What’s the in-and-out case against Senator Doug Finley?

A mild surprise within the larger shock of the Elections Act charges laid last week was that Senator Doug Finley numbered among the four Conservative Party officials charged.

Finley’s Senate caucus colleague, Irving Gerstein, was then the party’s official agent in the 2006 campaign and responsible for signing off on its financial return.  As Andrew Cohen notes in today’s Citizen, Gerstein was primarily a fund-raiser.  It is unlikely he was involved in the day-to-day planning of radio and TV advertising purchases during the campaign. But, his signature’s on the return so he’s responsible in law.

The two others charged,  Mike Donison and Susan Kehoe, were both involved in the advertising purchases at the centre of the in-and-out affair. One can see their names referenced in the affidavit prepared by Elections Canada to support the application for a search warrant on Conservative Party headquarters in 2008.  It includes copies of emails written by Donison, planning the transactions later disputed by the electoral watchdog.  Kehoe’s name is printed on the invoices submitted by the party’s media buyer.

So, not surprising that these three were named.

But Finley  appears in the search warrant affidavit chiefly as a cc. recipient on the in-and-out emails. I couldn’t find a single thing he’d actually written within the voluminous documents, or even a reference made by another person to something he did, said or wrote.

And unlike Gerstein, Finley’s role as campaign manager is not an official capacity under the Elections Act. It is an important title, no doubt, but it is essentially an invention of modern political campaigns with no connection to the law. So he would have no statutory responsibility under the Act to ensure the return was accurate.

Now, as the party’s top strategist, one would expect that Finley was in the loop on all major decisions. And keep in mind that the affidavit was prepared before the execution of the search warrants, based only on information available to Elections Canada at the time. Investigators later removed reams of documents and hard-drives full of electronic records from CPC HQ and spent more than a year poring over them.

One can speculate that the basis for charges against Finley was obtained through this process but until the case goes to trial, we can only guess.

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