Robocalls linked to Guelph Tory campaign worker's computer
Elections Canada says 'Pierre Poutine' IP address same as one used for Burke campaign calls
By Laura Payton, CBC News
Posted: May 4, 2012 3:26 PM ET
Last Updated: May 4, 2012 8:07 PM ET
Elections Canada has traced a computer from the Conservative campaign in Guelph, Ont., to the account that paid for robocalls that falsely directed voters to the wrong polling station in the last federal election.
Newly released court documents show investigator Al Mathews traced a PayPal account used to pay for the robocalls to the same IP address as a computer used by Andrew Prescott, the deputy campaign manager in the riding.
Mathews had previously traced the false calls to a phone registered to "Pierre Poutine," which he determined is likely a fake name.
Prescott had an account with RackNine, a company that does robocalling, or voice broadcasting, and which was used by "Pierre Poutine" to make the false calls. The account was paid via PayPal using prepaid Visa cards bought at two drug stores in Guelph.Andrew Prescott worked as deputy campaign manager for Guelph Conservative candidate Marty Burke. An IP address used by Prescott to make legitimate campaign calls has been linked by Elections Canada to fraudulent robocalls in the riding, though no allegations have been made against Prescott. (Facebook)
Prescott's account was used to make legitimate calls on behalf of the campaign of Conservative candidate Marty Burke.
Mathews found that both Prescott and "Pierre Poutine" used the same two IP addresses — one of which belongs to a proxy server that lets users hide their identity — when logging into their accounts with RackNine.
On May 2, 2011 — election day — both clients "accessed RackNine within four minutes of each other," using the same IP address, Mathews says in the court document.
An IP address is a number assigned to each device accessing the internet.
Mathews does not accuse Prescott of making the calls.
Prescott declined to comment on the information contained in the court documents.
Elections Canada has been investigating the misleading calls for a year. More complaints have surfaced since news broke about the investigation and Chief Electoral Officer Marc Mayrand said March 29 that the agency is now looking into credible allegations in 200 ridings.
Former staffer talked of misdirecting votersMichael Sona, left, poses with Stephen Harper in an undated photo. Sona worked on the Guelph Conservative campaign in the last federal election. (PMO)
The court documents also say two Conservative workers in the last election campaign reported comments made by a former staffer about campaign misinformation.
Matthew McBain and Christopher Crawford said Michael Sona talked about "calling electors to tell them their poll location had changed" and "making a misleading poll moving call," according to Matthews' court filing.
Sona, who worked on Burke's campaign, resigned in February from Conservative MP Eve Adams' office shortly after news broke about the investigation in Guelph.
Both McBain and Crawford, accompanied in separate interviews by Conservative Party lawyer Arthur Hamilton, told the investigator that the party wouldn't approve of the tactic.
McBain was working in the party's central war room for the campaign and says Sona contacted him to suggest a campaign of disinformation. Crawford, who worked on the Burke campaign in Guelph, said he overheard a conversation between Sona and another campaign worker about "how the Americans do politics," but didn't think Sona was serious.
Robocalls list matches list of Conservative non-supporters
The documents also reveal the Conservative Party's own lawyer admits the list of Guelph residents targeted by the calls matches a list of Conservative non-supporters identified by the party on April 27, just days before the election.
Mathews interviewed Hamilton and Chris Rougier, a party staffer he'd previously identified as someone who had called RackNine before the election, on March 9, 2012.
"They said the RackNine list appears to be a list of identified non-Conservative supporters, with data on it that was updated in CIMS [the party's database] on April 27, 2011," Mathews says in the documents.
A CBC analysis of fraudulent calls reported across the country had identified a pattern of voter identification calls and follow-up fraudulent calls made to those who said they didn't support the Conservatives.
Hamilton and Rougier gave Mathews copies of two of three calling reports downloaded by Prescott on April 30, 2011, but said the third report "cannot be recovered." The lists contain more than 8,326 names of current and historical supporters, including 376 that also appeared on the list of people who got misleading calls.
'Sophisticated, systematic' scheme
A spokesman for the Conservative Party said he wouldn't comment on specifics because the party doesn't want to compromise the investigation.
"As I’ve said before, we have proactively reached out to Elections Canada and offered to assist them in any way we can. That includes handing over any documents or records that may assist them," Fred Delorey said in an email.
NDP MP Charlie Angus called the new revelations troubling and says it links the Conservative Party to suspected voter suppression.
"Unfortunately, despite all the evidence, Conservatives still continue to deny any connection — or even acknowledge that they are under investigation," Angus said in a statement.
Liberal MP Frank Valeriote, who won the seat in Guelph, said in a statement that he suspects the "scheme" extends beyond Guelph.
"These calls are part of a sophisticated, systematic Conservative election fraud scheme," he said.
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