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Friday, 11 July 2014

Dean Del Mastro’s death by a thousand cuts

Dean Del Mastro, MP for Peterborough, took the stand again today during a trial in which he and the former agent for his 2008 campaign, Richard McCarthy, are charged with overspending and then covering up the misdeed. Central to the Crown’s case is a $21,000 personal cheque paid by Del Mastro to Holinshed, a now-defunct Ottawa-based polling firm.
 
Defence counsel does not look worried
The day started with Tom Lemon, counsel for the Crown, showing Del Mastro spreadsheets of potential voters sent to him by Holinshed. Lemon tried to pin down Del Mastro to indicate that this was evidence of voter ID on the part of Holinshed, and not simply for getting out the vote on election day.

“I’ve been on a lot of campaigns, Mr. Lemon,” said Del Mastro. “That entire list would have been for contacts on election day...Your assumption is totally incorrect.”

As in previous examination by Lemon, Del Mastro proved himself to be a skilled navigator of court proceedings. Clearly knowledgeable of election processes, at times Del Mastro appeared to out-match Lemon.

“My position is that there was no contract for Holinshed to do voter ID calling,” said Del Mastro, adding that, “Anyone can do voter ID calling. You can sit in your kitchen and do it.”

Lemon, clearly exasperated by Del Mastro’s tendency to extemporize and correct the record, plodded on. A number of times Del Mastro made the mistake of jumping ahead and commenting on the evidence, or lack thereof.

“I have no evidence that phone calls were made,” he said, referencing discussions regarding voter ID that are alluded to in emails that Del Mastro asserts were falsified, but that have been admitted in evidence.

“It’s in the evidence,” said Lemon. “I’m not going to debate that.”

Things then looked up for the prosecution. Lemon established that for the 2011 campaign Del Mastro used a company called Campaign Research, paying them $18,000 (600 calls at $30 an hour). This is close to what Frank Hall of Holinshed claims his company did for Del Mastro during the campaign in 2008. Note: Del Mastro’s 2008 campaign claimed only $1,575 worth of services were conducted by Holinshed during the writ period – and those were exclusively get out the vote calls on election day.

For the most part Del Mastro held his ground, but Lemon got some traction as he built his case. A key part of the Crown’s argument is that Holinshed collected some of its own voter ID data for Del Mastro, whereas Del Mastro claims that all the data came from “CIMS”, the Conservative Information Management System, which is run by the Conservative Party.

At one point Lemon, who at times during the trial has appeared muddled, led Del Mastro into a line of questioning with regard to where Campaign Research got its data.

“Campaign Research had direct access to CIMS,” said Del Mastro.

Lemon countered that Nick Kouvalis, owner of Campaign Research, has stated that “in the 2011 campaign he had no access to CIMS.”

“That’s incorrect,” said Del Mastro. “Do you have evidence of that?”

Del Mastro then challenged Lemon to bring Kouvalis before the court.

Lemon kept on. Del Mastro had previously testified that his 2008 campaign manager, John McNutt, played a lesser role than those in his “cabinet”, and that McNutt had no signing privileges – a crucial matter given that McNutt signed-off on calls allegedly made by Holinshed.

However, Lemon advised Del Mastro that, in fact, McNutt was a member of the inner circle – something that Del Mastro failed to mention under questioning on Thursday.

“An omission,” said Del Mastro.

The court heard that Del Mastro continued his relationship with Frank Hall into 2009, when he received a quote for $10,804 from Holinshed for a software package that would help him with a plebiscite related to a controversial development on Little Lake in Peterborough.

This was additional to the approximately $21,000 that was allegedly paid out for Holinshed’s GeoVote software, which De Mastro says was never delivered. Of that total, $14,000 would have been attributable to the Electoral District Association (EDA), with the other $7,000 paid for from Del Mastro’s constituency office.

The Crown alleges that this money was in fact used for Holinshed’s voter ID and get out the vote services, noting that Peterborough EDA minutes only ever approved up to $7,000 for software.

Things got testy when the Crown showed evidence that someone deposited money in Del Mastro’s account to cover the $21,000 cheque – an indication that Del Mastro new when the cheque, which was allegedly backdated, would be cashed.

Del Mastro claimed not to know who deposited the money. When his answers became loquacious – he has had a habit of speaking at length, extemporizing on evidence and to what is his “custom”, much to Lemon’s frustration – Justice Lisa Cameron intervened to remind Del Mastro simply to answer the questions.

The Crown also presented evidence indicating that Jeff Westlake, manager of Del Mastro’s 2011 campaign, was named in documents related to work done by Campaign Research in 2011. This helped confirm the validity of the documentation indicating that Del Mastro’s 2008 campaign manager John McNutt signed off on some of Holinshed’s calling.

As is now to be expected in this trial, things got a little strange on a few occasions. There were analogies to McDonalds: as in when one orders a burger (Holinshed’s GeoVote software), and is upsold to fries   (Holinshed’s additional software for the Little Lake plebiscite).

For Del Mastro, you can order the burger, and before it is delivered you can be upsold to fries. For the Crown, you would want your burger delivered first, to your satisfaction, before ordering fries.

Recall, this is relating to an exchange between a member of Parliament and a Crown counsel in a court of law that, by La politica’s best estimates, is costing taxpayers $7,000 - $10,000 a day.

Weirder still, at one point Lemon asked Del Mastro –

“Are you regular about checking emails?”

“That might be one of the few things I am regular at,” Del Mastro said, falling into a broad, fleshy grin, chuckling, and giving a thumbs’ up to his mother. (We don’t want to know.)

The Crown then indicated that the only emails that Del Mastro categorically denies are the ones that mention voter ID. All the others he recognizes, or says he might have written.

The day ended with Del Mastro denying more email correspondence referencing election activity, implying again that someone (i.e. Frank Hall) went into the emails and fabricated evidence.  The Crown noted that Del Mastro never tried to get his money back from his constituency office, leaving him out of pocket for that portion of the GeoVote software.

“Your assertion is offensive,” said Del Mastro. “I did not take money from the taxpayer. I could have, and I did not.”

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