The Duffy Affair: The PMO guarded a secret fund for 7 years – Why?
CBC News has learned the PMO has a secret fund, allegedly paid for by the Conservative Party, to be used for funds the PMO deems isn’t best to leave on the taxpayers’ backs. Questions have been raised whether Nigel Wright, who controlled the fund, either used the money to pay Mike Duffy or was reimbursed with this money for paying Duffy. Furthermore, questions are raised as to why a secret fund using Conservative funds isn’t just declared as expenses incurred by the Conservative Party.
The PMO fund was created when the Conservatives took power in 2006 and has been funded by the Conservative Party and by taxpayers. At times, the fund had over $1 million and has been under the control of four chief of staffs, including Nigel Wright who gave a cheque to disgraced former Conservative senator Mike Duffy.
The fund has been a guarded secret for the past 7 years, but Conservative MP Chris Alexander defended the fund saying most Conservative members would not be surprised if their money was used to fund Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s affairs. But why, then, would it have needed to be a closely guarded secret? Why not declare these expenses to the Conservative Party?
The fund is off limits to government and Conservative Party accountants, along with Elections Canada and the Auditor General. The only oversight over the Chief of Staff’s management of the fund is the Conservative Fund of Canada – the same fund to which Duffy sent emails asking for money for his “expanded role” in the Harper government.
The fund raised questions about where Duffy’s pay off actually came from. Did Wright pay off Duffy in the taxpayers’ interest like the PMO claimed? Why weren’t the other three effected senators also offered a bailout? Why would Wright give a personal cheque to Duffy, whom haven’t had the closest of friendships – especially one of $90,172? Now, the question evolves to: did the money come from this secret, untracked, fund?
Harper and other Conservatives have insisted no taxpayer money was used – even before any related questions came up.
Officials in the PMO deny the idea that the cheque came out of the secret fund in any way – whether it be direct or as a reimbursement to Wright.
Conservative spokesman Fred DeLorey said, “the prime minister at times incurs expenses that are best paid by the party.” So again, why have a secret fund when you can just directly declare these expenses to the party? An official from former Liberal Prime Minister Jean Chretien’s government said “When we had expenses that were clearly partisan — like sending our staff to a party event, for instance – we just sent the bills to the party. It was all pretty above-board.” So why could the Liberals take expenses directly and why do the Conservatives need a secret fund to do the same thing?
DeLorey was asked if the secret fund could have been used in the Duffy affair and responded, “No funds were used for that.” When he was asked if there was any connection, DeLorey said, “I can give you a clear, ‘No.’ The funds used were Mr. Wright’s personal funds.”
In terms of legality, Elections Canada said moving funds to a secret stash is fine and dandy, stating outside an election period, the party “can toss a million dollars into the organ grinder’s hat if they feel like it.”
Wright is now subject to a police investigation and the funds are now in the control of new chief of staff Ray Novak.
What do you think of this secret fund? Could it have been used to cover up Conservative misdeads? Why did it need to be secret? If the expenses sent to the stash would have been no surprise to Conservative members then why not just bill the Conservative Party like the Liberals did in the Chretien Government? Elections Canada confirmed: outside a writ period, they “can toss a million dollars into the organ grinder’s hat if they feel like it.”