I received a couple of emails yesterday accusing me of turning a blind eye to the complaint filed against Michael Ignatieff's campaign that the memberships of 60 people had not been paid for by the individuals. I was told that it was "easy for you to sling mud at other campaigns as opposed to turning the attention onto yourself and your associates."Ok, let's begin here. I'm not the biggest fan of Volpe in the world- my interest in the Liberal leadership race is that of what sort of vision of liberalism will win out in the country and, perhaps, serve as a center for North American liberalism. (Considering how weak the Dems are in that respect lately.)
Not true, and here is why.
First, yesterday's rants were largely directed towards Joe Volpe's unjustified use of racism to tarnish the reputation of the Liberal Party of Canada.
Still, what I've seen of the treatment of Volpe has this barely-hidden message of "Italian, therefore Mafia, therefore crooked". It's no different than assuming that black legislators are only killing time until they can get another hit on the pipe, and of course THAT would be completely unacceptable.
The completely different treatment that Volpe had received for his alleged Quebec indiscretions and ol' WASPy Count Ignatieff gets for his doesn't exactly undermine this claim. Completely different treatment like TDH's here, where he ignores the beam in his eye to pluck out the mote in Volpe's.
Secondly, these kinds of doubts were cleared up by Ignatieff's National Director of Operations Sachin Aggarwal, who ventured to do a little digging behind the claims. Here are some excerpts from a letter sent to National Director of the Liberal Party Steve MacKinnon:Sounds good, right? Except look more closely. The chief defense that Ignatieff has is that the people weren't officially signed up by his campaign and/or were signed up before the leadership campaign.
"Of the 60 memberships cited, we have confirmed that only three were signed up by the Ignatieff Campaign. The remainder either pre-date the leadership contest, were signed up through competing campaigns, or took out their memberships independent of the leadership contest. The deceased member cited joined the Party with a five-year membership in 2004, prior to Michael's involvement in Etobicoke-Lakeshore." (NOTE: A file containing a line by line accounting of each membership in question was also provided to the party.)
"The complaint also attached a number of signed statements, alleging that "fees were kindly paid for by the Michael Ignatieff leadership campaign." As you will see from an examination of the membership lists, all of these memberships pre-date the leadership contest, making it impossible for this to be the case."
"Of the three memberships signed up by the Ignatieff Campaign still at issue...I personally signed up two of these members and can confirm that they paid their own membership fees. The third is a senior woman who suggests that her membership was paid by another member of her senior's club, not the Ignatieff Campaign."
Yeah. Considering that Prof. Ignatieff's bid for leadership far, far predates the official leadership race, and considering the simple fact that as a sitting MP and a leadership candidate he damned well should control every single delegate from his riding, this defense is ludicrous. Ignatieff was in a tough battle to get the seat, and everybody knows that the prize was (among other things) the seat's delegates. Memberships from prior to the leadership campaign are, thus, perfectly legitimate targets.
Of course the ones he got afterwards were legitimate. They're irrelevant! The fix was already in, the memberships already bought.
(Still, nice massaging of the facts, huh?)
Notice what isn't there, as well. There were, apparently, irregularities in a riding north of Toronto, somewhere in the satellite city of Brampton, where 12 Ignatieff supporters cited the same Indian restaurant, and widespread rumors that memberships were paid for by Indian community organizations. Is it anywhere in this email? Is anybody even breathing a word about it, including Ross? Nope.
Like I said, message discipline- they know what to say, and what to avoid.
Finally, here's Ross on the complaints:
Such abuses, if they had been true, would have bothered me, regardless of the fact that I am supporting Mr. Ignatieff. But, as a result of a little bit of basic detective work, it is now clear that these claims are were cooked up by angry individuals trying to divert attention away from questions surrounding their own campaign.Translation: Volpe's people did it. Quite possibly, although there's no evidence for that. There IS a lot of discussion, however, about the possibility that Ignatieff's campaign was behind the initial leak of information to the Toronto Star, and (thus) the monomaniacal focus on Italian-Canadians that suggests that either:
a) they were deliberately trying to target Volpe, or
b) they assumed that Italian-Canadians were crooked enough as a group to be worth targeting.
Being charitable, I'll assume it's "a". Again, smart communications work, though- by accusing Volpe of targetting, one insulates Ignatieff. Very deft.
Pity that the machine isn't backing a better candidate. Harper would be shaking in his boots right now. As it is...