Alberta Elections officials investigate alleged breach of contribution laws by three Conservative MLAs

By Karen Kleiss, Edmonton Journal September 6, 2012

EDMONTON – Elections officials are investigating allegations that three Progressive Conservative candidates breached elections contribution laws.

In a letter delivered Thursday to Chief Electoral Officer Brian Fjeldheim, Bill Moore-Kilgannon of Public Interest Alberta alleged the three Tories accepted donations that run afoul of the Elections Finances Contributions and Disclosure Act.

“These contributions clearly break the spirit of the law,” Moore-Kilgannon wrote in the letter, dated Sept. 5.

“It is important that your office investigate these contributions and clarify the rules so that in future, clear attempts to exceed contribution limits, and disrespect campaign finance rules, will be prevented.”

Moore-Kilgannon alleged that Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo MLA Mike Allen and associate minister of Transparency Don Scott breached the act by contributing to each others campaigns. He said the politicians effectively “doubled down” by contributing the maximum $2,000 to their own campaigns and the same amount to each other.

Both MLAs denied the allegations.

“We were very careful to make sure that we were compliant,” Allen said. “We don’t believe that we have contravened the act in any way at all, either the intent or the letter of the law.” He added that if elections officials say otherwise, they will comply.

Scott said he has already cleared his donations with elections officials. “I don’t believe there’s any substance to the allegations that have been made,” he said.

“Elections Alberta told me that I am in compliance with the act.”

Moore-Kilgannon also alleged that Service Alberta Minister Manmeet Bhullar accepted $12,000 in donations from Solo Liquor Stores and its subsidiaries, far above the $2,000 a single person or company can donate to a candidate, and over the $10,000 limit that any person or company can give to a single party.

Bhullar said he takes the allegations seriously but is confident his contributions will be cleared by elections officials.

“I’ve checked with my campaign team and, again, they said we’ve received six individual donations from six separate corporations that file six different tax returns,” Bhullar said.

“If there’s something beyond that, I will be in touch with the chief electoral officer. Obviously I will abide by his guidance.”

If anything is amiss, he said, he will refund the money.

Elections Alberta spokesman Drew Westwater said he couldn’t comment on allegations contained in the letter but that all serious accusations such as these are investigated by the office.

“In this case, it is certainly something we would look into,” Westwater said.

He noted that it is not illegal for candidates to donate to each other, and it is not illegal for several people from the same company to donate to a candidate, so long as the contributions come out of the individual donor’s pocket and are not reimbursed by the company.

The outcome of the investigation will not be made public, pursuant to privacy rules in Alberta’s elections laws.