Conservative MP Dean Del Mastro is under investigation by Elections Canada for spending too much to get elected, court documents released Thursday confirm.
The Peterborough, Ont., MP has been the subject of three production orders since April 23, 2011, including two that required the Royal Bank of Canada to release his personal banking records for the investigation into his 2008 federal election spending.
At issue is a $21,000 contract for polling and research, which Del Mastro says was for work never performed, but which the man in charge of the research company says was performed but never reported to Elections Canada.
In the court documents, the investigator for Elections Canada says he believes because of the interviews he has conducted and the information he has obtained that the $21,000 contract with Holinshed Research Group was paid by Del Mastro from his personal bank account "in a manner that facilitated the concealing and misreporting of election expenses and contributions."
No charges have been filed and the allegations have not been tested in court.
Del Mastro reiterated his innocence Thursday evening.
"My statements for both the campaign and the association accurately reflect all of their activities," he said in an emailed statement. "They have been professionally audited and reviewed and a matter of public record for almost four years. Any expenses that I personally incurred on their behalf have been refunded."
There is no evidence in documents filed with Elections Canada that the campaign or riding association refunded Del Mastro's personal cheque.
Del Mastro has been under fire since a news report last week said Elections Canada is investigating him for exceeding federal campaign spending limits.
Confusion over payments
The election agency is investigating Del Mastro for exceeding the campaign's spending limit and for exceeding the personal spending limit for candidates.
It is also investigating Richard McCarthy, who served as Del Mastro's official agent in the campaign, for exceeding the spending limit, for accepting the personal contribution by Del Mastro, and for filing a campaign return that omitted Del Mastro's personal contribution, as well as the $21,000 Holinshed expense.
The punishment for breaking federal election spending laws is a maximum $5,000 fine or five-year prison sentence.
Del Mastro told CBC News Tuesday people are confused because of a quote for services that his campaign paid by mistake, which was refunded, and a less-expensive invoice issued the same day by the same company. That invoice, for $1,575 — $1,500 plus GST — was paid and included in his campaign filings.
"The campaign never incurred a $21,000 expenditure from Holinshed research. Did not," he told CBC News.
Documents obtained from Del Mastro's Elections Canada file, which includes all receipts submitted by the campaign, show a payment to Del Mastro for $1,575 listed under research expenses.
Candidates have a personal election contribution limit of $2,100. Any amount beyond that has to be reimbursed by the campaign.
The spending limit for Del Mastro's campaign in 2008 was $92,566.79. The campaign listed expenses of $90,987.52 or 98.29 per cent of the cap. Another $21,000 would have broken campaign spending laws.
Investigation moves to Holinshed's records
The Elections Canada investigator, Thomas Ritchie, was looking for records from Holinshed to trace the spending and determine whether the contract for $1,575 existed. He's also looking for information about a contract for $22,680 that was reported by the riding association.
It was Frank Hall, the head of Holinshed, which is no longer in business, who complained to the election agency, Ritchie says in the documents. Hall had sued Del Mastro over a separate contract he said wasn't paid, and Ritchie says in the court documents that he believes Hall is being truthful in his allegations.
Ritchie says he believes the records under production order will show Del Mastro authorized the $21,000 Holinshed contract and that it was for work during the campaign.
"However, the return only reported an election expense of $1,575.00 as being paid to Holinshed."
"The amount of $1,575.00 was supported by an invoice supplied by Holinshed at Dean Del Mastro's request. Frank Hall, president of Holinshed, stated to me that Holinshed never provided any services in respect of this invoice and Holinshed was never paid."
Ritchie also believes the documents will show "Dean Del Mastro sought and obtained an invoice that appeared to describe services provided to the Peterborough [Electoral District Association] by Holinshed when, as Frank Hall stated to me, no such services were provided by Holinshed."
In an earlier production order, Ritchie reported Hall raised concerns about a handwritten memo contained in Del Mastro's Elections Canada file. The memo refers to a $10,000 deposit sent in error from the campaign bank account and says "invoice to be sent to EDA detailing portion relating to campaign."
According to the documents, Hall told Ritchie the handwriting wasn't his and didn't belong to anyone working at Holinshed.
Riding association records produced too
The bank records cover Aug. 1, 2008, the month before the campaign started, to Feb. 13, 2009, after Del Mastro's election expenses were submitted to the agency.
Ritchie also had a production order issued for the bank records of the riding association.
The bank records show Del Mastro deposited the $1,575 refund from the campaign for the expense he claimed. There is no record of a $1,575 withdrawal from his account in the time period covered by the bank records, according to Ritchie's court filing.
The riding association's records, which cover amounts greater than $500, show it didn't make any payments to Holinshed from Jan. 1, 2008, to Dec. 31, 2009, the production order claims.
The court documents released Thursday were seeking records from Hall, including scripts for calls to voters made by Holinshed and timesheets for the staff.