Findings from Elections Alberta investigation into Katz donation released

EDMONTON – More details are emerging from the Elections Alberta investigation into allegations of illegal donations to the PC party involving Edmonton Oilers owner Daryl Katz.

The investigation was launched after allegations that Katz made a single donation of $430,000 to the PC party during the April 2012 election campaign in the form of one cheque, which violates the Election Finances and Contributions Disclosure Act that prohibits single donations over $30,000.

A news release Tuesday from Elections Alberta shows the money came in the form of one bank draft from Katz Group Properties Incorporated.

Wednesday, Elections Alberta posted its decision on its website.

In his decision, former Chief Electoral Officer Brian Fjeldheim wrote that all but one of the allegations relating to the Katz Group donation were unfounded.

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“I’m pretty pleased with the news today,” said Premier Alison Redford Wednesday morning. “I understand that we’ve just received the report from the Chief Electoral Officer – just to be clear – an investigation that we asked for.”

“While there was a particular donation – not the entire group of donations – but one particular donation that they had concerns about…there was no assumption of guilt or intention, it was just a simple mistake,” she added.

The Elections Alberta investigation found only one violation of the Election Finances and Contributions Disclosure Act: that Paul Marcaccio, chief financial officer of the Katz Group of Companies, was not a resident of Alberta in April 2012 when he made a contribution.

Fjeldheim’s decision details that Marcaccio wrote a cheque for a $25,000 donation, and his personal cheque shows his address is a Toronto residence. His professional corporation has an office in Edmonton and in Toronto.  The investigation found Marcaccio spends half his working time in Edmonton and half in Toronto.

“Given the facts stated above, while Mr. Marcaccio has a significant presence in Alberta, I am satisfied that he is ordinarily resident outside Alberta,” wrote Fjeldheim in his decision. “In my view, he is ordinarily resident in Toronto, Ontario.”

“It is my intention to issue a letter of reprimand to Mr. Marcaccio under Section 51 of the Act,” he added, “directing a political entity to return a contribution where that contribution has been made in contravention of the Act.”

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“Before such an order is made, the PCAA and Mr. Marcaccio have to be given an opportunity to make submissions in relation to it. I have sent a letter to each requesting their submissions,” wrote Fjeldheim.

The investigation determined the other allegations – that Daryl Katz was not a resident of Alberta when he made the donation, that Katz or the Katz Group exceeded the $30,000 contribution limit, that the Progressive Conservative Association of Alberta (PCAA) knowingly accepted donations in excess of the $30,000 limit, that the Katz Group contributed funds to PCAA through other people or corporations, that the PCAA knowingly accepted a contribution not belonging to the contributor, and that the PCAA knowingly solicited or accepted a contribution from one or more people who were not residents of Alberta – to be unfounded.

(The full Elections Alberta decision is posted below)

A decision on whether the donation contravened electoral legislation was released to all parties involved.

In a letter to Wildrose Leader Danielle Smith, Acting Chief Electoral Officer Lori McKee-Jeske provides Smith with the results of the investigation.

Smith requested “a full investigation of these very serious allegations” in a letter on Oct. 25, 2012, specifically citing possible violations of Sections 16, 17, 19, 34 and 35 of the Election Finances and Contributions Disclosure Act.

In the letter, McKee-Jeske explains the one violation of the act the Elections Alberta investigation found and that the other allegations were determined to be unfounded.

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(The full letter to Smith from McKee-Jeske is posted below)

Following the Elections Alberta decision, the Wildrose Party issued a response, saying the investigation found that $430,000 was received by the PC party in the form of a single bank draft from the Katz Group when the limit on individual contributions during an election is $30,000.

The Wildrose believes individuals and corporations, including Marcaccio, paid back the Katz Group for portions of that $430,000 in amounts under $30,000, in order to avoid contravention of the legislation.

“We certainly believe the manner in which these donations were made violated the spirit and intent of the law and therefore should be paid back entirely,” said Smith. “Even if Elections Alberta doesn’t see anything wrong with a single entity delivering hundreds of thousands of dollars to a Party in this manner, Albertans certainly do. The PC party should return these funds immediately.”

“This interpretation of the law by Elections Alberta sets a very dangerous precedent and makes a mockery of contribution limits as well as the rules prohibiting individual companies or persons from making loans to political parties,” Wildrose Finance Critic Rob Anderson added. “If individuals, corporations or unions with deep pockets are allowed to do things like this, we might as well not have contribution limits or lending restrictions in place at all.”

Justice Minister Jonathan Denis said the Wildrose party should apologize.

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“None of the people that the Opposition has repeatedly maligned in the public throughout this entire province over the last few months were found in any way responsible. They were, rather, completely vindicated. This has been nothing more than a Wildrose witch-hunt.”

He added that it was amendments made by the PCs that facilitated the publication of the investigation’s findings.

“This was our own legislative amendments to the Elections Act that allows for this process to continue; the fact that it’s posted on the website, the fact that’s it’s completely open and transparent, those were the ammendments that we passed in the fall.”

But, NDP MLA Rachel Notley says that very legislation is a point of concern.

“The process for inquiry is problematic, and of course the legislation, which this government set up, is also itself quite problematic.”

“The quality of the inquiry is definitely another issue here. We have a Chief Electoral Officer who has, on a number of occasions, made decisions which most members of the opposition question quite significantly,” Notley explained.

The premier said enough time has been spent on this donation issue and now it’s time to move forward.

“They have made their decision, and we’re moving on.”

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Chief Electoral Officer’s donation decision April 23 2013

Letter from Elections Alberta to Danielle Smith re: donation investigation

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