Saturday, May 03, 2008

Looks like the good ol' in-and-out was not just for advertising

Good for the Winnipeg Free Press for picking up the call to further investigate the scope of the in-and-out scheme employed by the Conservatives in the 2006 election. Maybe the national media will get into this further, with their resources, now that these enterprising reporters are producing such results. (h/t to northwestern lad and more reading at Tribe's place)

Details on the transfers of polling and research expenses:
A Free Press review of Conservative expense claims turned up 50 Tory candidates who sent a total of $854,000 to the national Conservative campaign under the category of "Election surveys or other surveys and research."

In all but two of the campaigns, the amounts transferred were either $15,000 or $20,000.

Sixteen campaigns saw "in-and-out" transactions, where money was paid to the central campaign, and then returned to the local campaign or where the central campaign paid money to the local campaigns and then it was returned to central.

In the other 34 campaigns, the transaction only involved a local campaign paying the national campaign. In many, the transactions occurred weeks, even months, after the election was over.
Such expense levels for polling and research are viewed to be inordinate for local campaigns to incur:
Intensive polling is not routinely done at the local campaign level in federal elections because of the cost and because less expensive alternatives, such as voter identification phone banks, are available. And because, on average, campaigns are capped at about $80,000, a $20,000 expense represents an inordinate share of overall spending.
That is some strange stuff that begs for explanations, please.

The expansion of the in-and-out scheme to include other expenses would hardly be a surprising development. The in-and-out scheme with respect to the Conservatives' national advertising expenses involved but 67 ridings. Begging the question - what about the other 241 ridings and how were expenses treated by the Conservatives in those ridings? Looks like similar practices were used.

Elections Canada may be investigating this matter, as noted in the Free Press article. They have received a complaint regarding the use of an in-and-out scheme in respect of polling expenses in the Victoria riding in the 2004 campaign. Begging another big question, of course. Did the Conservatives pilot this scheme during the 2004 campaign in a manner that Elections Canada did not catch on to at the time? Perhaps emboldened by that example, they ran with it in 2006 but executed it in a manner that pushed them over acceptable spending limits and caught Elections Canada's attention.

More questions. None of them good for Conservatives.

UPDATE (10:00 p.m.): Make sure you read the excellent post at Accidental Deliberations tonight when you're digesting the news that the in-and-out scheme may have been much more fulsome than known. That blogger has thoughts on what the attributions the Conservatives made for polling and research expenses achieved. The thinking there is that it possibly allowed for the Conservatives to "double-dip" in getting reimbursed from the taxpayer at the national level for the national party paying for the polling expense (50% reimbursement level) with the local campaign chipping in part of the expense, albeit after the election (60% reimbursement level).

See also northwestern lad & BigCityLib for the lists of 50 candidates involved. What's striking immediately are the uniform, neat amounts of $15,000 and $20,000 attributed across such a wide swath of candidates. Suggesting uniformity being applied by someone, at the national level, in allocating these expenses.