Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Pat Martin's Legal Defence Fund

Good Day Readers:

Ever since the Globe and Mail ran the piece yesterday about Member of Parliament Pat Martin having a Legal Defence Fund set up in his name to raise $250,000 to cover the estimated cost of his legal defence against a defamation lawsuit by call centre RackNine, a firestorm of comment has been unleashed - so far over 950 spread over 21 pages of the newspaper's website - the vast, vast preponderance of which, it's safe to say, were highly, highly critical.

Reviewing them raised a couple interesting issues. Since he championed the demise of the penny some suggested you send pennies.

So you know, because of hoarding The Royal Canadian Mint does not know how many pennies there are in circulation - remember he's going to need 25,000,000. While they will remain legal tender, sometime this fall the federal government will ask businesses to begin returning them to financial institutions. According to The Currency Act, "A payment in coins ... is a legal tender for no more than ... 25 cents if the denomination is one cent."

This means he will need 5,000,000

a very large warehouse, many volunteers, as well as, lots of
Others raised the issue of legality.

Welcome to the Pat Martin Legal Defence Fund
Dear Friends, 

Welcome to the Pat Martin Legal Defence Fund website.

As you know Pat is involved in a protracted lawsuit stemming from remarks he made about an Alberta company and allegations of voter suppression and election fraud by Robocalls in the 2011 general election.

The company filed a defamation lawsuit and is seeking extensive damages from both Pat and the New Democratic Party.

Pat has since apologized for these remarks and attempted to settle out of court without success. The court case is proceeding and legal expenses are mounting.

We are reaching out to supporters for help in meeting these costs and we appreciate any contribution you might make.

A designated account has been established to receive donations. Donations will only be used for legal expenses, costs associated with this operating this website, and audit fees to account for all monies raised and their disbursement.

In the event any surplus money raised it will be donated in equal parts to the Children’s Wish Foundation and the Canadian Museum for Human Rights.

 We thank you in anticipation of your generous support as we help Pat defend himself in this expensive legal action.

Information on how to donate is found below.

Thank you again.

Please Donate and help support this Legal Fund.

A designated account has been established to receive donations. And donations will only be used for legal expenses, costs associated with this operating this website, and audit fees to account for all monies raised and their disbursement.

In the event any surplus money raised it will be donated in equal parts to the Children’s Wish Foundation and the Canadian Museum for Human Rights.
More comfortable with the mail?

Please make your check payable to the "Pat Martin Legal Defence Fund" and mail it to the address below:

Pat Martin Legal Defence Trust Fund
PO Box 26026 Maryland Postal Outlet
676 Portage Ave
Winnipeg, Manitoba
R3G 3R3

Be sure to include your name and mailing address with your contribution.

TAX DEDUCTIONS

These contributions are gifts to the Pat Martin Legal Defence Fund and are unfortunately NOT tax-deductible.


Regarding the second issue, Googled the following.

Democracy Law Blog

Legal news, resources and analysis on the laws that are the foundation of democracy and governance in Canada, including election law, campaign finance, lobbying and conflicts of interest

Is the Pat Martin Legal Defence Fund Breaking the Law

By Clayton Whitman
Tuesday, September 11, 2012


Yesterday several news outlets reported on the launching of a website for the Pat Martin Legal Defence Fund (the "Fund"). This website has been set up to raise funds to pay for Mr. Martin's "legal expenses" in connection with a defamation lawsuit filed against him. Mr. Martin stated earlier this summer that he would create a trust fund to accept donations, and that the fund that would allow people to donate to his cause without violating political financing rules.
Whether or not the Fund violates election finance rules isn't the subject of this post, although there are significant issues there.

This post is about conflict of interest rules, and whether the Mr. Martin is contravening the Conflict of Interest Code for Members of the House of Commons (Canada) (the "Code") by using the Fund to reduce or eliminate his personal liabilities in connection with this lawsuit.

The are two issues of concern with respect to the Fund and the Code.

The first issue of concern is whether by accepting money from the Fund Mr. Martin will be furthering his personal interests in contravention of section 9 of the Code. According to this section "A Member shall not use his or her position as a Member to influence a decision of another person so as to further the Member's private interests or those of a member of his or her family, or to improperly further another person's or entity's private interests."

It is difficult to determine whether or not Mr. Martin is using his position as an MP to influence people to make donations to the Fund. When is an MP trying to influence someone in their personal capacity as opposed to their capacity as an MP? Is it possible to separate the two in public?

The second question is whether accepting the donations from the Fund would further his private interests.

Section 3(2) states that a Member is considered to further a person's private interests, including his or her own private interests, when the Member's actions result, directly or indirectly the extinguishment, or reduction in the amount, of the person's liabilities.

However, that is subject to section 3(3)(b.1), which states that a Member is not considered to further his or her own private interests or the interests of another person if the matter in question consists of being a party to a legal action relating to actions of the Member as a Member of Parliament. But what do the words "consists of" mean in this sentence? Does accepting donations to pay for legal expenses "consist of being a party to a legal action?" It is not entirely clear that such an arrangement was intended to be excluded from the definition of furthering private interests under this section.

The second issue of concern is equally difficult to conclusively determine. According to section 14(1) of the Code "Neither a Member nor any member of a Member's family shall accept, directly or indirectly, any gift or other benefit...that might reasonably be seen to have been given to influence the Member in the exercise of a duty or function of his or her office." Would Mr. Martin contravene section 14(1) by accepting donations to pay for his legal expenses?

Every dollar that Mr. Martin accepts to pay for his legal expenses is a benefit to him. But at what point does this benefit reasonably be seen to be given to influence Mr. Martin as an MP? I would hardly think if someone donated one dollar to Mr. Martin that anyone would claim that it would have been given to influence him. But what if it was one million dollars? What if all the principals of a company or all the members of a union donated a small amount each under the knowledge that the whole amount was in reality coming from the organization?

The reason we have bans on corporate and union political donations and limits on individual contributions is to reduce the influence or appearance of influence that well-funded donors have over politicians. This is the same reason why we have conflict of interest rules around gifts or benefits provided to MPs. Fundraising schemes like this one seem to open a loophole where an MP can directly solicit unlimited funds from individuals, corporations and unions in circumvention of election finance laws.

So would accepting money from the Fund contravene the Code? The answer appears to be "it depends."

One the principles of the Code set out in section 2(e) is helpful in making this determination: "Given that service in Parliament is a public trust, the House of Commons recognizes and declares that Members are expected not to accept any gift or benefit connected with their position that might reasonably be seen to compromise their personal judgment or integrity except in accordance with the provisions of this Code."

My first impression of this matter is that Mr. Martin will have to be very cautious about how much he raises in total and from each donor. He is set to benefit personally and financially from this scheme, and every donation he accepts will expose him to questions about whether they were given to him in an attempt to influence him.
Clayton Whitman is a lawyer specializing in democracy law and a member of the Law Societies of British Columbia and the Northwest Territories.

He received his law degree (University of Ottawa), a Master's in International Affairs (Carleton University), as well as, a Bachelor's (Honours - University of British Columbia).

When he's no practicing law he's actively engaged in sports and music. He can be reached at:

Telephone: (604) 828-5848
E-mail: info@democracylawblog.ca
Skype: claytonwhitman

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