New Brunswick

Ex-MP Mike Allen pleads guilty to violating campaign donations law, fined $10K

Former Conservative MP Mike Allen, his wife and one of his former campaign officials have pleaded guilty to violating New Brunswick's law regulating donations to political candidates.

Change of pleas by Allen, his wife and former campaign official entered as trial set to begin

Former Conservative MP Mike Allen was all smiles before his appearance in Burton court on Wednesday, when he changed his plea to guilty. (CBC)

Former Conservative MP Mike Allen, his wife and one of his former campaign officials have pleaded guilty to violating New Brunswick's law regulating donations to political candidates.

Allen, Jennifer Leduc-Allen, and Charles Wright, the treasurer for Allen's 2016 provincial Progressive Conservative leadership campaign, entered the pleas in Burton court Wednesday morning, just as they were set to go on trial.

Allen and Wright were each fined $10,000 while Leduc-Allen was fined $5,200. The penalties were from a joint recommendation by the Crown and defence lawyers.

New Brunswick's Political Process Financing Act bans donations to election or leadership campaigns greater than $6,000. Leduc-Allen pleaded guilty to violating that section.

The act also says a leadership candidate or anyone acting on the candidate's behalf can't "knowingly accept" a donation that exceeds the limit. Allen and Wright each pleaded guilty to that charge.

The court was told that Leduc-Allen bought $13,628.66 worth of "swag" for her husband's 2016 leadership campaign, which amounted to an illegal donation.

An agreed statement of facts said Allen "was aware of the purchase/expenses and was aware the expenses were beyond the $6,000 personal limit," though his lawyer T.J. Burke told the court Allen had been "minimally aware."

Richard Miller, a Crown prosecutor from Nova Scotia, said the penalties were "significant fines" but were needed as a deterrent to ensure fair elections.

"Elections are important," he told Judge Ronald LeBlanc. "We have to follow the rules. Those rules were put in place for a reason: to ensure there's fairness to all parties."

Mike Allen, his wife Jennifer Leduc-Allen and defence lawyer T.J. Burke declined to comment following Wednesday's court proceedings. (CBC)

Mike Allen represented Tobique-Mactaquac in the House of Commons from 2006 to 2015. A year after deciding not to run again federally, he sought the leadership of the provincial PC party.

Allen placed fourth on the first and second ballots and then threw his support to the eventual winner, Blaine Higgs.

Wright's role as official representative, or treasurer, for Allen's campaign was to manage its bank account and ensure "appropriate donations" were deposited there, Miller said.

At one point, LeBlanc confessed he wasn't familiar with a key word in the agreed statement of facts.

"I have no idea what you mean by 'swag,'" he told Miller. "What is 'swag?'"

Miller said it meant "items which would promote the candidate."

"Now I know what that is," the judge commented.

Other charges dropped

The Crown dropped several other charges against the trio and also dropped all charges against Leduc-Allen's parents and her sister.

All three guilty defendants turned down the judge's invitation to address the court.

"I think the statement of facts speak for themselves," Allen told him.

"My legal representative has said what needs to be said," Leduc-Allen said.

They also refused to speak to reporters outside the courthouse.

Since the 2016 PC leadership race, the limit on campaign donations by individuals in elections and leadership races has been lowered to $3,000. Allen, Leduc-Allen and Wright were charged under the version of the law that existed at the time of their offences.

Leduc-Allen's fine is the maximum under the law. The maximum for Allen and Wright would have been $20,000.

Miller said he knew of no previous prosecutions for campaign donations in New Brunswick.

The only other prosecution under the Political Process Financing Act was the case of a Rothesay businessman who didn't follow the rules when he put up a sign in the 2010 election.

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