Postmedia's Stephen Maher talks about Elections Canada investigating Conservative MP Dean Del Mastro for allegedly going over his campaign spending limit in 2008 by thousands of dollars
Conservative MP Dean Del Mastro says no one from Elections Canada has contacted him about his 2008 campaign spending, despite a report that the agency is investigating it.
The Ottawa Citizen and the National Post are reporting that Del Mastro, who has been the face of the Conservative Party amid a controversy over misleading election phone calls known as robocalls, is being investigated for going $17,000 over his spending limit in his 2008 campaign to win the seat in Peterborough, Ont.
The report says Elections Canada has filed a production order seeking emails, invoices and other documents from Holinshed Research Group relating to election day work for Del Mastro.
The newspapers also have what appears to be a $21,000 personal cheque from Del Mastro to the company. If the money wasn't repaid from his campaign, it would mean he went over the candidates' personal donation limit of $2,100.
The parliamentary secretary to Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Del Mastro says he's done nothing wrong with his election spending. Speaking to Evan Solomon, host of CBC News Network's Power & Politics, Del Mastro said the election agency hasn't been in touch with him about the spending.
"My statements are fully audited, they reflect all expenses related to my campaigns and they're available online. We've always spent within the spending limits. I just want to be clear that if they have any questions, they're welcome to call me," he said.
Campaign expenses audited
The report also said Elections Canada is looking at whether Del Mastro spent more than his total campaign limit. If there was an extra $21,000 invoice paid for by the campaign, it would put him over the $92,566.79 limit. The total expenses filed by the campaign add up to $91,770.80.
The campaign expenses listed online show a $1,575 payment to Holinshed. They also show a number of payments to the riding association, but none to Del Mastro or to his wife.
Del Mastro said any campaign expenses he paid were reimbursed by the campaign or the riding association.
The MP said he has to go over the paperwork for the campaign, which was almost four years ago, to reacquaint himself with the expenses. He said his current official agent, who wasn't his official agent in 2008, got one call from Elections Canada about the invoice but heard nothing further.
Speaking to CBC News after his appearance on Power & Politics, Del Mastro said he absolutely did not overspend in his campaign.
"All I can say is all of the expenses related to the campaign — all of them — have been fully accounted for and those statements have been fully audited and accepted by Elections Canada," he said.
It's not clear what the $21,000 was spent on or how it's accounted for in Del Mastro's election expenses.
Company got federal money
Holinshed owner Frank Hall had brought a small claims lawsuit against Del Mastro, which Del Mastro says was dismissed by a judge two years ago.
The company performed services for Del Mastro's MP office, the Peterborough Conservative riding association, and for Del Mastro's 2008 campaign, he said.
"Those were paid. There is no question as to whether or not they were paid. In fact, Mr. Hall indicated that in his filing on a separate matter."
Holinshed developed a system called GeoVote, which it described as "a focused, customized, web based, interactive data management and display mapping system ... used successfully in municipal, provincial and federal elections since 2003." The company received a $125,000 grant from the federal government as part of the Economic Action Plan in 2009.
Del Mastro said he and Hall had a falling out and he's no longer in touch with Hall. He said he wasn't aware of the federal money for Holinshed.
Hall didn't immediately respond to a request for comment. The phone number listed for the Ottawa-based Holinshed is disconnected and the website appears to have been taken down, though Hall still lists it as being in operation on a professional networking website.
Del Mastro's official agent for the 2008 campaign, Richard McCarthy, didn't return a call for comment.
Last November, the Conservative Party was fined $52,000 for breaking election rules in a deal that saw charges dropped against four senior officials, but guilty pleas by the organizations for which they made the decisions, in a case that became known as in-and-out.
The party and its fundraising arm, the Conservative Fund, pleaded guilty to Elections Act charges of incurring election expenses exceeding the maximum allowable and filing election records that didn't set out all expenses. The guilty plea by the party and fund meant more serious charges against the party and its fundraising arm of wilfully breaking the laws were withdrawn.
Charges against Senator Doug Finley, the party's former campaign director, and Senator Irving Gerstein, head of the Conservative Fund and chief fundraiser for the party, were withdrawn, as well as charges against Michael Donison, the former national party director, and Susan Kehoe, who served as the party's interim executive director.