars are subverting democracy, it’s hard to have much confidence that the panel will be free of political interference. Andrew Nikiforuk warns, “Petrostates won’t tolerate any kind of democratic intervention, as they see it as a threat to their power.”

But as citizens, we have to try, don’t we?

Briony Penn, PhD, is a fifth-generation Vancouver Islander, artist, journalist, environmental educator and mother who believes the rising petrostate is an emergency for both democracy and the planet.

The GOP War on Voting
In a campaign supported by the Koch brothers, Republicans are working to prevent millions of Democrats from voting next year

by: Ari Berman
Rolling Stone Magazine

As the nation gears up for the 2012 presidential election, Republican officials have launched an unprecedented, centrally coordinated campaign to suppress the elements of the Democratic vote that elected Barack Obama in 2008. Just as Dixiecrats once used poll taxes and literacy tests to bar black Southerners from voting, a new crop of GOP governors and state legislators has passed a series of seemingly disconnected measures that could prevent millions of students, minorities, immigrants, ex-convicts and the elderly from casting ballots. "What has happened this year is the most significant setback to voting rights in this country in a century," says Judith Browne-Dianis, who monitors barriers to voting as co-director of the Advancement Project, a civil rights organization based in Washington, D.C.

Republicans have long tried to drive Democratic voters away from the polls. "I don't want everybody to vote," the influential conservative activist Paul Weyrich told a gathering of evangelical leaders in 1980. "As a matter of fact, our leverage in the elections quite candidly goes up as the voting populace goes down." But since the 2010 election, thanks to a conservative advocacy group founded by Weyrich, the GOP's effort to disrupt voting rights has been more widespread and effective than ever. In a systematic campaign orchestrated by the American Legislative Exchange Council – and funded in part by David and Charles Koch, the billionaire brothers who bankrolled the Tea Party – 38 states introduced legislation this year designed to impede voters at every step of the electoral process.

All told, a dozen states have approved new obstacles to voting. Kansas and Alabama now require would-be voters to provide proof of citizenship before registering. Florida and Texas made it harder for groups like the League of Women Voters to register new voters. Maine repealed Election Day voter registration, which had been on the books since 1973. Five states – Florida, Georgia, Ohio, Tennessee and West Virginia – cut short their early voting periods. Florida and Iowa barred all ex-felons from the polls, disenfranchising thousands of previously eligible voters. And six states controlled by Republican governors and legislatures – Alabama, Kansas, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Wisconsin – will require voters to produce a government-issued ID before casting ballots. More than 10 percent of U.S. citizens lack such identification, and the numbers are even higher among constituencies that traditionally lean Democratic – including 18 percent of young voters and 25 percent of African-Americans.

Taken together, such measures could significantly dampen the Democratic turnout next year – perhaps enough to shift the outcome in favor of the GOP. "One of the most pervasive political movements going on outside Washington today is the disciplined, passionate, determined effort of Republican governors and legislators to keep most of you from voting next time," Bill Clinton told a group of student activists in July. "Why is all of this going on? This is not rocket science. They are trying to make the 2012 electorate look more like the 2010 electorate than the 2008 electorate" – a reference to the dominance of the Tea Party last year, compared to the millions of students and minorities who turned out for Obama. "There has never been in my lifetime, since we got rid of the poll tax and all the Jim Crow burdens on voting, the determined effort to limit the franchise that we see today."

To hear Republicans tell it, they are waging a virtuous campaign to crack down on rampant voter fraud – a curious position for a party that managed to seize control of the White House in 2000 despite having lost the popular vote. After taking power, the Bush administration declared war on voter fraud, making it a "top priority" for federal prosecutors. In 2006, the Justice Department fired two U.S. attorneys who refused to pursue trumped-up cases of voter fraud in New Mexico and Washington, and Karl Rove called illegal voting "an enormous and growing problem." In parts of America, he told the Republican National Lawyers Association, "we are beginning to look like we have elections like those run in countries where the guys in charge are colonels in mirrored sunglasses." According to the GOP, community organizers like ACORN were actively recruiting armies of fake voters to misrepresent themselves at the polls and cast illegal ballots for the Democrats.

Even at the time, there was no evidence to back up such outlandish claims. A major probe by the Justice Department between 2002 and 2007 failed to prosecute a single person for going to the polls and impersonating an eligible voter, which the anti-fraud laws are supposedly designed to stop. Out of the 300 million votes cast in that period, federal prosecutors convicted only 86 people for voter fraud – and many of the cases involved immigrants and former felons who were simply unaware of their ineligibility. A much-hyped investigation in Wisconsin, meanwhile, led to the prosecution of only .0007 percent of the local electorate for alleged voter fraud. "Our democracy is under siege from an enemy so small it could be hiding anywhere," joked Stephen Colbert. A 2007 report by the Brennan Center for Justice, a leading advocate for voting rights at the New York University School of Law, quantified the problem in stark terms. "It is more likely that an individual will be struck by lightning," the report calculated, "than that he will impersonate another voter at the polls."

GOP outcries over the phantom menace of voter fraud escalated after 2008, when Obama's candidacy attracted historic numbers of first-time voters. In the 29 states that record party affiliation, roughly two-thirds of new voters registered as Democrats in 2007 and 2008 – and Obama won nearly 70 percent of their votes. In Florida alone, Democrats added more than 600,000 new voters in the run-up to the 2008 election, and those who went to the polls favored Obama over John McCain by 19 points. "This latest flood of attacks on voting rights is a direct shot at the communities that came out in historic numbers for the first time in 2008 and put Obama over the top," says Tova Wang, an elections-reform expert at Demos, a progressive think tank.
No one has done more to stir up fears about the manufactured threat of voter fraud than Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, a top adviser in the Bush Justice Department who has become a rising star in the GOP. "We need a Kris Kobach in every state," declared Michelle Malkin, the conservative pundit. This year, Kobach successfully fought for a law requiring every Kansan to show proof of citizenship in order to vote – even though the state prosecuted only one case of voter fraud in the past five years. The new restriction fused anti-immigrant hysteria with voter-fraud paranoia. "In Kansas, the illegal registration of alien voters has become pervasive," Kobach claimed, offering no substantiating evidence.

Kobach also asserted that dead people were casting ballots, singling out a deceased Kansan named Alfred K. Brewer as one such zombie voter. There was only one problem: Brewer was still very much alive. The Wichita Eagle found him working in his front yard. "I don't think this is heaven," Brewer told the paper. "Not when I'm raking leaves."

Kobach might be the gop's most outspoken crusader working to prevent citizens from voting, but he's far from the only one. "Voting rights are under attack in America," Rep. John Lewis, who was brutally beaten in Alabama while marching during the civil rights movement in the 1960s, observed during an impassioned speech on the House floor in July. "There's a deliberate and systematic attempt to prevent millions of elderly voters, young voters, students, minority and low-income voters from exercising their constitutional right to engage in the democratic process."

The Republican effort, coordinated and funded at the national level, has focused on disenfranchising voters in four key areas:

Barriers to Registration Since January, six states have introduced legislation to impose new restrictions on voter registration drives run by groups like Rock the Vote and the League of Women Voters. In May, the GOP-controlled legislature in Florida passed a law requiring anyone who signs up new voters to hand in registration forms to the state board of elections within 48 hours of collecting them, and to comply with a barrage of onerous, bureaucratic requirements. Those found to have submitted late forms would face a $1,000 fine, as well as possible felony prosecution.

As a result, the law threatens to turn civic-minded volunteers into inadvertent criminals. Denouncing the legislation as "good old-fashioned voter suppression," the League of Women Voters announced that it was ending its registration efforts in Florida, where it has been signing up new voters for the past 70 years. Rock the Vote, which helped 2.5 million voters to register in 2008, could soon follow suit. "We're hoping not to shut down," says Heather Smith, president of Rock the Vote, "but I can't say with any certainty that we'll be able to continue the work we're doing."
The registration law took effect one day after it passed, under an emergency statute designed for "an immediate danger to the public health, safety or welfare." In reality, though, there's no evidence that registering fake voters is a significant problem in the state. Over the past three years, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement has received just 31 cases of suspected voter fraud, resulting in only three arrests statewide. "No one could give me an example of all this fraud they speak about," said Mike Fasano, a Republican state senator who bucked his party and voted against the registration law. What's more, the law serves no useful purpose: Under the Help America Vote Act passed by Congress in 2002, all new voters must show identity before registering to vote.

Cuts to Early Voting After the recount debacle in Florida in 2000, allowing voters to cast their ballots early emerged as a popular bipartisan reform. Early voting not only meant shorter lines on Election Day, it has helped boost turnout in a number of states – the true measure of a successful democracy. "I think it's great," Jeb Bush said in 2004. "It's another reform we added that has helped provide access to the polls and provide a convenience. And we're going to have a high voter turnout here, and I think that's wonderful."

But Republican support for early voting vanished after Obama utilized it as a key part of his strategy in 2008. Nearly 30 percent of the electorate voted early that year, and they favored Obama over McCain by 10 points. The strategy proved especially effective in Florida, where blacks outnumbered whites by two to one among early voters, and in Ohio, where Obama received fewer votes than McCain on Election Day but ended up winning by 263,000 ballots, thanks to his advantage among early voters in urban areas like Cleveland and Columbus.

That may explain why both Florida and Ohio – which now have conservative Republican governors – have dramatically curtailed early voting for 2012. Next year, early voting will be cut from 14 to eight days in Florida and from 35 to 11 days in Ohio, with limited hours on weekends. In addition, both states banned voting on the Sunday before the election – a day when black churches historically mobilize their constituents. Once again, there appears to be nothing to justify the changes other than pure politics. "There is no evidence that any form of convenience voting has led to higher levels of fraud," reports the Early Voting Information Center at Reed College.
Photo IDs By far the biggest change in election rules for 2012 is the number of states requiring a government-issued photo ID, the most important tactic in the Republican war on voting. In April 2008, the Supreme Court upheld a photo-ID law in Indiana, even though state GOP officials couldn't provide a single instance of a voter committing the type of fraud the new ID law was supposed to stop. Emboldened by the ruling, Republicans launched a nationwide effort to implement similar barriers to voting in dozens of states.

The campaign was coordinated by the American Legislative Exchange Council, which provided GOP legislators with draft legislation based on Indiana's ID requirement. In five states that passed such laws in the past year – Kansas, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Wisconsin – the measures were sponsored by legislators who are members of ALEC. "We're seeing the same legislation being proposed state by state by state," says Smith of Rock the Vote. "And they're not being shy in any of these places about clearly and blatantly targeting specific demographic groups, including students."
In Texas, under "emergency" legislation passed by the GOP-dominated legislature and signed by Gov. Rick Perry, a concealed-weapon permit is considered an acceptable ID but a student ID is not. Republicans in Wisconsin, meanwhile, mandated that students can only vote if their IDs include a current address, birth date, signature and two-year expiration date – requirements that no college or university ID in the state currently meets. As a result, 242,000 students in Wisconsin may lack the documentation required to vote next year. "It's like creating a second class of citizens in terms of who gets to vote," says Analiese Eicher, a Dane County board supervisor.

The barriers erected in Texas and Wisconsin go beyond what the Supreme Court upheld in Indiana, where 99 percent of state voters possess the requisite IDs and can turn to full-time DMVs in every county to obtain the proper documentation. By contrast, roughly half of all black and Hispanic residents in Wisconsin do not have a driver's license, and the state staffs barely half as many DMVs as Indiana – a quarter of which are open less than one day a month. To make matters worse, Gov. Scott Walker tried to shut down 16 more DMVs – many of them located in Democratic-leaning areas. In one case, Walker planned to close a DMV in Fort Atkinson, a liberal stronghold, while opening a new office 30 minutes away in the conservative district of Watertown.
Although new ID laws have been approved in seven states, the battle over such barriers to voting has been far more widespread. Since January, Democratic governors in Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, New Hampshire and North Carolina have all vetoed ID laws. Voters in Mississippi and Missouri are slated to consider ballot initiatives requiring voter IDs, and legislation is currently pending in Pennsylvania.

One of the most restrictive laws requiring voter IDs was passed in South Carolina. To obtain the free state ID now required to vote, the 178,000 South Carolinians who currently lack one must pay for a passport or a birth certificate. "It's the stepsister of the poll tax," says Browne-Dianis of the Advancement Project. Under the new law, many elderly black residents – who were born at home in the segregated South and never had a birth certificate – must now go to family court to prove their identity. Given that obtaining fake birth certificates is one of the country's biggest sources of fraud, the new law may actually prompt some voters to illegally procure a birth certificate in order to legally vote – all in the name of combating voter fraud.
For those voters who manage to get a legitimate birth certificate, obtaining a voter ID from the DMV is likely to be hellishly time-consuming. A reporter for the Tri-State Defender in Memphis, Tennessee – another state now mandating voter IDs – recently waited for four hours on a sweltering July day just to see a DMV clerk. The paper found that the longest lines occur in urban precincts, a clear violation of the Voting Rights Act, which bars states from erecting hurdles to voting in minority jurisdictions.

Disenfranchising Ex-Felons The most sweeping tactic in the GOP campaign against voting is simply to make it illegal for certain voters to cast ballots in any election. As the Republican governor of Florida, Charlie Crist restored the voting rights of 154,000 former prisoners who had been convicted of nonviolent crimes. But in March, after only 30 minutes of public debate, Gov. Rick Scott overturned his predecessor's decision, instantly disenfranchising 97,491 ex-felons and prohibiting another 1.1 million prisoners from being allowed to vote after serving their time.

"Why should we disenfranchise people forever once they've paid their price?" Bill Clinton asked during his speech in July. "Because most of them in Florida were African-Americans and Hispanics and would tend to vote for Democrats – that's why."

A similar reversal by a Republican governor recently took place in Iowa, where Gov. Terry Branstad overturned his predecessor's decision to restore voting rights to 100,000 ex-felons. The move threatens to return Iowa to the recent past, when more than five percent of all residents were denied the right to vote – including a third of the state's black residents. In addition, Florida and Iowa join Kentucky and Virginia as the only states that require all former felons to apply for the right to vote after finishing their prison sentences.

In response to the GOP campaign, voting-rights advocates are scrambling to blunt the impact of the new barriers to voting. The ACLU and other groups are challenging the new laws in court, and congressional Democrats have asked the Justice Department to use its authority to block or modify any of the measures that discriminate against minority voters. "The Justice Department should be much more aggressive in areas covered by the Voting Rights Act," says Rep. Lewis.

But beyond waging battles at the state and federal level, voting-rights advocates must figure out how to reframe the broader debate. The real problem in American elections is not the myth of voter fraud, but how few people actually participate. Even in 2008, which saw the highest voter turnout in four decades, fewer than two-thirds of eligible voters went to the polls. And according to a study by MIT, 9 million voters were denied an opportunity to cast ballots that year because of problems with their voter registration (13 percent), long lines at the polls (11 percent), uncertainty about the location of their polling place (nine percent) or lack of proper ID (seven percent).
Come Election Day 2012, such problems will only be exacerbated by the flood of new laws implemented by Republicans. Instead of a single fiasco in Florida, experts warn, there could be chaos in a dozen states as voters find themselves barred from the polls. "Our democracy is supposed to be a government by, of and for the people," says Browne-Dianis. "It doesn't matter how much money you have, what race you are or where you live in the country – we all get to have the same amount of power by going into the voting booth on Election Day. But those who passed these laws believe that only some people should participate. The restrictions undermine democracy by cutting off the voices of the people."

This story is from the September 15, 2011 issue of Rolling Stone.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Council of Canadians announces legal action on election irregularities

Council of Canadians announces support for legal actions to overturn
2011 federal election results in seven ridings

Ottawa – The Council of Canadians announced today that it is supporting applications under the Canada Elections Act by individual Canadians seeking to overturn federal election results in seven ridings. The ridings are Don Valley East, Elmwood-Transcona, Nipissing-Tamiskaming, Saskatoon-Rosetown-Biggar, Vancouver Island North, Winnipeg South Centre and Yukon. The legal actions to annul results are based on evidence of irregularities, fraud and other activities which affected the outcome of the elections.

“It's a sad day for Canadian democracy that we have to take this action,” said Garry Neil, Executive Director of the Council of Canadians. “In response to the survey we launched earlier this month, hundreds of Canadians reported about widespread dirty tricks. We believe the evidence demonstrates that the voter suppression campaign affected the outcome in at least the seven ridings in which we are supporting applications.”

“In the week before the election I received a recorded telephone message stating that, due to higher than anticipated voter turnout, my polling location had changed,” said Peggy Walsh Craig, an applicant from the riding of Nipissing-Timiskaming. “When I first got that call I was confused and thought it was from Elections Canada. It was only only a few weeks ago that I realized the call about the change in polling location was fraudulent. While I was able to vote, it is clear that many others in my riding received these misleading calls and this has affected the outcome of the election.”

“The right to vote is fundamental to a democratic society and one guaranteed under Canada’s constitution,” said Steven Shrybman, a public interest lawyer who is legal counsel to the applicants in this matter. “The Canada Elections Act gives effect to that right by empowering electors to seek a court order restoring that democratic franchise where it has been fraudulently or illegally taken from them.”

“We still do not believe this is the final installment in the robo-calls affair. We look forward to finding out exactly what happened and who is responsible. As part of this effort we continue to invite Canadians to share their experiences with us,” concluded Mr. Neil.


For media inquiries:

Dylan Penner, Media Officer, Council of Canadians, (613) 795-8685,
Twitter: @CouncilOfCDNs, Facebook

Harper vilified the hoodie, just like Fox News anchor Geraldo Rivera.

Vigilante Stephen Harper also vilified the hoodie and boys like Trayvon Martin, just like Fox News anchor Geraldo Rivera, and at taxpayers expense no less.

This sort of negative social typecasting, in which the wearing of hoodies becomes associated with crime (by narrow minded people like Harper) plays perfectly into Stephen Harper's brand of politics, which is the politics of division. The only purpose of which is to highlight divisions in society and to exploit those divisions for crass political advantage. Just like Harper vilified the wearing of burkas, so too he vilified the wearing of hoodies in a series of "10 percenters" that he and his party blasted across the country at taxpayers' expense (see image above) , and which cost taxpayers over $30 million for the purpose of creating social unrest and furthering the divisive political career of Stephen Harper.

Promoting divisions and promoting stereotypes is not the sign of political leadership, rather it is the sign of political opportunism and sociopathy. Harper, the sociopath, wants to make the wearing of hoodies or the wearing of burkhaa a crime and wants to associate any one who does so as not fitting with his self prescribed image of what is "acceptable" Canadian attire and culture.

It is these very acts of stereotyping by people, like Stephen Harper, that is behind the senseless murder of Trayvon Martin in the US. I hope Stephen Harper is as proud of himself for jumping on that stereotyping bandwagon as I am ashamed to have him represent Canadians as Prime Sinister.

BTW: Here's the taxpayers money that was wasted in promulgating this type of hate and fear mongering on the part of Stephen Harper:

Total Ten-Percenter Spending, by Party, 2009-2010:

Conservative $6,373,407.71
Liberal $1,464,811.47
NDP $1,284, 209.52
Bloc Quebcois $628,928,64

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Hypocrite Mulcair endorsed Harper's use of blacked out documents

When I last spoke to Thomas Mulcair about the income trust matter he argued that it wasn't the NDP who broke their promise to trust investors, but rather the Harper Conservatives.

I countered by saying that without the NDP's support for Harper's income trust tax it would never have become law and 2 million Canadians would never have lost $35 billion of their retirement savings, the 75% of Canadians without employer pensions would not have lost an essential retirement investment choice and all Canadian taxpayers would not be losing $1.5 billion in lost tax revenue from the foreign takeovers of trusts that ensued from this policy (eg $5 billion takeover of Prime West Energy Trust by Middle Eastern state owned Abu Dhabi Energy).

I then pointed out to Mulcair that he is attempting to frame our issue about who did and who did not break their promise as his means to absolve the NDP from their guilt and direct association in the matter, namely the policy and not the campaign promise per se. I told Mulcair that I could care a less about the broken promise aspect of this issue since politicians are notorious/serial promise breakers, and that the real issue was the policy itself and that the premise for breaking the promise (namely the tax leakage argument) was a patent falsehood and something that the NDP promulgated just like the CONs, making them equally corrupt and culpable in the outcome and the process of lie, conceal fabricate.

I also told Mulcair that the NDP were complete hypocrites when they call for transparency in government and then hide behind blacked out documents that if transparent would reveal the NDP/CON tax leakage argument to be false. I also said the NDP were total hypocrites when they say they stand for the interests of seniors and Canadians' pension concerns. Mulcair is as deceitful and conniving as the next politician and is not deserving of the trust of any democracy loving, transparency demanding Canadian voter/taxpayer.

My personal take on the mercurial Mulcair:

From personal experience and previous CAITI postings:

Mulcair: The Doubting Thomas:

Trash talk with Thomas Mulcair

Lies Mulcair may have told me

Paging Thomas Mulcair


Monday, March 19, 2012

Elizabeth May on why: "We need an independent inquiry"

I received this email from Elizabeth May today:

Re: confidence in Elections Canada

If you go to the site the Green Party put on line, you will find the court documents filed by Al Matthews the Elections Canada investigator. He is obviously a fine person and working hard. I had the document placed on line so Canadians can read the process of the investigation themselves. Please do so (click on "evidence" on the home page.) Take note that this one person has been the whole investigations team ever since May. My own complaint that the abuse was national in scope had no reply. Matthews was assigned to investigate Guelph and Guelph alone.

I got a sinking feeling as I read his affidavit for production of further information from Rack-Nine. Read for yourself. It is clear he has no technical/expert support. When he was told a number is a "trunk route," he googled "trunk route" and reproduces the definition he found on Wikipedia. If not for the amazing stroke of luck that a complaining voter in Guelph turned out to be an expert in how "spoofing" worked and what was likely going on technically to make the robocalls, we wouldn't be anywhere near as close to solving the ONE riding as we are now.

The complaining voter, by the way, had originally emailed Elections Canada in May and received no reply. The techy-expert Brent Pederson (starting at para 51 in the production of documents affidavit) was persistent and emailed again in October. By then Matthews was assigned to the case, so Pederson's email was referred to him. But it does not inspire confidence that the emails went un-answered, that Matthews was so very definitely out of his depth until the fabulous serendipity of Mr. Pederson of Guelph, or that Elections Canada abandoned solving the robocall scandal in 2008 in Saanich-Gulf Islands.

We need an independent inquiry.


Friday, March 16, 2012

What does CIMS stand for?

My guess: Conservatives in my shorts

Stephen Harper is the Tonya Harding of Canadian politics

Unable to successfully compete on her own merit, Tonya Harding decided to knee cap (literally) her opponent (Nancy Kerrigan) in the 1994 U.S. Figure Skating Championships, as her means to victory.

This is exactly what Stephen Harper did to assure himself of his coveted majority in the 2011 Canadian federal election, except his attack was on the voters and not his opponents, per se, making him an even greater scoundrel that the infamous Tonya Harding

Any doubt about whether representatives of the Harper Knee Capping of Voters Squad were involved in the fraudulent impersonation of Elections Canada officials for the sole purpose of depriving targeted Canadians from voting can be dispelled by listening to this tape recording of the fraud in action:

Any doubt about whether those who opposed the Stephen Harper regime were targeted for Knee Capping by the Harper electoral goon squad need only read this article by the CBC's Terry Milewski.

This is ESPN's account of the Tonya Harding scandal. Tell me how this differs from Stephen Harper's, except hopefully the punishment part:

"There are many kinds of scandals, but when you are hiring people to attack someone, that is just over the edge. That is beyond cheating or lying. That is conspiracy, and I still think Harding should've been punished more."

I think from now on Stephen Harper is better known as Tonya Harper, our knee capping Prime Minister.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

The method behind Harper's voter fraud madness

Misleading calls followed ID as non-Tories, voters say
Pattern of calls points to party's voter identification database, opposition says

By Terry Milewski, CBC News
Posted: Mar 15, 2012 9:02 PM ET

An investigation by CBC News has turned up voters all over Canada who say the reason they got robocalls sending them to fictitious polling stations was that they'd revealed they would not vote Conservative.

Although the Conservative Party has denied any involvement in the calls, these new details suggest that the misleading calls relied on data gathered by, and carefully guarded by, the Conservative Party.

Chief Electoral Officer Marc Mayrand announced Thursday that he now has "over 700 Canadians from across the country" who allege "specific circumstances" of fraudulent or improper calls. CBC News examined 31 ridings where such calls have been reported and found a pattern: those receiving those calls also had previous calls from the Conservative Party to find out which way they would vote.

Tim McCoy of the riding of Ottawa-Vanier was one of those who complained to Elections Canada. He received a bogus recorded message pretending to be from Elections Canada — but he also had two previous calls from the Conservatives.

"They did call me back from the Conservative Association and ask if they could count on my support," said McCoy, who declined to pledge his vote. He thinks that's why someone tried to mislead him.

"It looks like a hijacking of the democratic process," he added. "I would like to know who made the call pretending to be from Elections Canada and I don't really care which way the finger points. I would like to know."

Elections Canada says it never calls voters at all. However, it is only now emerging that calls impersonating Elections Canada followed previous calls by Conservative workers asking which way voters were leaning. That suggests that the "Elections Canada" calls, which are illegal, came from people with access to data gathered by the Conservative Party, which carefully controls access to it.

Asked about that, party spokesman Fred Delorey had no comment and declined an interview.

Election day calls

The pattern of legitimate so-called "Voter ID" calls, followed by bogus "Elections Canada" calls, occurs in ridings across the country.

Charles Cochrane of Saint John, N.B., made it very clear to the Conservatives that they did not have his vote. Then, on election day, he said, "The phone rang and it was a recorded message. This is Elections Canada calling, your polling station has now changed." He checked. It had not changed.

From the outset, the Conservative Party leadership has insisted it had no involvement in these calls.

"The Conservative party can say absolutely, definitively, it has no role in any of this," said Prime Minister Stephen Harper. His parliamentary secretary, Dean Del Mastro, calls claims to the contrary "baseless smears."

However, opposition leaders say the scheme could never have gone forward without callers having access to the Conservatives' proprietary database on voter intentions. Known as "CIMS," the database assigns a "smiley" face to supporters, and a "sad" face to non-Conservatives. Liberal and NDP politicians say it would make no sense to call randomly, since many of the voters misled would be Conservatives.

"Who had access to the database? Who wrote the scripts?" asked the NDP's Charlie Angus in question period Thursday. He did not receive an answer.

Lori Bruce of Fredericton thinks she has a good idea. She said the Conservatives knew she was not a supporter, and called her more than once — even identifying themselves while misdirecting her to the wrong polling station.
Voters from ridings across the country who spoke to CBC News describe receiving misleading automated calls with incorrect polling station changes after receiving Conservative Party calls. Voters from ridings across the country who spoke to CBC News describe receiving misleading automated calls with incorrect polling station changes after receiving Conservative Party calls. (Canadian Press)

Bruce said she received a call stating that it was "on behalf of Stephen Harper and Keith Ashfield for the Conservative party."

"At that point, he told me that my voting location had changed. I, at that point, said no, it's at the same location it always is."

Bruce then Googled the caller's number and found out it was the Conservative campaign office. Still, she wanted to be sure.

"I called the number back," she says, "and I just got an answering machine message, saying thank you for calling the Conservative Party."

Peggy Walsh Craig of North Bay, Ont., told a similar story — but received two separate calls.

"The first one was a few weeks before the election and it simply asked me one question and that was, was I going to vote for the Conservative Party — and I indicated no."

Only later did she get an anonymous second call, she said.
'Polling stations have changed'

"That was, it was Elections Canada calling and that they — due to higher than anticipated voter turnout, the polling station had been changed."

Once again, it hadn't changed at all. The same thing happened to Astrid Dimond of Mission, B.C.

Dimond said a caller told her that, "We're just phoning to let you know that the polling stations have changed."

Dimond knew better.

"And I said, no they haven't, and I hung up on her."

Dimond added that she tracked the call back to its source. The misleading call "came from the same number that all the other calls had come from, which I found out was the Conservative Party."

CBC News came up with many voters with similar complaints, including Saj Aziz in the riding of Mississauga-Streetsville, Carmen Leveille in Victoria, Gordon Webb in Guelph, May Beland in Willowdale and Susan Lapell in the Toronto riding of St. Paul's.

Aziz said a "research company" tried to find out who he was voting for as part of an "independent poll." When he declined to commit to the Conservatives, he was told that "a supervisor" would call him back. Then, he got a call from the Conservative party, trying to win him over. When that didn't work, he finally got a call saying that his polling station had moved. However, he'd already voted in the advance poll, at the right place.

In Guelph — where the robo-call scandal began — Gordon Webb says he made it clear to the Conservatives that he would not vote for them. He, too, got a misdirection call telling him to go to a phoney polling station. At least a hundred people showed up there and some of them angrily gave up on voting, blaming Elections Canada.

As for the next step, all of these voters say they want Elections Canada to get to the bottom of it.

"There definitely should be punishment," said Lori Bruce of Fredericton. "They should be punished to the fullest extent of the law."

In North Bay, where the Liberals lost by just 18 votes, Peggy Walsh Craig said, "I care a lot about democracy and so I'm appalled that this is happening."

"It raises enough questions that it makes me wonder about the results here."

Signed the Robocall Election Fraud petition

Signed the petition here, and left this comment:

Ms Turmel, Mr Rae, Ms. May and Mr. Plamondon,

cc Prime Minister Err Harpler,

These known acts of criminal impersonation of Elections Canada officials for the sole purpose of suppressing targeted Canadians' voting rights is a blatant fraud and an assault on all law abiding Canadians. It is for this reason that a public inquiry needs to be called to get to the bottom of this and to restore the integrity of our electoral system.

Should any of you think (or do ) otherwise means that you have no business representing the interests of Canadians or upholding the laws of this land.

Fantino-watch: Follow the money

Of bank accounts and elections laws
iPolitics Insight
Mar 15, 2012
by Michael Harris

On March 8th, Chris McCluskey, Communications Director for Associate Minister of National Defense Julian Fantino wrote to our Michael Harris asking for corrections to his column “Was a ‘political super-weapon’ part of Robogate?” Here is Michael’s reply.

Dear Chris,

Thank you for your e-mail offering to correct “several inaccuracies” in my iPolitics column of last week dealing with robocalls and alleged financial irregularities in the by-election campaign of Julian Fantino in 2010.

Allow me to begin with a mea culpa. I have changed Mr. Stephen Lecce’s job description to reflect the fact that he did not become Deputy-Director of Communications for Prime Minister Harper until after the 2011 general election, in which he served as Minister Fantino’s campaign manager. When he took a leave of absence to help Mr. Fantino with his by-election campaign, Mr. Lecce was working as a communications strategist in the PMO. I think we may both agree that Mr. Lecce was still a “good get” for the Fantino campaign.

Your main complaint about my column had to do with the alleged existence of two bank accounts for the Fantino by-election run, allegations brought to Elections Canada by three former members of Vaughan’s Conservative riding association. This is how you put it in your email to me of March 8th. “There was no second bank account for either election campaign. As we know, the Elections Act requires a campaign to have one bank account.”

In particular, you said that my column incorrectly stated the position of former Vaughan EDA Director Tracey Kent as expressed in her affidavit about the existence of two accounts in the Fantino by-election campaign. You wrote: “Ms. Kent is not questioning whether there were two bank accounts for the by-election campaign.”

I went back to Tracey Kent to check your interpretation. Here is what she said: “Mr. McCluskey did not witness Mr. Fantino’s campaign Fundraising Chair walk into the Board meeting of the Vaughan Conservative EDA with a bank account that was NOT under the care/control of the campaign Chief Financial Agent. Nor was it under the care/control of the Vaughan Conservative EDA. Therefore the only conclusion that can be drawn was that there was another account associated with the Fantino campaign….This was a bank account NOT listed as the campaign’s main account. This bank account had previously been unknown by the Vaughan Conservative EDA, and had no affiliation to the riding association.”

This is not the first time that Tracey Kent has attested to her belief that there were two bank accounts for the by-election campaign. Both she and Richard Lorello say they attended a January 18, 2011 meeting of the Vaughan Conservative Riding Association as Directors – a meeting called to discuss the successful by-election. Julian Fantino’s fundraising co-chair Sam Ciccolini, who was a guest at the meeting, gave a breakdown of the November by-election campaign, and announced that he had an account at the Italian Canadian Savings & Credit Union (IC Savings) with a balance of over $300,000. Mr. Ciccolini wished to present the IC Savings account to the Board. At that time, Kent and Lorello and another member of the Board expressed concerns that this new account did not meet the requirements of the Elections Act, and requested financial statements. The concerned Directors say they did not receive the financial statements they requested concerning the IC Savings account. (According to an account statement, there was $357,939.86 in the IC Savings account on the day of that meeting on January 18, 2011.)

According to Mr. Lorello, this second account was under the sole control of Mr. Ciccolini, but it was stated by Mr. Ciccolini that Mirella Chiappetta, the Official Agent of the Vaughan EDA, would be added to the account as signing authority. Ms. Chiappetta was also administrative secretary to Julian Fantino.

Mr. Lorello resigned as a Director and was immediately replaced by Mr. Ciccolini, who was also Chair of the Audit Committee and Director of the ICS Credit Union. Mr. Ciccolini stated the money in the account was from Minister Fantino’s fundraising. Minutes of the January Board meeting, approved at a later Board meeting on April 10, 2011, omitted any discussion of the second account to the dismay of both Ms. Kent and Mr. Lorello, both of whom maintain they had raised vigorous objections.

Then there is this evidence of a second account from Sam Ciccolini himself. In an e-mail dated April 29, 2011 to former Director Richard Lorello and Frank Domenichiello, who was president of the Vaughan Conservative EDA, Mr. Ciccolini stated that, “The reason we still have the second account still open is that Mirella [Chiapetta] felt that it would be best to have the TD bank account as they have been good to us and there were some transactions – checks that have yet to clear and at some point we would close it. I do not remember any vote taken on it, could be wrong….” These comments were made on April 29 during the General Election, and according to Mr. Ciccolini, there still seem to be two bank accounts.

Tracey Kent then added more detail about the alleged second account. An e-mail from Kent to Richard Lorello also dated April 29, 2011 states: “There was reluctance to transfer the funds into the EDA’s existing bank account, also at Toronto-Dominion. It was suggested by the President that the Vaughan Conservative EDA assume this account with Mirella Chiappetta added as signing authority. Walter Haidasz first objected to the assuming of this open account, I also added my objection. It was felt that this second open account of unknown origin would violate Elections Canada Law, and open the board to liability of past transactions, to which the Board would be held responsible, while having no control of…I am still unclear exactly what this account is/was. An open campaign account? A fundraising account? Pre-existing private bank account? The campaign CFA account? And who had signing authority on this account previously? No answers were provided in the meeting, nor documented in the minutes….Again this is not a [sic] municipal election laws. Federal election laws come with jailable punishment and heavy financial punishment….I am bound by my responsibility to submit a letter to Elections Canada with my concerns of the January 2011 Board meeting. ”

In a response to a similar e-mail from Richard Lorello later that same night, Sam Ciccolini said: “Further to my e-mail I am just told by Mirella that the account carries our vsa (sic) merchant accessibility and therefore needs to be kept open…sam.”

Based on all of the above, I stand by what I wrote. The directors of the EDA who opposed simply adopting the IC Savings account, may be wrong in their views, but there is no doubt that they honestly held those views and had reasons for doing so. As for the “second account” that former Director Tracey Kent objected to, there is no doubt that it was used to both collect money and pay bills for the Fantino by-election long before the Vaughan EDA learned of its existence.

On October 25th, 2010, the IC Savings account that would be eventually objected to by three members of the Vaughan EDA had a zero balance. Then on October 28th, 2010, there was a deposit of $28,000, followed by two deposits of 2 cents and 18 cents from Paypal on October 29, 2010. The first check was drawn on the IC Savings account on November 2, 2010. On November 25, 2010 there is a deposit of $15,000 with a notation beside it, either E/C or R/C IN ERROR. The month end statement for November shows that $420,110 was deposited into the account. Just after the by-election, the account balance was $423,309.42.

Checks from IC Savings account number 13532 were used to pay by-election expenses such as those submitted by Hume Inter Media Inc. for $33,232.56. Eight invoices from October 30 to November 30, 2010 for print materials used during the by-election campaign were paid for with check number 087 dated January 15, 2011. The invoices were sent to “Julian Fantino Campaign”, seven to the attention of Chris M. Rougier, who had worked in the office of Greg Kerr, Conservative member of Parliament for West Nova.

Seven invoices had customer # JFC010. One invoice, for 7000 election day door knockers with a shipping date of November 25, 2010, had a customer # CPC010. This invoice was sent to the attention of S. Shulman who was listed on the Hume invoice as “office agent” for the Fantino campaign. Payments to Hume Inter Media Inc. and others such as Clarion Solutions were made from the IC Savings account on January 15, 2011, three days before the Board meeting at which Mr. Ciccolini allegedly announced the existence of an account with over $300,000 in it to the Vaughan Conservative Riding Association.

On February 4, 2011 there is a withdrawal of $100,000 from the account by check number 91. On February 14 there is a transfer into the account of $24,099.53 with a notation that says “credit cards”. We know that both MC and VISA donations were made to the campaign totalling roughly this amount, but how were both credit cards combined for a single deposit?

It turned out that one of the Hume Inter Media invoices for campaign postcards in the amount of $3,107, dated November 25, 2010, was paid for by both the Conservative Party Fund and the IC Savings account. Hume Inter Media sent a refund check dated May 16, 2011 oddly made out to both “Julian Fantino Campaign” and “The Julian Fantino Campaign”. Are these two different entities? If not, why would Hume make the refund check payable to both names?

A notation at the bottom of the check reads, “Re: duplicate payment inv 113067 (Conservative Fund Canada Paid).” In response to a letter dated August 19, 2011 from Elections Canada asking for bank account statements and other information, Stephen Shulman volunteered that he had received a refund from Hume Inter Media and that the funds would be deposited into the bank account on September 1, 2011.

In a contract sent to Elections Canada, Stephen Shulman is described as “Official Agent, Julian Fantino Campaign 2010.” But on the accounts of IC Savings, he is listed as “Financial Agent, The Julian Fantino Campaign.” Again, are these two different titles for two different roles or one and the same thing? It is not clear.

The IC Savings was still open when the Hume check was received. On March 28/11, two days after the General election was called, $220,000 was withdrawn from the account without a check. At the end of May, 2011, there was still $4897.65 in the IC Savings account.

Regarding “possible improper transfers” of surplus Fantino funds worried about by former Vaughan directors, you assure me that the financial statements due at the end of May 2012, will show that the activities of the Vaughan Electoral District Association are in order and in full compliance with the Act. That may well be. The conclusions of Elections Canada will be the acid test of your view that there was only one campaign account for both the Fantino by-election and the 41st general election, and the allegations brought by former members of the Vaughan EDA. I note that Minister Fantino received a three-month extension on his filing date for the 41st election, and that according to Elections Canada his financial statements for the 2010 by-election have not yet been audited.

In the meantime, I know we both share the same goal – the most accurate information to the readers of iPolitics that can be offered. I look forward to meeting you as I work on this and related banking stories.

Readers can reach the author at Click here to view other columns by Michael Harris.

© 2012 iPolitics Inc.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Manning Centre for Installing Conservatives

After the revelation about how the Manning Center was providing workshops on voter suppression and now this revelation below, I think a more apt name for the Manning Centre for Building Democracy would be the Manning Centre for Installing Conservatives. I wonder what other subversion the Manning Centre for Installing Conservatives is up to?

Conservative Party strategy to take over student unions exposed

by Rebecca Granovsky-Larsen and Nora Loreto
March 16, 2009
U of T Free Press

Audio recordings, photographs and documents that were leaked from a recent Conservative Party student workshop in Waterloo expose a partisan attempt to take over student unions and undermine Ontario Public Interest Research Groups (OPIRGs) on campuses across Ontario.

At a session held in early February by the Ontario Progressive Conservative Campus Association (OPCCA) and the Manning Centre for Building Democracy, campus Conservatives, party campaigners, and a Member of Parliament discussed strategies to gain funding from student unions for the Conservative Party and ways to run for—and win—positions within student unions.

The leaked materials were posted on over the weekend and add to the growing body of evidence that the Conservative Party has a strategy for interfering in campus student unions. In early 2002, the campus press first learned of a secret Millennium Leadership Fund that the party’s campus wing used to fund candidates in student union elections. Now it appears that strategy has evolved into a campaign to falsely obtain student union funding and destabilize student clubs with a social justice mandate.

Among those present at the workshop were Member of Parliament for Kitchener-Waterloo, Peter Braid and his campaign manager, Aaron Lee-Wudrick. Lee-Wudrick is heard on the recordings providing advice on how to siphon money from students’ unions through “front organizations” that would work to further the goals of the Conservative Party.

Braid took the riding of Kitchener-Waterloo from Liberal incumbent Andrew Telegdi in the last federal election. Telegdi had held the riding since 1993. Braid won by 17 votes, a margin that Lee-Wudrick identifies as being the reason why getting students involved in federal politics is so important.

In the presentation caught on the recording, Lee-Wudrick and Ryan O’Connor, a former Vice-President of the Waterloo Federation of Students, spoke about how they were able to manipulate the student union board to run a referendum to refund the fees of the Waterloo OPIRG (WPIRG) chapter in the early 2000s. They disclose that when O’Connor was a Vice-President, he worked with Lee-Wudrick, then President of the campus Conservative club, to push forward their partisan agenda, often by using the resources of the students’ union.

In the presentation, Lee-Wudrick said, “If it’s possible if, in one fell swoop, to take over the Board of Directors [of OPIRG], I think that it would be pretty impressive, and you’d be a hero to the Conservative movement if you can pull that off.”

OPIRGs are campus organizations that are usually funded through a dedicated student levy to coordinate campus campaigns on human rights and social justice.

“We’ve always had people who wanted to destroy OPIRG. The interesting thing is the explicit participation of Conservative party members in these events put on by the OPCCA where they are discussing how to do these takeovers and end the role of OPIRGs on campus,” said Terrence Luscome who sits on the board of directors of the York University OPIRG.

“Of course when there are actual Conservative MPs involved, you have to question where this group is getting its funding and [people need to follow] the money trail, and to which interests within the government [it will lead],” he added.

While Lee-Wudrick and O’Connor’s plan to cancel WPIRG’s funding failed in 2002, they boasted that it paved the way for another attempt in 2005, and expressed hope of success in the future.

They also identified student unions, campus radio stations and the Canadian Federation of Students as potential targets of a campaign to eliminate each organization’s funding. “Part of the objective here is to bring people into the Party. That’s a good thing,” said O’Connor. “Young liberals will help you out…and they’re some of the strongest allies on student issues,” he added.

During the workshop, student Conservatives were also coached on how to set up “shell groups” as a way to advance a partisan agenda on campus.

“Yeah we had a front group like that: the Campus Coalition for Liberty. It was really just a front for the Conservatives, but it gave us like two voices.” said Lee-Wudrick.

He added: “Don’t think that the Party doesn’t like that, because they do. They’re things that will help the Party, but it looks like it’s an organically-grown organization and it just stimulated from the grassroots spontaneously. They love that stuff… Remember all of the Rallies for Democracy … that’s just an example of how big those things can get.”

Listed as having been present at the Waterloo or other Ontario workshops were Richard Ciano, Founder of the Conservative Campaign University, a political training school for conservative activists, Nick Bergamini, student councillor and vice-president student issues-elect for the Carleton University Students’ Association and Kevin Wiener, a student senator at Queen’s University, candidate for the National Council of the Conservative Party of Canada and secretary-treasurer of the Ontario Progressive Campus Youth Association.

Also listed was Chris McCluskey, Program Coordinator for the Manning Centre for Building Democracy in Ottawa and a former Vice-President of the Dalhousie Students’ Union. He has conducted a workshop, called “Strategies that work: Running for student government” at several other sessions including one in London and Ottawa.

Shelley Melanson, Chairperson of the Canadian Federation of Students-Ontario was surprised when told of the leaked strategy. “Campus students’ unions are there to represent students and should be free from the partisan interference of federal and provincial parties,” she said. “The contribution of students’ unions and OPIRGs to the broader social justice movement in Ontario is important and it’s disturbing to think that Canada’s governing party would use its resources to undermine democratic student organizations in this way.”

While recordings are available from only the Waterloo workshop, the OPCCA and the Manning Foundation have held similar Conservative training sessions on campuses in Ottawa, Toronto, London, Halifax and Winnipeg.

Braid was not the only sitting Conservative politician to attend such a workshop. Monte Solberg and MP Chris Warkentin attended similar seminars in Ottawa on Nov. 20, 2008, while Nova Scotia Environment Minister Mark Parent, Deputy Chief of Staff Stephen Greene, and Former New Brunswick Premier Bernard Lord all participated in the Halifax workshop held from October 26 to 28, 2007.

In 2002, a secret Millennium Leadership Fund of the youth wing of the Progressive Conservative Party was exposed by the Western Gazette in an article called “Tories plot to infiltrate student government.”

The article referred to an email leaked in March of 2002 in which then OPCCA President Adam Daifallah boasted to fellow party members about Millennium Leadership Fund recipients who were successfully elected that year at Queen’s University, the University of Waterloo and the University of Windsor. According to the Gazette, the Millennium Fund was largely paid for by senior Progressive Conservative members and supporters.

Influencing the results of campus student elections and referenda continue to be on the priority list of the OPCCA.

Eric Merkley, president of the OPCCA and deputy campaign manager of Braid’s successful election campaign was also present at the workshop. In his election platform for president of the OPCCA, Merkley promised that, “Team Merkley will continue with progress made in providing across-province training sessions for recruitment and campus activism for student election and referendum campaigns.”

No surprise, as Mark Carney is the product of this toxic culture

Mark Carney as you may recall, while in the Department of Finance, was responsible for the income trust file and the Government's totally fabricated argument (fraud) that income trusts cause tax leakage and have negative effects on the Canadian economy when all credible studies (Royal Bank of Canada, Bank of Montreal, PricewaterhouseCoopers, HLB Decision Econonics, etc.) conclude the opposite. Amy wonder where Mark got his propensity to lie conceal and fabricate from?

Why I Am Leaving Goldman Sachs
Op-Ed Contributor
New York Times
Published: March 14, 2012

TODAY is my last day at Goldman Sachs. After almost 12 years at the firm — first as a summer intern while at Stanford, then in New York for 10 years, and now in London — I believe I have worked here long enough to understand the trajectory of its culture, its people and its identity. And I can honestly say that the environment now is as toxic and destructive as I have ever seen it.

To put the problem in the simplest terms, the interests of the client continue to be sidelined in the way the firm operates and thinks about making money. Goldman Sachs is one of the world’s largest and most important investment banks and it is too integral to global finance to continue to act this way. The firm has veered so far from the place I joined right out of college that I can no longer in good conscience say that I identify with what it stands for.

It might sound surprising to a skeptical public, but culture was always a vital part of Goldman Sachs’s success. It revolved around teamwork, integrity, a spirit of humility, and always doing right by our clients. The culture was the secret sauce that made this place great and allowed us to earn our clients’ trust for 143 years. It wasn’t just about making money; this alone will not sustain a firm for so long. It had something to do with pride and belief in the organization. I am sad to say that I look around today and see virtually no trace of the culture that made me love working for this firm for many years. I no longer have the pride, or the belief.

But this was not always the case. For more than a decade I recruited and mentored candidates through our grueling interview process. I was selected as one of 10 people (out of a firm of more than 30,000) to appear on our recruiting video, which is played on every college campus we visit around the world. In 2006 I managed the summer intern program in sales and trading in New York for the 80 college students who made the cut, out of the thousands who applied.

I knew it was time to leave when I realized I could no longer look students in the eye and tell them what a great place this was to work.

When the history books are written about Goldman Sachs, they may reflect that the current chief executive officer, Lloyd C. Blankfein, and the president, Gary D. Cohn, lost hold of the firm’s culture on their watch. I truly believe that this decline in the firm’s moral fiber represents the single most serious threat to its long-run survival.

Over the course of my career I have had the privilege of advising two of the largest hedge funds on the planet, five of the largest asset managers in the United States, and three of the most prominent sovereign wealth funds in the Middle East and Asia. My clients have a total asset base of more than a trillion dollars. I have always taken a lot of pride in advising my clients to do what I believe is right for them, even if it means less money for the firm. This view is becoming increasingly unpopular at Goldman Sachs. Another sign that it was time to leave.

How did we get here? The firm changed the way it thought about leadership. Leadership used to be about ideas, setting an example and doing the right thing. Today, if you make enough money for the firm (and are not currently an ax murderer) you will be promoted into a position of influence.

What are three quick ways to become a leader? a) Execute on the firm’s “axes,” which is Goldman-speak for persuading your clients to invest in the stocks or other products that we are trying to get rid of because they are not seen as having a lot of potential profit. b) “Hunt Elephants.” In English: get your clients — some of whom are sophisticated, and some of whom aren’t — to trade whatever will bring the biggest profit to Goldman. Call me old-fashioned, but I don’t like selling my clients a product that is wrong for them. c) Find yourself sitting in a seat where your job is to trade any illiquid, opaque product with a three-letter acronym.

Today, many of these leaders display a Goldman Sachs culture quotient of exactly zero percent. I attend derivatives sales meetings where not one single minute is spent asking questions about how we can help clients. It’s purely about how we can make the most possible money off of them. If you were an alien from Mars and sat in on one of these meetings, you would believe that a client’s success or progress was not part of the thought process at all.

It makes me ill how callously people talk about ripping their clients off. Over the last 12 months I have seen five different managing directors refer to their own clients as “muppets,” sometimes over internal e-mail. Even after the S.E.C., Fabulous Fab, Abacus, God’s work, Carl Levin, Vampire Squids? No humility? I mean, come on. Integrity? It is eroding. I don’t know of any illegal behavior, but will people push the envelope and pitch lucrative and complicated products to clients even if they are not the simplest investments or the ones most directly aligned with the client’s goals? Absolutely. Every day, in fact.

It astounds me how little senior management gets a basic truth: If clients don’t trust you they will eventually stop doing business with you. It doesn’t matter how smart you are.

These days, the most common question I get from junior analysts about derivatives is, “How much money did we make off the client?” It bothers me every time I hear it, because it is a clear reflection of what they are observing from their leaders about the way they should behave. Now project 10 years into the future: You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure out that the junior analyst sitting quietly in the corner of the room hearing about “muppets,” “ripping eyeballs out” and “getting paid” doesn’t exactly turn into a model citizen.

When I was a first-year analyst I didn’t know where the bathroom was, or how to tie my shoelaces. I was taught to be concerned with learning the ropes, finding out what a derivative was, understanding finance, getting to know our clients and what motivated them, learning how they defined success and what we could do to help them get there.

My proudest moments in life — getting a full scholarship to go from South Africa to Stanford University, being selected as a Rhodes Scholar national finalist, winning a bronze medal for table tennis at the Maccabiah Games in Israel, known as the Jewish Olympics — have all come through hard work, with no shortcuts. Goldman Sachs today has become too much about shortcuts and not enough about achievement. It just doesn’t feel right to me anymore.

I hope this can be a wake-up call to the board of directors. Make the client the focal point of your business again. Without clients you will not make money. In fact, you will not exist. Weed out the morally bankrupt people, no matter how much money they make for the firm. And get the culture right again, so people want to work here for the right reasons. People who care only about making money will not sustain this firm — or the trust of its clients — for very much longer.

Greg Smith is resigning today as a Goldman Sachs executive director and head of the firm’s United States equity derivatives business in Europe, the Middle East and Africa.