Trost’s Conservative leadership campaign hit with $50K fine over membership list

Trost's Conservative leadership campaign hit with $50K fine over membership list
Candidate Brad Trost speaks during a federal Conservative Party leadership debate in Vancouver, B.C., on Sunday February 19, 2017. Trost's campaign for the Conservative leadership says it has been hit with a $50,000 fine over the unauthorized use of the party's membership list. Darryl Dyck / The Canadian Press

Brad Trost‘s Conservative leadership campaign said Monday it’s been hit with a $50,000 fine over unauthorized use of the party’s membership list.

But Trost’s campaign manager still disputes that one of his team broke party rules by giving the list to the National Firearms Association (NFA) and said the party hasn’t dug deep enough on the issue.

“There’s a frame job going on here and our campaign is being framed,” Joseph Ben-Ami said in an interview.

“There’s no evidence in support of the allegation that the Brad Trost campaign leaked any information to anyone.”

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The fine follows complaints lodged by party members early this month after some received mail-outs from the firearms group.

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They said the only way the association could have obtained their contact information was from the Conservative membership list.

The party launched an investigation and has also ordered the association to stop using the information. The association has declined to comment on the issue.

When asked about the fine, party spokesman Cory Hann said the matter still isn’t closed.

“The process is still ongoing,” he said in an email. “Nothing is final yet.”

How the investigation likely led to Trost’s campaign was thanks to a practice known as “salting.”

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Each of the candidates in the leadership race was given a copy of the membership list, but the party included different fake names in each version. When the fake members receive outside correspondence at P.O. boxes or email addresses monitored by the party, officials know they have a leak and where it came from.

Ben-Ami said while it’s possible the Trost list was the one given to the NFA, that doesn’t mean members of his campaign were the ones who did it.

He said someone in party headquarters had to compile the salted list given to the Trost campaign and could have easily been the culprit behind the leak.

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He also said it made no sense for the Trost campaign to give away the information, as it would clearly lead back to them if there was an investigation.

Trost’s campaign was informed last week it was under scrutiny and did its own internal investigation, which came up empty. It then asked the party for proof of the allegation.

But Ben-Ami said the campaign heard nothing more and was told about the fine late Friday afternoon. The fine followed a meeting of the leadership organization committee, which the Trost camp didn’t know about.

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Each campaign had to deposit a $50,000 compliance fee at the start of the race that the party could dock if any rules were broken. The fine will come from there.

Ben-Ami said the campaign wants the money back and is looking to see if there are ways to dispute the party’s findings.

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