Thursday, May 13, 2010

It's good to have friends in federal agencies

Shocking news out of the ethics office today: "Raitt broke no rules with fundraiser: Ethics Commish."

The Ethics Commissioner hits another one out of the park! She's the Halak to the Conservatives' net. Or whichever metaphor you prefer.

Federal Labour Minister Lisa Raitt didn't break any rules last fall when her riding association let a lobbyist and a Toronto Port Authority staffer organize a fundraiser, Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner Mary Dawson says.
The event, held at a swanky Toronto restaurant, was to raise money for Raitt's Conservative riding association, but not for Raitt herself. Opposition MPs filed complaints with Dawson after discovering Michael McSweeney, a lobbyist with the Cement Association of Canada, and Janet MacDonald, who works for the president of the Toronto Port Authority, helped organize the fundraiser. MacDonald was Raitt's assistant when Raitt was the head of the port authority. McSweeney's organization had lobbied Raitt prior to the fundraiser.

Dawson found the political contributions, volunteer time and resources provided were given to the Halton Conservative Association, not to Raitt. She also found MacDonald volunteered out of her friendship with Raitt, so even if her volunteer time was given to Raitt instead of to the association, it would have fallen under an exception to the rules.
Details, details. The Halton Conservative Association, after all, really has nothing to do with Raitt. Doesn't help her at all. What a crock our ethics regime is if such obvious connections cannot be drawn. Add such gaps to the list of measures that need to be looked at. The Ethics Commissioner herself is helpfully pointing out how hapless she is in the face of the Conservative onslaught of ethical challenges. Once again. She needs a whole new slate of rules to deal with these people.

The kicker, that the staffer at the Toronto Port Authority, where Raitt used to be the chief executive, was organizing the fundraiser out of friendship. It almost warms your heart that such friendly gestures are enabled in our political fundraising world. Ministers! Find your friends at the federal agencies and get them to the phones! The Ethics Commissioner is no obstacle. Once again.

The Lobbying Commissioner may yet weigh in on this. This piece gives you a sense of the lobbying issues involved.

Maybe Rick Mercer should do a Bill Maher inspired "New Rules" segment on all this stuff. The Ethics Commissioner is serving up a lot of material, just sayin'...