Employees linked to cousin's company each gave $1,000 to Del Mastro campaign
David Del Mastro, owner of Deltro Electric Ltd., denies any wrongdoing and says he fundraised on behalf of his cousin by asking employees and friends to contribute voluntarily. Four other people affiliated with the company and contacted by the Ottawa Citizen and Postmedia News also support this denial.
But three donors to Del Mastro’s campaign or riding association, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, say they were asked to make $1,000 donations and were reimbursed by Deltro for the full amount plus a $50 bonus.
“It was put, ‘We need to find some people to make $1,000 donations,’” said one former Deltro employee.
Numerous sections of the Elections Act forbid donors from exceeding the individual limit on donations by concealing their donations and forbid others from helping to conceal the real source of a donation.
In a statutory declaration produced at the request of the Citizen and Postmedia, the former employee said David Del Mastro approached the then-employee and said he wanted him to make a large monetary donation to his cousin’s campaign.
The former employee signed the declaration before an Ontario Commissioner of Oaths.
The former employee was asked to make a donation of $1,000 of personal funds and was assured the company would provide reimbursement for the same amount with a “$50 bonus,” the declaration says. The donors could also claim the donation as a deduction on their tax returns.
Employees were also asked to enlist friends or family to make similar donations, the former employee said.
There is no evidence that Dean Del Mastro had knowledge of any alleged scheme to hide the source of donations to his campaign.
The former employee’s declaration identifies a spouse and six friends who participated. Their names correspond with a list of $1,000 donors to Del Mastro’s campaign or riding associations during the election, as reported to Elections Canada.
“I believe that all of us were reimbursed in full by Deltro for the sum of $1,000 each, plus the $50 bonus each,” the declaration says.
“I also believe that none of us had any connection to the MP other than that his cousin, my employer, had asked me to obtain these various donations to MP’s election campaign.”
The former employee said another 12 names on Elections Canada’s lists of Del Mastro campaign and riding contributors were recognizable as current or past Deltro employees, or were friends or family members — though there is no indication any of these people were reimbursed for contributing.
Two other donors who gave $1,000 have links through social media websites to a Deltro staff member.
Reached on his cellphone Tuesday, David Del Mastro emphatically denied that he paid anyone to donate to his cousin’s election bid in Peterborough. “That’s a false accusation. I never paid them a dime. That’s false,” he said.
“I fundraised for him. I asked friends and family and everybody I knew if they would like to donate to his campaign,” he said.
“I went around to everybody and said, ‘Hey, can you all contribute to my cousin’s campaign? I would really appreciate it.’”
He said it was reasonable to believe that his employees volunteered to each give $1,000 to a candidate running for election in a riding three hours away.
“Why wouldn’t they?” he asked.
He said the allegation he funded the donations was likely advanced by a disgruntled former employee.
Del Mastro said he thought he had personally donated $1,000 to his cousin’s campaign, although the Citizen could find no record of this donation in Elections Canada’s database. He also said he went down to Peterborough to help with the campaign.
David Del Mastro refused to comment when contacted again on Friday.
Another person who contributed to Del Mastro’s campaign described being approached by a friend from Deltro and asked to make donation to the campaign in exchange for reimbursement of $1,050.
“I was pretty well just asked to do a favour and I got some money back,” the person said.
“It’s not costing me anything. I just put my signature on something and I get something back. I guess now it’s too good to be true.”
Another past employee described the same experience — making a donation to Del Mastro’s campaign and receiving a cheque from Deltro.
“I can’t remember who exactly who would have called me from the office, whether it was David or [another employee] and said we need you to write a cheque for this amount to this person and you’ll get this much — it will be covered with this much” — $1,050.
Under the Conservative government’s centrepiece ethics legislation, the Federal Accountability Act, the limit on political donations was lowered to $1,100.
The Elections Act prohibits donors colluding with others to “circumvent” the prohibition against an individual donor giving more than that amount to a candidate in an election.
Elections Canada records show that the Peterborough Conservative Electoral District Association received 12 donations in the amount of $1,000 each, dated Sept. 19, 2008, from people with links to the company, as described in the former employee’s statement.
Then, on Sept. 26, Del Mastro’s campaign received another seven donations of $1,000, also from people who were friends of Deltro employees, or friends or family, according to the former employee. Another friend of a Deltro employee donated $1,000 on Sept. 25.
Most of these donors are listed with addresses in Brampton or Toronto — nowhere near Dean Del Mastro’s Eastern Ontario riding of Peterborough.
There is no evidence that alleged reimbursements were paid to anyone other than friends of the former employee who swore the statement.
Four other Del Mastro donors with ties to Deltro, including two current employees, all denied they had taken any money from the company in exchange for the donations.
“He’s a great guy. Why not? Why wouldn’t I?” Vogel said. “Somebody is a good person, would you want to hold back from them?”
Company controller Tori-Lynn Manchulenko also denied anyone was reimbursed and said she and others gave because the owner had asked them to.
“We’re a small company and it’s almost like a family and we did this because he asked.”
Larry Saunders also denied there was any compensation when his wife Maria, daughter-in-law Rachel and son Jeff, a Deltro general foreman, each gave $1,000.
Saunders said he donated because he had known Dean Del Mastro since he was a child and was also a friend of David Del Mastro.
Gary Teneycke, a friend of David Del Mastro, said he gave to the campaign because the Conservative candidate in his Etobicoke riding was up against then-Liberal MP Michael Ignatieff and had no hope of winning.
He said David Del Mastro never approached him about donating and he denied getting any reimbursement.
“It was my own idea,” Teneycke said. “You want me to swear on a Bible? I donated $1,000 to the Conservative Party I’ve supported all my life.”
Del Mastro did not reply to several emails asking about it this week, but party spokesman Fred DeLorey said in an email on Tuesday that the story is not true.
“We don’t comment on hearsay and something we know just isn’t true,” he said.
Del Mastro is the parliamentary secretary to Prime Minister Stephen Harper. He also serves as the government’s lead spokesman defending allegations about the robocalls scandal and sits on the House of Commons ethics committee, and is currently under investigation by Elections Canada for alleged overspending in the same 2008 campaign.
He insists his campaign spending was entirely legal and has promised to produce documentary evidence to back up this claim.
On Wednesday, his lawyer, Jeffrey Ayotte, complained that Elections Canada investigators have declined to meet with Del Mastro unless the MP “is prepared to give a cautioned statement,” a legal phrase referring to a statement made after someone has been legally cautioned, as when police read a suspect their rights.