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April 11, 2005
Martin To Claim Liberal Purity (Of Late)

The Globe & Mail reports this morning that Canadian PM Paul Martin will employ a new strategy in combatting the public perception of widespread corruption in the Liberal Party by using two new tactics. First, Martin will press the notion with Canadian voters that while corruption may have occurred with Liberals in charge, the Liberals are the ones cleaning it up as well. Second, Martin plans on asking Justice Gomery to "follow the money" by referring him to two previous audits, which Liberals say prove that the monies about which Brault testified never made it into the books:

The Liberal Party will call on Mr. Justice John Gomery today to investigate whether large sums of money allegedly paid to well-connected members for government sponsorship contracts ever made it to the party coffers.

As part of a communications strategy to cope with the scandal and distance the party from any Liberals who allegedly took payoffs, officials will offer to help Judge Gomery delve through any party records he needs. ...

Today, Liberal Party president Michael Eizenga is expected to issue a statement drawing attention to two audits of Liberal Party books already made public, offering to help Judge Gomery search for the payoffs Mr. Brault said he made to well-connected Liberals. Those audits were previously submitted to the inquiry.

"In particular, to try to reconcile claims that money came into the party when two independent audits indicate it did not," a Liberal insider said.

This tactic has a built-in flaw which becomes apparent once one re-reads the Brault testimony. The "donations" Brault made came in two different types: cash and in-kind contributions. Brault paid back hundreds of thousands of dollars in kickbacks for the contracts he received, all in cash, and declared none of them. Why cash? His handlers insisted on it; in fact, one of them told him that anything else other than cash would cost him twice as much. Cash allowed the money to flow back to the Liberal Party without hitting the books. Keeping the money off the books was the entire point; the Liberals did not have to report the revenue.

The other method Brault used was to hire Liberal Party activists into Groupaction, where they would be paid from his payroll rather than campaign funds while they worked -- using Sponsorship Program funds -- on Liberal electoral campaigns. Once again, Gomery will not find this on Liberal Party books because the action transferred these people to Groupaction's books instead. This type of accounting dodge allows a group to effectively launder money, i.e., take it off one set of books under scrutiny and put it on another separate ledger. Once again, Brault never declared the in-kind contributions, making it impossible to find the income in the audits the Liberals will push as public rebuttals.

In short, this defense strategy amounts to nothing more than a red herring. The only defense that clears the Liberal Party is to prove Brault and everyone else who has testified in corroboration liars -- because if they are aren't, then the books and the audits are rendered meaningless. If Martin bases the Liberal defense on them, he runs the risk of losing all credibility.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at April 11, 2005 5:23 AM

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