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Patrick Brown fined $100,000 by federal Conservative party


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Patrick Brown fined $100,000 by federal Conservative party

OTTAWA—Brampton Mayor Patrick Brown has been fined $100,000 by the federal Conservative party amid the ongoing probe by Elections Canada into his ill-fated campaign for the party’s leadership, the Star has learned.

The party sent Brown a letter informing of him of the fine last Thursday, just days before Brown won re-election as mayor — a job he decided to pursue anew after the Tories booted him from their contest in July.

The party’s decision to disqualify him stemmed from multiple issues, including allegations he may have broken elections law by using a third-party company to pay campaign staff and that some of his membership sales broke party rules.

Both are now in the hands of Elections Canada investigators, who have been in contact with the party as recently as this month, multiple sources told the Star.

And new allegations, first reported by the Brampton news site the Pointer last week, are also now before them, the Star has also learned.

Documents obtained by the Pointer, and reviewed by the Star, suggest a social media firm being paid by Brampton City Hall to create and monitor online content allegedly did leadership-campaign related posts as well.

Using city hall resources to pay for a leadership bid would violate the prohibition on municipalities contributing to leadership contests.

In a statement to the Star, Brown replied that the Pointer’s allegations were “false” and said a separate company did leadership advertising. Brown said the social media firm, Solarit Solutions, is exploring legal options against the Pointer, and he expects them to “get a retraction and an apology.”

Conservative leadership candidates have until early next year to fully disclose their campaign expenses, so it is unknown whether Brown’s leadership financials might provide more detail.

The Commissioner of Canada Elections refused to comment on the state of the investigation.

“Our office reviews every complaint it receives to determine whether or not the allegations fall within the scope of its mandate,” it said in a statement.

“The CCE takes all complaints seriously and, where appropriate, conducts a thorough investigation. It is only at the conclusion of a review or investigation — and only in cases where formal compliance or enforcement action is taken — that limited information is made available to the public.”

The fine from the party represents the total of the compliance deposit all candidates had to pay to enter the race.

He’s not the only candidate who has been fined — both winner Pierre Poilievre and Leslyn Lewis were docked $50,000 for failing to appear at the party’s third debate.

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Party officials and Brown’s campaign had gone back and forth for days before his disqualification over various irregularities connected to his campaign, including memberships.

His team had said they sold over 150,000 cards.

Data obtained by the Star shortly after the race ended suggested 62,000 memberships were sold directly through his website portal; Brown’s campaign has argued many more were sold directly through the party itself.

Among the issues uncovered by the party, however, were hundreds of memberships sold allegedly in violation of the rules.

Those included 78 paid for with sequential money orders — which is not allowed — and all appeared to come from the same person.

In documents released by the party earlier this year, they said when they asked Brown for an explanation, he didn’t give one.

“The (chief returning officer) had information that the candidate had improperly paid for memberships and that when confronted with this evidence the candidate chose simply to deny the allegation without providing any satisfactory explanation,” reads the decision by the party committee that denied Brown’s appeal of his disqualification.

Party sources cited that incident as one of several membership-related irregularities behind the fine.

Brown told the Star that the 78 memberships were sent from Conservative Party headquarters, not from his campaign. He alleged his campaign told the party it was not responsible for those members, and “it was preposterous they would assume they were ours. … The party falsely assumed that any cultural memberships received by mail were ours.”

His campaign has previously insisted it did nothing wrong, and has accused the party of withholding money it is owed.

The party disputes that allegation.

“We were told to expect (the deposit) back in July,” Brown said. “We never expected fairness from the CPC leadership committee.”

With files from Robert Benzie

Stephanie Levitz is an Ottawa-based reporter covering federal politics for the Star. Follow her on Twitter: @StephanieLevitz

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