Friday, November 22, 2013

Senate expenses scandal: The spreading ripples

Mounties are acoming ...
Here are some recent developments:

Duffy’s expenses actually amounted to more than $90,000, and the RCMP alleges that Wright broke the law by giving Duffy the money to cover them.

The affidavit also includes correspondence between staffers in the Prime Minister’s Office and Conservative senators about an audit that was being conducted on Duffy’s expenses. An email trail suggests that Benjamin Perrin, former special counsel to the prime minister, and Conservative Party lawyer Arthur Hamilton, were involved in the deal that would see Duffy’s expenses covered by Wright.

The Law Society of British Columbia is now considering an investigation into Perrin.

CTV News has also learned that the Senate’s internal economy committee met in secret Thursday and voted to recall the Deloitte auditors after the RCMP affidavit revealed that Sen. Irving Gerstein, chair of the Conservative Fund, allegedly used contacts at the firm, which also does work for the Conservative Party, to determine if the Duffy audit could be quashed.

On Mar. 21, according the affidavit, Gerstein contacted PMO staffer Patrick Rogers to say Deloitte refused his request to stop its audit into Duffy’s expenses.

There are so many cooks in this expenses-coverup kitchen that not only the media will have a field day exploring the many leads exposed by the diligent Mountie report.

And, of course, there are the senators:

The process will be further complicated by the fact that there are a handful of key players now on the bus who may, at some point, have to go under it.

At the top of the list is Sen. Carolyn Stewart Olsen, long one of Harper’s closest confidantes.

Like many members of Harper’s palace guard, Stewart Olsen didn’t have a career in politics before she went to work for Harper. He has brought her far, and she is fiercely loyal to him.

She sat on the three-member steering committee that handled the audits of Mike Duffy, Pamela Wallin and Patrick Brazeau. The emails show she was the main point of contact for the PMO as they exerted influence over senators to get them to whitewash the subcommittee’s findings to avoid finding fault with Duffy, who was threatening to blow up the $90,000 deal.

Stewart Olsen was, in the words of an email from PMO staffer Patrick Rogers, making changes to the report in “fulfillment of her commitment to Nigel (Wright) and our building,” putting the wishes of the prime minister’s office ahead of her duty to act independently.

In June, though, when she was interviewed by two Mounties, she told them that “no one gave her direction or orders to change the Senate report. There was no communication, influence or direction by anyone in the PMO to make any changes … no conversation between her and Mr. Wright or anyone in the PMO.”

Troublingly, Horton concludes that her “version of events to police was incomplete, and not consistent with the facts.”

It is reasonable to wonder if her failure to help police with a criminal investigation will eventually lead to a separate but related investigation.

A mini-industry has been created from the antics of senators who believed they were entitled to their entitlements, and the efforts of a PMO and government who don’t really seem to know what to do in this situation.

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