Thursday, April 07, 2005

Captain's Quarters Blog - Adscam Gomery Commission day 6

April 07, 2005

Publication Ban Lifted
Justice John Gomery has lifted the publication ban on Jean Brault's testimony, allowing the Canadian media to finally report the testimony to the Canadian public. As CTV demonstrates in its data-dump format, the facts as presented by CQ's source stand up very well against the revelations possible now that the media has been unleashed:

Brault claims in his testimony that he systematically kicked back huge amounts of taxpayer money to the federal Liberal party, a deception he claims involved senior Liberal organizers and people close to former prime minister Jean Chretien.
His testimony detailed secret meetings, phoney paper trails, envelopes stuffed with cash and bogus billings.

* He said there were phoney employees on the payroll at the ad firm Groupaction.* Brault said there was $1 million in kickbacks to the Liberal Party of Canada.* His reward, he claims, was $172 million in government business for his firm.

It was always the same story, he told the commission. The Liberal Party needs money. If you want the business, you have to pay.

Brault says most of the kickbacks were cash; that's the way his Liberal handlers wanted it. Simply, he said, so it couldn't be traced.

On one occasion, Brault says he handed $25,000 in cash to Joseph Morselli, a top organizer for former public works minister Alfonso Gagliano.

Brault wanted the bidding for some ad contracts with the justice department delayed. He says Morselli told him the delay would cost $100,000.

The first payment was $25,000, dropped off at a fundraiser for Gagliano, at a restaurant in Montreal's east end.

Brault claims he also put at least five Liberal party workers on Groupaction's payroll. They were paid with sponsorship money to do work for the party.

Other Liberals allegedly got cheques too, disguised as consulting fees, for doing nothing. One of them was Jean Chretien's brother, Gaby.

Brault claims Chretien handed $4,000 to a Liberal candidate.

Brault says Liberal fundraiser Alain Renaud got $63,000, also for doing nothing.

It was clearly, Brault says, a donation to the Liberal Party.

And then, there's Jacques Corriveau, a confidant of former prime minister Jean Chretien.

Brault paid Corriveau's firm nearly $500,000, for no work at all.

He says Corriveau wanted the money for the Liberal party.

Under cross examination, a lawyer for the Liberals suggested Brault didn't really know if some of his payments ended up in Liberal coffers. Brault agreed with that, saying 'You're right."
Well, perhaps the attorney representing the Liberals on the cross-examination felt he scored a point. However, when political appointees demand cash from a government contractor, either the money is for themselves or their party -- and either way, it's corruption.

Justice Gomery only partially lifted the ban, leaving some question whether the ban would continue for Chuck Guité and Paul Coffin. If it does and my source can still produce information on the ongoing testimony, I will continue to publish it here. My hope will be that Justice Gomery realizes that publication bans do nothing but damage public confidence in the government's ability to police itself and hold itself accountable to the electorate. We'll see soon enough if that lesson has sunk in with Justice Gomery.
Posted by Captain Ed at 12:57 PM Comments (19) TrackBack

Adscam Updates And Notes
A couple of updates on Adscam for Canadian readers this morning:

First, after I posted about the Toronto Sun's allegations yesterday about Parti Quebecois receiving Sponsorship Program monies through Groupaction, several people e-mailed and commented that PQ vigorously denied the allegations and that the Sun had reported factually incorrect data. Specifically, the contract to which the Sun tied the illegal payments expired in 1998. However, Greg Weston's column in today's Sun makes the chronology clear :

As we reported yesterday, Alain Renaud, a senior executive who worked for the ad firm Groupaction during the Adscam years, claims that while the company was getting $43 million in sponsorship funds, it was slipping thousands of dollars to the PQ.

In one deal, Renaud says, Groupaction paid about $90,000 to the PQ in return for a $4.5-million advertising contract with the Quebec liquor board, the SAQ.

The PQ, of course, went berserk over the story, denying it with separatist vigour. Groupaction had actually lost the bid for the liquor board contract in late 1998, the party insisted. Too bad Renaud was talking about Groupaction's contract from 1996-97.

It does indeed appear that money spent on convincing the Quebecois not to secede from Canada went into the pockets of the very separatists it was meant to oppose. This led to a particularly uncomfortable exchange between Conservative leader Stephen Harper and Liberal PM Paul Martin during yesterday's Question Period:

Conservative Leader Stephen Harper made the perfectly sensible point that since "hundreds of thousands of tax dollars may have been funnelled through the Liberal sponsorship program to the Parti Quebecois, I guess the Keystone Crooks stole the money and gave it to the wrong people."

Harper asked, could the PM "guarantee Canadian taxpayers that not one red cent of their money went to the separatist cause in Quebec in the name of national unity?"

Martin, of course, could give no such guarantee.

In another update, CTV confirms that Justice Gomery will decide this morning whether to continue the publication ban now that Jean Brault's testimony has been completed, and of course reported through this site and others. As I mentioned before, an end to the ban would be the best possible result, as Canadians would get first-hand reporting on the courtroom testimony and all the information they want on the scandal.

However, if Justice Gomery does not lift the ban, my source has prepared an update which will be sent later today to me. I assume that will cover the testimony from Monday and Tuesday, and possibly the cross-examination yesterday. If it comes through -- which is completely at the discretion of my source -- I will post it as soon as I'm able.

UPDATE: Justice Gomery will announce the decision on the ban at 2 pm EDT, according to a separate source.
Posted by Captain Ed at 07:48 AM Comments (39) TrackBack

American Media Catches Up To Adscam
One complaint that Americans receive from Canadians, and deservedly so, is how little our media covers Canadian issues, leaving Americans poorly informed of the affairs of our northern neighbors. I don't believe it to be deliberate, but in an effort to cover global hot spots, our media gives Canada short shrift. I wondered when I started writing about Adscam when the American media would pick up on the story, if at all, since it held the real possibility of toppling the government.

Ironically, the tremendous interest from Canada in this blog has caught the notice of American media and put Adscam in our newspapers. Yesterday and this morning, several articles appeared around the country, including an interview I did with the New York Times which went out on their wire service to newspapers all over. Clifford Krauss spoke with me yesterday and explained Adscam to Americans:

Edward Morrissey, a 42-year-old Minneapolis area call-center manager who runs a Web log, or blog, called Captain's Quarters as a hobby, last Saturday began posting allegations of corruption that reached the highest levels of the Canadian Liberal Party. The postings violate a publication ban instituted a few days earlier by a federal judge, Justice John Gomery, who is leading an investigation into accusations of money laundering and kickbacks in a government program from the 1990's that was aimed at undermining Quebec separatists.

The scandal, which involves government payments of up to $85 million to a handful of Montreal advertising firms for little or no work, has dominated national politics for a year and led to the Liberals losing their majority in the House of Commons last June.

But Justice Gomery moved to limit dissemination of information from the otherwise public hearing in Montreal so as not to influence potential jurors for coming trials in which a government bureaucrat and two advertising executives face criminal charges.
Krauss writes more about the ban, which is the same angle that interested John Tabin at The American Spectator. Tabin opines about the ban after explaining the scandal and CQ's role in exposing some of the testimony -- and doing so in a critical but accurate manner. Tabin explains his purpose to TAS' readers:

Why is Morrissey reporting all this? Why am I repeating it? Quite simply, the publication ban is an abomination. The condescending notion that the jury in Brault's criminal trial might be irretrievably biased by media reports hardly justifies keeping ordinary Canadians in the dark about things that Ottawa's cognoscenti can't stop talking about. Canadian television reporters show images of Brault weeping on the stand, but then say, farcically, they can't reveal what made him break down. (He'd just recounted how he was told to hire a Liberal crony or lose a contract with Via Rail, Canada's state-run passenger train service.) Canada's attorney general has already talked about pursuing Canadian bloggers merely for linking to Captain's Quarters, possibly charging them with contempt of court. What makes the ban especially disturbing is the rumor that the Liberals could call a snap election before the testimony becomes public to avoid accountability at the polls.

As Canadian blogger and sometime TAS contributor Colby Cosh notes, free expression is a fundamental right under Canada's Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Judges are advised to use publication bans sparingly and with grave concern for Charter principles, and -- unlike many Canadian judges -- Gomery actually did so, in such a way that suggests he might be amenable to lifting the ban. The efficacy of the ban is a factor in the decision to lift it or continue it; the Supreme Court of Canada has ruled that an infringement on Charter liberties must have a "rational connection" to the intended benefit. If Americans are reporting what Canadians cannot, the argument for the ban weakens. And so, writes Cosh, "it would actively help free the hands of Canadian webloggers and reporters if our foreign cousins were to be aggressive about
"publishing" the substance of the Brault testimony outside the reach of Canadian law" (emphasis his).

Happy to oblige.

And in yesterday's Dallas Morning News, Adscam and the publication ban was the topic of their lead editorial. The editors at DMN don't share my optimism about avoiding any complications at breaking the ban, however:

The lesson would seem to be that in this Internet era, it is futile for governments to try to keep information out of the hands of the people. Not so fast: There is a reasonable chance that the Canadian government will prosecute Mr. Morrissey under Canadian law and request that American courts enforce their ruling.

Before "Captain Ed" ends up in the dock, we hope U.S. courts realize that technology has created a new worldwide information environment where old laws simply no longer fit reality. The poor Canadian judge looks like King Canute – or should we say King Canuck – vainly ordering the tide to reverse course.

They could try, I suppose, but I think they'd be unlikely to succeed in even receiving a hearing -- and I believe I'd find excellent representation to ensure it didn't go any farther than that if I needed it.

Finally, the local Minneapolis Star-Tribune called last night for an interview and ran it in today's edition, which must have just barely made it in before deadline. Chao Xiong wrote a good piece on the controversy and my role in it, along with some quotes from the Canadian media, an angle that appears unique amoung American coverage so far:

"Within hours of [the blog] being posted people found it and were passing it around," said Bob Cox, night editor of the Toronto newspaper, The Globe and Mail. "There was a great desire amongst Canadians for the information."

Before the blog was discovered, a number of news media outlets had hired a lawyer in anticipation of challenging the publication ban, Cox said. That effort could be bolstered now that the blog has turned water cooler talk into easily accessible, widespread information, he said.
Morrissey has received news media attention in Canada, where because of the ban the news media cannot explicitly discuss information on his blog.

"As a Canadian journalist, I can tell you it's frustrating," Cox said. "Every Canadian with a computer can sit down and read it, but we can't publish it. We're kind of envious that he [Morrissey] can do this."

At least for the moment, Americans have an opportunity to catch up with Canada and learn more about our friends to the north. It may not be the most pleasant of topics, but the analysis provided by the articles gives better insight into the issues that drive Canadian politics and hopefully will stir further interest south of the 49th Parallel.
Posted by Captain Ed at 05:43 AM Comments (19) TrackBack

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