the in and out scheme clothespins for idiots

Joe Goudie never knew his name was involved in a scandal till he heard it at the local coffee shop. A former Newfoundland provincial cabinet minister, Goudie was a Conservative candidate in the 2006 federal election.

Joe Goudie never knew his name was involved in a scandal till he heard it at the local coffee shop.

A former Newfoundland provincial cabinet minister, Goudie was a Conservative candidate in the 2006 federal election. In 2008 he learned that his name was on the radio, connected to a scandal about “money or something.”

The scandal in question was the Conservatives’“in-and-out” financing scheme. In order to circumvent Elections Canada rules limiting the amount a party can spend, the Conservatives concocted a scheme to disguise federal spending as local spending. It worked like this. Candidates who had not reached their limit in fundraising received a payment into their campaign bank accounts which they were instructed to return immediately to headquarters.

A number of candidates recognized this for what it was, a scam, and refused to have anything to do with it. Others were puzzled and had to be browbeaten into accepting their part in the scheme. Many others simply went along, assured by party brass that it was all above board. Most report that the money appeared in their accounts unannounced, followed by instructions to return it straight away. No word yet on whether the party sent along clothespins for the candidates’ noses, but clearly some smelled a rat while others either missed the aroma or ignored it.

Four senior Conservatives, including two senators, are facing criminal charges for their roles in the scheme. One of them, campaign manager Senator Doug Finley, got himself an account on the website Twitter this week, and immediately began to “tweet” about the charges. To tweet is not, by the way, to imitate bird calls, but to publish one’s scattered thoughts, often in cryptic computerese. Here’s an example of Finley’s tweets: “Anyone who thinks PMSH was that deeply involved in campaign is an idiot. Campaign makes millions of decisions in 35 days. Think.”

PMSH means Prime Minister Stephen Harper. Apparently non-idiots among us are to exonerate him on the grounds that he was too busy to know about the in-and-out scheme. Bear in mind that this was the 2006 election, where Canada unceremoniously dumped the Liberals, mainly because of the Sponsorship Scandal.

At that time it was widely considered reasonable to hold Paul Martin responsible for the fact that some Quebec Liberals siphoned off some of the money that was intended for the referendum campaign. In the in-and-out case, the four people who have been charged are members of Harper’s inner circle – much closer to the PM than any Liberal who faced charges.

Well Senator, there are idiots, and there are idiots.

Failure to recognize the prime minister is a busy man during election time is one kind of idiocy, but it falls far short of another kind, what we might call moral idiocy. Here’s how to be a moral idiot: give the in-and-out scheme a moment’s thought, and then convince yourself it is simply “an accounting matter.”

Everybody fights an election under the same rules. Those rules limit campaign spending. Use a cute accounting trick to get around that spending limit, and go over budget by $1.2 million. Do you find anything fishy about this? If not, see moral idiot category.

Now consider to what end this fishy business was put.

It was done not to enrich a handful of crooks, but to subvert democracy. Election rules exist to protect the democratic process. Those Quebec Liberals we all despised so much were stealing money. The in-an-out fund was about stealing an election.

That’s not to say the Conservatives wouldn’t have won that election without the fraud.

In the grand scheme of a federal election, could a million misspent bucks cause the ruling party to lose 32 seats? It’s something we will never know for certain.

What we do know, whether Finley and his partners in crime go to jail or not, is that the election results were tarnished by the misuse of election funds. It may be the battered Liberals had no hope of winning that election anyway, but the Conservatives ascertained victory by means that almost any idiot can see were fraudulent.

The Harper minority has limped along from scandal to scandal for five years, propped up by the instability of their opponents. Will this be the story that kicks the crutches out from under them? Who knows?

Worse governments have survived worse scandals.

The Conservatives are said to be millions ahead of their rivals in fundraising. Even if they spend the money legally, it should run to plenty of clothespins.

Al Pope won the Ma Murray Award for Best Columnist in BC/Yukon in 2010 and 2002. His novel, Bad Latitudes, is available in bookstores.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Crystal Schick/Yukon News
Calvin Delwisch poses for a photo inside his DIY sauna at Marsh Lake on Feb. 18.
Yukoners turning up the heat with unique DIY sauna builds

Do-it-yourselfers say a sauna built with salvaged materials is a great winter project

Wyatt’s World

Wyatt’s World for March 5, 2021.

Yukonomist: School competition ramps up in the Yukon

It’s common to see an upstart automaker trying to grab share from… Continue reading

The Yukon government responded to a petition calling the SCAN Act “draconian” on Feb. 19. (Yukon News file)
Yukon government accuses SCAN petitioner of mischaracterizing her eviction

A response to the Jan. 7 petition was filed to court on Feb. 19

City councillor Samson Hartland in Whitehorse on Dec. 3, 2018. Hartland has announced his plans to run for mayor in the Oct. 21 municipal election. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Councillor sets sights on mayor’s chair

Hartland declares election plans

Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley receives his first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine from Public Health Nurse Angie Bartelen at the Yukon Convention Centre Clinic in Whitehorse on March 3. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
State of emergency extended for another 90 days

“Now we’re in a situation where we see the finish line.”

The Yukon government says it is working towards finding a solution for Dawson area miners who may be impacted by City of Dawson plans and regulations. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
Miner expresses frustration over town plan

Designation of claims changed to future planning

Team Yukon athletes wave flags at the 2012 Arctic Winter Games opening ceremony in Whitehorse. The 2022 event in Wood Buffalo, Alta., has been postponed indefinitely. (Justin Kennedy/Yukon News file)
2022 Arctic Winter Games postponed indefinitely

Wood Buffalo, Alta., Host Society committed to rescheduling at a later date

Housing construction continues in the Whistle Bend subdivision in Whitehorse on Oct. 29, 2020. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Yukon Bureau of Statistics reports rising rents for Yukoners, falling revenues for businesses

The bureau has published several reports on the rental market and businesses affected by COVID-19

Council of Yukon First Nations grand chief Peter Johnston at the Yukon Forum in Whitehorse on Feb. 14, 2019. Johnston and Highways and Public Works Minister Richard Mostyn announced changes to the implementation of the Yukon First Nations Procurement Policy on March 3. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Third phase added to procurement policy implementation

Additional time added to prep for two provisions

Crews work to clear the South Klondike Highway after an avalanche earlier this week. (Submitted)
South Klondike Highway remains closed due to avalanches

Yukon Avalanche Association recommending backcountry recreators remain vigilant

RCMP Online Crime Reporting website in Whitehorse on March 5. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)
Whitehorse RCMP launch online crime reporting

Both a website and Whitehorse RCMP app are now available

A man walks passed the polling place sign at city hall in Whitehorse on Oct. 18, 2018. The City of Whitehorse is preparing for a pandemic-era election this October with a number of measures proposed to address COVID-19 restrictions. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
City gets set for Oct. 21 municipal election

Elections procedures bylaw comes forward

Most Read