Friday, July 15, 2005

Why did Milewski miss the change in electoral law?

There's been a question that has been lingering at the back of my mind the last couple days. Terry Milewski's CBC report of late July 11 that first broke the story about Grewal's finance emphasized the cheques of Mann and Dhahan, both of which date to the 27th of December, 2003. We learned the next day (July 12), however, that such cheques were acceptable until the new campaign law came into effect on January 1st (see here). If this was the case (and it certainly seems to be), why did the CBC publish the story anyway?

Milewski's decision both to run the story and to emphasize Mann and Dhahan makes a little more sense in light of the letter of Jim Holt (president of Grewal's riding association), also date 11 July, which has been published by Kate at Small Dead Animals. The paragraphs about these cheques are here:
Next we have a Mr. Dhahan. Here we have a person who in addition to attending a political dinner for Gurmant Grewal back in December of 2003 (two thousand three) happens also to be a good friend of Ujjal Dosanjh. And Mr. Dhahan, nearly one and half years after a cheque was written and cleared, is now asking for a receipt for his "donation". In checking this one out, we have determined that the item was countersigned over to The Grand Taj Hall in Surrey to help pay for the dinner, it cleared through their bank, and then presumably went back to Mr. Dhahan's.

We trust that someone is asking (or perhaps maybe someone will be asking) Mr. Dhahan to explain why an event that occurred some time in the distant past didn't seem to need a receipt then, but does now. It would also be interesting to determine if this item was an "outstanding item" in accounting terms, and we guess that only a formal examination of Mr. Dhahan's Income Tax records would determine if this item had been in fact processed as a normal business expense for either 2003 (when the cheque was written), or in 2004 (when the item cleared the bank), or can it indeed be demonstrated by Mr. Dhahan or his auditors that this payment has been kept on his books as an unresolved item all these many months (and through at least one Income tax cycle). For if this item had indeed already been processed in accounting terms, then the accuracy and substance of Mr. Dhahan's claims to you will represent an entirely different legal matter altogether.

Next we have a Mr. Mann. As backgrounder on this complainant, it is a well-known fact that he is a very good friend of Ujjal Dosanjh. So good a friend is he of Mr. Dosanjh that just after the Taping Incident became public, and Mr., Dosanjh's central and principle role in that event became known to the public, Mr. Mann telephoned Mr. Grewal and voiced extreme displeasure with Mr. Grewal's actions. And then just a few short weeks later, up pops a complaint relayed to you regarding two cheques. Mann has provided you with two items, one for $1800. and another for $600. In the matter of the item for $600., our research shows that this item followed the same pattern as Mr. Dhahan's above. Namely, it was used to help pay for the December 2003 dinner, this cheque cleared in nearly identical fashion to that of Mr. Dhahan's, and all of the above questions must be asked of Mr. Mann.

Regarding the cheque in the amount of $1800. our research shows that this cheque was made payable to the Nina Grewal Campaign. This item represents the approximate cash value of the telephone call centre system Mr. Mann supplied to be used by both the Gurmant and Nina Grewal campaigns in June 2004. The reverse of that cheque clearly shows it was properly endorsed by the Registered Agent for Nina Grewal, and deposited to the EDA account. The lack of receipt on this account appears to be a simple clerical error related to the change in volunteer Registered Agents for the Fleetwood-Port Kells campaign. The new Registered Agent assumed his predecessor had issued all official receipts up to the time of the changeover. Our investigation indicates that all of the paperwork and reports are correct, and an official receipt will be issued to Mr. Mann forthwith. (On a perhaps embarrassing note, this sort of thing does happen from time to time, given the large number of items processed by volunteers during a campaign, but we do try to do our best)
Now, one thing that you'll notice here is that Mr. Holt says nothing about what the state of the law was on Dec. 27th. Instead, he notes, first, that both men are friends of Dosanjh and, second, that they had waited a suspiciously long time before looking for their receipts. Let us leave aside the question of whether either point is true (they may be) or relevant. More important, I think, is to put ourselves in Milewski's shoes. If you had gotten this explanation of these cheques, you'd probably ignore these points as irrelevant. (They may be Liberals, they may be friends of Dosanjh; but they did give generously to Grewal; that money was mishandled; and mishandled money by any politician is newsworthy--especially if it's Grewal.)

So why did Milewski not mention the change in electoral law? Reporters operate under time constraints and it may have been an oversight on his part --Jim Holt had not mentioned it, and he probably assumed that Holt was giving him the best explanation available. Instead of mentioning the campaign law, Holt cast aspersions on the donors' motives. No reporter is going to be swayed by that. (That does not excuse Milewski, of course, for missing the change in electoral law; he should have known this stuff.) Why didn't Holt mention it? Conspiracy theorists may try to argue that he was laying a trap, etc., etc. It may have been that it just didn't occur to anyone until after the story broke.

But are we sure that the date is the issue that is behind the RCMP investigation? I'll try to turn to that question next.


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