Updated Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday

Friday, May 04, 2012

Analyzing The Pieces of Robofraud (Update #7!)


If you were paying attention to the News today, you would've seen this story hit the wire: Robocalls IP address matches one used by Tory campaign worker: Elections Canada

Now this is an interesting article because it brings together some new and interesting pieces to the whole Robofraud scandal. 

In fact, when it comes to Robofraud, Glen McGregor and Stephen Maher have basically been running a Master Class for the other news orgs on how to follow a story and dig deep.



That said, if you're coming to this new - or just want to be on the same page - here's a link to (and a breakdown of) every one of their RoboCall stories since the story broke.

If I'm missing any, please let me know and I'll include them:

Ready? Here we go - beware the Red Herrings.  Also note: the first story has a TON of info with a lot of moving parts and dead ends, so, yeah, it's going to be a lot to process - in fact, this whole blog post is going to be a LONG HAUL, but I promise it'll be worth it.
 
That said, if you've been reading along, and just want to jump to the new stuff, here's:

Update #4
Update #5
Update #6
Update #7

Otherwise, strap in, and let's do this:

What Did We Learn? [Look how much was known on Day 1 of the story breaking]

+
 Fraudulent Phone Calls made preceeding and during May 2, 2011 election

+ On day of election, phone calls reported that Polling Stations had been moved

+ 18 Ridings effected across Canada

+ Elections Canada Investigation launched in Guelph, Ontario

+ Calls traced back to RackNine - RackNine says it had no idea

+ Single telephone number showed up on all displays 

+ Calls traced to a 'Burner Cell phone', registered to Area Code 450, belonging to Joliette, Quebec

+ "Using telephone billing records and Racknine server logs, Elections Canada investigators identified the Racknine account holder who sent out the calls" <-- huh

+ RackNine does not monitor outgoing calls made by customers through the automated service

+ "He estimates 10 million or more phone calls from about 200 accounts went out during the campaign."
+ "He said he knows whose account was used for the calls, but could not reveal the owner, because of client confidentiality and concerns about interfering with the investigation. He said it was someone “down East” — meaning Ontario or Quebec"

+ RCMP's role is unclear but appears to be helping Elections Canada

+ "The robocalls received in Guelph were recorded in female voices in both French and English. They told voters their polling stations had moved to a shopping mall in the city’s downtown, where parking was scarce."

+ "misdirecting voters were also reported in ridings across the country: Kitchener-Waterloo, Kitchener-Conestaga, London-West, Parkdale-High Park, Winnipeg South Centre and Sydney-Victoria. It is possible that they were caused by robo-dialing errors."

+ Liberal supporters in a dozen ridings, mostly in Ontario, reported mysterious harassing calls, often late in the evening or early in the morning, where rude callers from a phone bank pretended to be working for the Liberals. The calls seem to have been an attempt to alienate Liberal voters in ridings where the Liberals and Conservatives seemed to be in close contests.

+ Elections Canada probe is led by former RCMP fraud investigator Al Mathews

+ The Conservatives’ internal investigation is being conducted by Arthur Hamilton, CPC's lead lawyer (investigated MP Helena Guergis and Rahim Jaffer for the party in the “busty hookers” saga) <-- side note: Rahim Jaffer came up during Christian Paradis Ethics probe.

+ “It seems [investigators] have identified somebody who did it, knowingly,” said one Conservative who spoke on condition of anonymity.

+ In addition to Racknine’s work for Alberta Conservative candidates in the federal election, Meier also has been involved with the provincial Wildrose Party in Alberta.

+ Mathews has travelled to Guelph to interview people who received the calls on election day, including United Church minister Sue Campbell, who is the wife of Green Party candidate John Lawson.  She received a Robocall telling her the polling station had moved so she wrote down the digits on the caller ID — the number in Quebec — and called Elections Canada to complain.

+ Long-distance phone bills obtained by the Citizen and Postmedia show that the Guelph campaign called Matt Meier’s cellphone once at 11:08 a.m. and then the Racknine main number at 7:11 p.m.

+ Andrew Prescott, a volunteer with the Burke campaign, used Racknine to send out calls warning supporters about fake Election Canada messages.

+ “I was not involved in the illegal phone calls. I am a legitimate user of Racknine’s services, and have been for several years,” he said in an email. “I am a devoted believer in free and fair elections. I would never partake in ANY illegal activities, and openly advocate for everyone to play by the rules.” - Andrew Prescott

+ Meier confirmed Prescott’s story and said he is satisfied Prescott was not involved in the fake Elections Canada calls. <-- Huh

+ Despite the dirty tricks phone calls, Valeriote won the election in Guelph and increased his margin of victory over 2008, to more than 6,000 votes.

+ If Mathews and the Commissioner of Canada Elections find evidence of wrongdoing over the bogus Elections Canada calls, the case could be referred to Director of Public Prosecutions Brian Saunders, who would decide whether to lay charges.

Did I miss anything else relevant in this article? Let me know!
Brandon

*Excellent point from commenter 'the salamander' (reprinted from below):
"How interesting.. your timeline approach captures a detail that resonates differently today.. Take another look at this quote ..("He estimates 10 million or more phone calls from about 200 accounts went out during the campaign.") based on Elections Canada and current number of ridings where suppression and dirty tricks were complained about. 200 accounts - approx 200 ridings being investigated.. 

And.. this does not take into account.. 'campaign account's' served by other RoboCall or LiveCall service providers in Canada or foreign service bureaus in the United States or elsewhere"

Update #2


What new/interesting info did we learn here?

+ ``In this case, our party has no knowledge of these calls,'' he told reporters in Iqaluit. ``It's not part of our campaign.'' - Stephen Harper

+ ``The Conservative Party of Canada ran a clean and ethical campaign and would never tolerate such activity,'' Also ``The party was not involved with these calls and if anyone on a local campaign was involved they will not play a role in a future campaign.'' - Jenni Byrne, CPC Campaign Manager

+ The Conservatives appear to be preparing to cast blame for the calls on a young campaign worker.  The Sun website ran a photograph of the worker, captioned ``accused fraudulent caller,'' standing next to Harper at a campaign event. The party has not confirmed the name, however.

+  Opposition MPs said, despite the denials, it was clear the Tories stood to benefit from what appears to have been a coordinated effort to discourage Liberal or NDP supporters from getting to the ballot box. <-- first notable mention that this wasn't just targeting Liberal callers.

+  The pre-recorded calls received in Guelph, Ont. claimed they were from Elections Canada and told voters their polling stations had moved to a busy shopping mall in the city's downtown <-- no mention of Live Calls yet...

+ An investigator acting for the commissioner already has tracked phone records back to an Edmonton automated dialing company called Racknine, which had worked for the Conservative campaign in the election and for several Conservative candidates

+ Racknine says it was unaware its voice-broadcasting equipment was used for the calls and is co-operating with the investigation.

+ NDP MP Pat Martin said the calls were a ``disgusting'' interference in the democratic process. He said it was not credible to suggest that the campaign of phoney calls on election day was coordinated by ``a couple  of hillbillies in Edmonton'' acting alone. ``It was not some rogue punk out in the boondocks. It's just not plausible.'' <-- this would come back to bite him on the ass...

+ Liberal MP John McCallum said his party doesn't have a ``smoking gun pointing at Stephen Harper'' but he encouraged the Conservatives to co-operate with the investigation. 


What new/interesting info did we learn here?

+ Anyone found responsible would face the full consequence of the law, Harper said.

+ a Conservative-friendly media organization cited two anonymous Conservative party sources and reported that a staff member who had worked on the campaign of Guelph, Ont., Conservative candidate Marty Burke was a person of interest to the investigation. <-- Sona or Prescott?

+ "The party was not involved with these calls and if anyone on a local campaign was involved they will not play a role in a future campaign." - Jenni Byrne, CPC campaign manager

+ The CPC is conducting its own internal investigation, led by Toronto lawyer Arthur Hamilton

+ Sun Media's website ran a photograph of a Burke campaign worker, Michael Sona, standing next to Harper at what appears to be a campaign event, claiming he was involved in the calls. The photo is credited to the Prime Minister's Office.

+ Sona, 23, served as Burke's communications director during the campaign and is now an executive assistant to rookie Conservative MP Eve Adams on Parliament Hill. <-- someone got a promotion from the farm team to the big leagues [Guelph to Parliament Hill]

+ Postmedia News contacted Sona earlier this week and asked him a series of questions about the robocalls but he did not respond.

+ Sona was not in Adams' office on Thursday afternoon. Asked if he would be returning, another staffer said, "Maybe."

+ Bob Rae dismissed the naming of Sona as a tactic, noting that he was identified only after the story surfaced. "Why would they only find the guy today, after the story has come out? They've known about this allegation a long time." Rae said the real blame rests with the political culture Harper has created in the party.
"The prime minister has created a Nixonian culture," Rae said. "This stuff doesn't happen unless the boss lets it happen."

+ New Democrat MP Pat Martin said the calls were a "disgusting" interference with the electoral process and said there could be "no more heinous crime against democracy."

Update #3


What new/interesting info did we learn here?

+  Live calls now introduced - calls targeting primarily Liberal supporters in tightly contested ridings

+ 14 ridings identified - mostly closely fought electoral districts in southern Ontario.  Many received live calls in the middle of the night from callers claiming they represented the local Liberal candidate.

+  Jewish voters in two ridings complained: received repeated phone calls at meal time on the Saturday Sabbath. Another riding, where the Liberal candidate was of Pakistani heritage, some said the callers mimicked a South Asian accent. Many reported that callers would phone repeatedly, irritating the recipients, and then speak to them rudely.

+ Volunteers on local Liberal campaigns, often amateurs, were confused when they received complaints from supporters, and the party did not counter the tactics or record instances in a systematic way.

+ Organizer of calls appears to have been working from lists of Liberal supporters, which could have been compiled through voter-identification calls that all the parties use

+ The Conservatives are particularly adept at tracking voters in every riding using a centralized database called CIMS (Constituent Information Management System), with the name and numbers of identified Conservative supporters and opponents alike. Local campaigns are given access to CIMS.

+ Call display often showed a North Dakota telephone number - 701509-8703 - which Internet message boards show is often used for fraudulent credit card scams.

+ Postmedia and the Citizen compiled a database of the reported calls, using Elections Canada records of phone bank spending by individual campaigns to seek a pattern that might show a correlation between a particular company and the calls. There appears to be no such link.

+ There is no reason to believe that the local Conservative campaigns knew that the harassing calls were being made.


What new/interesting info did we learn here?

+  A court order executed on an Edmonton call centre in November (2011) specifically refers to records related to the campaign of Conservative candidate Marty Burke in Guelph, Ontario

+ Liberals and NDP have reported fraudulent calls in dozens of ridings across the country. CPC has called on anyone with information to send it to Elections Canada - but the documents suggest any such investigation was more narrowly focused, at least in November.

+ Production order executed on RackNine Inc. in Edmonton forced them to turn over all e-mails, billing records and other correspondence between it and "the Conservative Party general election campaign in Guelph."  Also the user names, passwords and IP addresses of anyone associated with the Guelph campaign who used RackNine between March 26 and May 31.

+ RackNine was to release records of calls that used the number 450-760-7746 - the number that appeared on some Caller IDs on Election Day. Sources say the number was assigned to a 'burner' cellphone, bought with cash and used to call RackNine.

+ Elections Canada suspects "a person or persons unknown" of committing some of the most serious offences listed under the Elections Act, including preventing or endeavouring to prevent electors from voting and inducing them to refrain from voting. The offences carry maximum penalties of $5,000 fines, five years imprisonment or both. <-- Disrupt the entire election - destroy democracy as we know it - pay $5,000 in fines. MAYBE spend 5 years in jail (won't happen). We practically begged for something like this to happen.


+ The production order was issued by Nov. 23, 2011 in Alberta provincial court. It was obtained based on sworn information from Al Mathews, the former RCMP inspector who is leading the investigation.

+ The detailed list of records covered by the production order specifies comprehensive listings of all schedules, recordings and the list of numbers of recipients of the calls in the 519 and 226 area codes on election day - a potentially enormous data set, depending on the numbers of calls made.

+ The production order makes clear that RackNine is not under investigation.

+ Elections Canada acknowledges it is investigating the Guelph incident but has refused to comment on whether it is investigating allegations of other calls.  Elections Canada is now being inundated with complaints and reports of telephonic mischief from across the country.

+ Veteran election lawyer Jack Siegel, of Blaney McMurtry in Toronto, who often works for the Liberals, said nobody needs to wonder whether the agency will investigate. Siegel said he has more often complained about overzealousness of Elections Canada than lassitude. <-- Tell that to the fine folks of Saanich-Gulf Islands in 2008


What new/interesting info did we learn here? [Hold on Tight, this is a big one!]

+ Media reports say Elections Canada is broadening its investigation of harassing telephone calls in Guelph to include former employees of Responsive Marketing Group in Thunder Bay, who called the RCMP to report concerns about calls they were making to direct voters to the wrong polling stations.

+ RMG issued a statement late Wednesday night asserting that it did not engage in voter suppression calls in the campaign and saying the company would contact Elections Canada to work with the agency.

+ The CBC reported Thursday night that the Conservative Party is reviewing tapes of every call made by the RMG before Elections Canada investigators arrive next week. <-- This is a huge revelation, the CPC should not have been allowed to be left alone with potentially incriminating evidence - CBC broke the story

+ In 2003 RMG helped develop the Conservative Party’s high-tech information management system [aka CIMS]  after the Canadian Alliance merged with the Progressive Conservatives in 2003. 

+ In Harper’s Team, Tom Flanagan’s book about the Conservatives’ rise to power, Flanagan describes the key role that RMG and its president, Michael Davis, took in the growing organizational ability of the new party, working with CIMS as it developed.  “RMG was so successful with an initial prospecting experiment that the party very quickly gave all our voter-contact work to that company,” Flanagan wrote.

+ “CIMS provided a receptacle for the hundreds of thousands of records generated by RMG’s large-scale calling programs.” <-- Aka, the two were designed to work Hand-in-hand from the ground up.

+ Elections Canada records show RMG worked on 97 individual Conservative candidate campaigns in the last election, billing $1.4-million. The company is also believed to have worked on the Conservatives’ national campaign, but disclosure rules do not require the party to detail its suppliers.

+ Conservative sources say that the company does millions of dollars worth of business with the party every year, working with the Constituency Information Management System (CIMS), which tracks party supporters and opponents across the country. <-- which makes sense considering how they work

+ “The Conservative Party has been extraordinarily careful to ensure we use the best in the business,” he said. “And the best in the business, in our view, is Responsive Marketing Group.” - Veteran Conservative organizer Doug Finley

+ RMG merged in 2010 with Calgary-based Xentel DM Inc., and has since changed the company’s name to iMarketing Solutions Group. It is publicly traded on the TSX Venture Exchange.


+ RMG responded to questions with an emailed statement from an unidentified spokesperson: "RMG operates independently,” also “RMG shareholders including the founder of RMG are the largest shareholding block in the new company. RMG’s senior executive team assumed the key management roles in the new group."

+ “100% of the calls made for the Conservative Party of Canada were from contact centres located in Canada.” The company continues to market its voter outreach services under the RMG brand.


+ Corporate filings suggest the federal election was a bonanza for RMG, giving it “a significant year over year revenue increase in its political fundraising and direct voter contact activities.” But the bump was balanced by what the firm politely called “increasing consumer resistance to telemarketing activities.” The company posted $24-million in revenues on the quarter ending June 2011, down slightly from the same period the year before.

+ Before merging with RMG, Xentel’s U.S. operations specialized in telephone charity fundraising drives and operated call centres in Wisconsin, Colorado, Pennsylvania and Florida.  Xentel faced various lawsuits most notably: 'a particularly charged legal fight, accusations that executives forged documents'.
Specifically:
-  In 2003, Abby Smith - a former employee - brought a suit against Xentel alleging that she had been fired for complaining that company officials had misused a notary seal for legal documents and forged contracts with clients.  She cited Florida’s whistleblower protection law in her lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court, according to documents obtained by Postmedia News and the Ottawa Citizen.  Smith said in her complaint that she learned Xentel officials were “changing the terms of contracts which had previously been signed by various clients, and forging the names of clients, to make it look like the clients had actually agreed to the ‘changed’ terms.”  Smith said she complained numerous times to management and eventually had a meeting with top Xentel executive Michael Platz, who until this past January was chairman of iMarketing Solutions Group, RMG’s parent company.  Smith was fired soon after complaining about the alleged forgery, she claimed. Xentel denied Smith’s allegations and said she had been let go only for economic reasons. The case was eventually settled in mediation. Platz, who studied at Mohawk College in Hamilton, Ont., remains a director of the company.

+ In 2004, the state of Missouri obtained a court order requiring Xentel to pay $75,000 for using manipulative, high-pressure techniques to solicit donations and by making repeated solicitation calls to people on that state’s no-call list, according to the website of the American Better Business Bureau.

+ A 2007 TorStar investigation of Xentel’s charity fundraising practices found that organizations founded with the help of a Xentel board member got little of the money raised from donors. For instance, the Childhood Asthma Foundation, for which Xentel did the telemarketing, disbursed $1.65 million in research grants, but spent $6.8-million on telemarketing and expenses.


+ In 2011, the Tennessee Division of Charitable Solicitations and Gaming hit Xentel with $720,000 in fines for charity solicitation calls. The agency said its investigators found 144 cases in which Xentel representatives violated the state law that requires professional fundraiser organizations to disclose that they are raising money on behalf of a charity.

+ In securities filings, the Xentel says it intends to “vigorously defend itself against the imposition of this penalty.”

+ RMG President Michael Davis is the merged company’s second-largest shareholder. He and Michael Platz served as co-CEOs for a time, but Platz stepped down as co-CEO in January, 2012 and now serves as a director.

+ Conservative Party spokesman Fred Delorey said Thursday that Platz had nothing to do with the recent campaign, and that RMG did not use any American call centres.

+ Longtime key Conservative organizer Stewart Braddick is listed on RMG’s website as director of the company’s Focused Direct Response program. Braddick is also listed as director, Focused Direct Response, for the American company Target Outreach Inc., which works for Republican campaigns. Sometime recently, though, the page that included his bio was wiped from the Target Outreach site. <--  another interesting, if tangential, article here

Update #4

Tories didn’t declare payments made to robocalls company, can’t explain why - March 6, 2012

What new/interesting info did we learn here? [Another big one!]

+ Payments made to RackNine - for automated calls on behalf of Marty Burke's Conservative Campaign in Guelph, Ontario - were not declared in financial reports filed with Elections Canada as required by law.

+ Elections Canada's Investigators are interviewing workers from Burke's campaign including the official agent responsible for ensuring the campaign’s financial report was accurate.

+ Andrew Prescott, the deputy campaign manager, said he is co-operating with the investigation and handing over bills he received from RackNine Inc. for a series of robocalls promoting Burke events during the election.  Prescott maintains he had no role in the fake Elections Canada calls that directed voters to the wrong polling stations.

+ Prescott said Monday (March 5th, 2012) that he had given his campaign manager invoices for the calls but could not explain why the expenses did not appear on the financial report sent to Elections Canada.  

+ He said he used a RackNine account he held through his own company, Prescoan, to place the automated calls announcing Burke campaign events.  Prescott said he set up an account with RackNine in 2010 that he had used for other provincial and municipal election campaigns.

+ He said he then submitted invoices to the campaign for these costs.  “I gave them to the campaign manager,” Prescott said. “There was definitely no effort to hide anything or obscure anything.”  <-- Then why put them through your own company? That certainly looks like an effort to obscure things. The campaign surely has their own, legitimate, holdings to take care of this. 

+ There is no record of these expenses anywhere in the Burke campaign return, however.

+ Elections Canada is also investigating records at PayPal, an online payment and money transfer service, the Globe and Mail has reported, and is using a court order to ask the company to hand over information as a part of the Guelph investigation.

+ Ken Morgan, a former candidate for city council in Guelph, ran Burke's unsuccessful campaign.  He has not spoken publicly since the robocalls controversy and has not responded to emails requesting comment.

+ Failing to declare campaign expenses is a breach of the Elections Act.  The detailed expense claims submitted to the Burke campaign included receipts for everything from local advertising costs, gasoline and pizza for campaign workers. But the Burke campaign’s accountant, Abdul-Qayum Ali, said he never received any invoices for RackNine.

+ The campaign’s bills typically were given by staff to Morgan and then passed on to him, said Ali who, as official agent, was responsible for ensuring the accuracy of the expense report. Ali said he was contacted by Elections Canada last week and asked if there were any other invoices he hadn’t submitted to the agency. There were not, he said.

+ A sworn statement filed by Elections Canada investigator Al Mathews lists 31 calls made to RackNine from four phones associated with the Burke campaign to RackNine, including two on election day.  Most of the calls were to a customer service log-in number.

+ In Mathews’ sworn statement, he writes that it is “reasonable to conclude that the absence of an expense report . . . is inconsistent with the pattern” of the calls.

Prescott would not say how much the various calls cost, but, before the robocalls story first broke last month, Prescott told the Ottawa Citizen he had paid for RackNine bills himself and was reimbursed by the campaign through the $1,100 he was paid.  But an agreement signed by Morgan and Ali on March 26, at the beginning of the campaign, shows Prescott was always to be paid $1,100 as an honourium for providing “general labour” on the campaign.  <-- General Labour - yeah, lots of heavy lifting involved. Again, not obscuring things at all.

+ Other campaign workers who had similar agreements in place were reimbursed for the costs they incurred during the course of the campaign. But there is no sign of any expenses Prescott incurred. <-- Not weird at all.  Question: Why didn't Ali, the Accountant, ask for them if they were missing?  Unless he didn't know about Prescott being there in the first place.

+ Prescott said he has spoken with Mathews by phone and has another meeting scheduled in the near future. <-- A meeting which was quickly cancelled only a few days later.

+ In a blog post in July, not long after the election, Prescott described himself as a “cellphone expert.” “Being an IT guy, and being the resident cellphone expert amongst my friends and political circles, people ask me for advice on who’s got the best deals for cellphones.”

+ The Guelph Mercury reported last week that Elections Canada, which started the investigation in May [of 2011], interviewed campaign worker Michael Sona last Tuesday for the first time.  <-- Somone's slow on the draw.  Or particularly unmotivated.

He was first associated with this story when Sun TV reported that senior Conservatives believed he was a person of interest to the investigation. Sona soon resigned from his job working for Conservative MP Eve Adams. <-- just a brief reminder for those who may have forgotten who he is.

+ After Defence Minister Peter MacKay suggested Sona was responsible for the misdirection in Guelph, Sona issued a statement denying it. "I have remained silent to this point with the hope that the real guilty party would be apprehended,” he said in a statement to CTV News. “The rumours continue to swirl, and media are now involving my family, so I feel that it is imperative that I respond. I had no involvement in the fraudulent phone calls, which also targeted our supporters as can be attested to by our local campaign team and phone records.”  <-- Whoa, whoa, whoa - why is the Minister of Defense getting himself wrapped up in this?  

+ In Question Period on Monday, the Conservatives repeatedly demanded the Liberals release their own call records, while repeatedly refusing to do the same

On Sunday, Conservative campaign chairman Guy Giorno said he hopes investigators get to the bottom of it. “I wish Godspeed to Elections Canada and the RCMP investigators,” he told CTV. “We want them to get to the bottom of this and let’s hope the full weight of the law is applied to any and all.”

+ In Mathews’ sworn statement, he describes an interview with Central Poll Supervisor Laurie Rotenburg, who was running the polls at the Old Quebec Street Mall in Guelph when 150 to 200 deceived voters showed up to vote.  “He observed that many of the misdirected voters responded with anger that a dirty trick had been played,” Mathews wrote. “Many were upset. Some electors just stormed out of the polling location. Several ripped up their Voter Information Card.”  <-- So much for those in Parliament (I believe credit goes to Mr. Del Mastro here) who said that there's no evidence that even one person was tricked by these calls.  Tried to find the link of Del Mastro saying that (may have been in QP) if anyone can find it, please post in comments.  Thanks!

Robocalls suspect left digital trail that could lead to real identity of ‘Pierre Poutine’ - March 6, 2012

What new/interesting info did we learn here?

+ Apparently 'Pierre Poutine' Spoke to Matt Meier of RackNine one time - when he first opened an account a few days before the May 2nd election. He used an alias [Article doesn't say what it was] but gave a real Street Address in Joliette, Quebec. It appears to be real because Meier looked up the address up on Google Maps and it appeared legitimate. Though he doesn’t now know whether it actually belonged to the customer who opened the account

+ “I know what the place looks like,” he said. “It looked very much like this was a legitimate person making a legitimate call." “It could very well be this is the exact address and they just haven’t charged the guy yet.” <-- when did he question the validity of the address though?  Did he get the phone call and say 'that was suspicious' and looked it up? Or after the investigation started?

+ The customer’s account with the online payment service PayPal, used to fund the voice broadcasts, also checked out, Meier said, though he declined to provide the name the customer gave or offer further details about the conversation because he doesn’t want to jeopardize the ongoing Elections Canada investigation.

+ Elections Canada says RackNine is not suspected of any wrongdoing. The company has been providing technical assistance to Elections Canada investigator Allan Mathews, the former RCMP inspector leading the probe into robocalls made in Guelph, Meier said.

+ In court documents filed in Edmonton in November, Mathews described how he had traced the prepaid Virgin Mobile phone registered to the pseudonymous Poutine.

+ Records produced by Bell Canada, Virgin Mobile’s parent, showed that the outgoing calls made with the phone came from Guelph and sources close to the investigation say the “burner phone” in question was purchased not in Joliette, but at a convenience store in Guelph.

+ The records Mathews obtained from RackNine were listed in a December court filing in Alberta. They included computer files with call logs and other details from at least two separate accounts, one under the name “pierres” and the other under the name “Andrew Prescott.”

+ Mathews also obtained information for three PayPal accounts, the Dec. 19 filing says.
An Ontario court has issued a production order requiring PayPal to provide records to Mathews. The document will not become public until Mathews files a statement with the court saying he has received the records.
+ A source close to the investigation says the PayPal payment to RackNine was made using a prepaid gift credit card that could, like the “burner” cellphone, prove difficult to track down.

+ Investigators hope to glean information from the Internet Protocol (IP) address recorded by PayPal when he connected to the payment site to create his account.  If the customer logged on to PayPal from a traceable address, Mathews could file another production order and get the account holder's name.  But if Poutine logged into PayPal from a coffee shop or public Wi-Fi node, tracking him could be harder. However, Elections Canada investigators, who never comment on ongoing investigations, may already have connected the PayPal account to the real Poutine.


+ Elections Canada launched an online form for Canadians who received misleading calls during the election campaign.

+ Veteran Liberal election lawyer Jack Siegel said he has never seen anything like this.
“They are taking it very very seriously,” he said. “This is not a typical investigation as carried out by the commissioner’s office in the past."

+ Siegel was the lawyer for Anthony Rota, the former Liberal MP who lost Nipissing-Timiskaming by 18 votes on election day. He said that if enough voters report that they were dissuaded from voting by deceptive calls, a judge might order a byelection.  “Now you have something that could conceivably be relevant to the seat distribution in the House of Commons,” he said. “It’s one seat, but my God. It’s a seat. It’s who represents people.”

+ The Conservatives have suggested that the Liberals may be responsible for misdirecting their own supporters.  <-- yeah. That's what happened...

Digital trail may lead to mysterious 'Pierre Poutine' - March 7, 2012

What new/interesting info did we learn here?

+ Nothing, this is pretty much a re-print of the last article but cut down for space.

Tory campaign worker in Guelph tweeted robocall warning two days before election - March 9, 2012

What new/interesting info did we learn here?


+ 
On the day “Pierre Poutine” activated the burner cellphone used to launch his robocall blitz on voters in Guelph, Ont., Andrew Prescott, deputy campaign manager to Guelph Conservative candidate Marty Burke, tweeted on April 30, “Anti-#CPC voter suppression phone calls currently underway in Guelph, suspecting #LPC #elxn41” — referencing the Twitter shorthand for the Liberal Party of Canada and the 41st general election. 

+ Prescott, a self-described cellphone expert, followed up a few minutes later with another tweet claiming that these phone calls were “using spoofed Caller-ID of Burke campaign. I ‘wonder’ who it could be . . .”  Later, Prescott tweeted about these alleged calls again, saying “#LPC internal polling must be BAD, considering the dirty voter suppression calls underway in Guelph . . .”

+ He also sent a public Twitter message to CBC blogger Kady O’Malley, speculating the Liberals’ internal polling “must be REALLY BAD, voter suppression calls in Guelph AND Halton . . . anywhere else?” <-- Given how forcefully the CPC have pushed the idea that the LPC was responsible for this, no matter how much the evidence suggests otherwise, these Tweets - TWO DAYS - before the election, is very telling.  I see the seeds of a narrative/cover story being planted here.

+ But it was not until two days later, on election day, that reports of fraudulent Elections Canada calls began to flood in, prompting the agency to send out a news release warning electors to ignore the fake calls.  More than 100 voters misled by the fake robocalls showed up at the Quebec Street Mall polling station, where some of them ripped up their voter IDs in anger.

+ Prescott is the only Burke campaign worker known to have held an account at RackNine. He has denied any involvement in those calls, saying he used the service only for legitimate reasons, to promote Burke campaign events and, on election day, to warn Burke supporters about fraudulent calls.  <-- Huh, this is new.  So now he tried warning people?  A very heroic narrative for himself.

+ Asked about the tweets on Thursday, Prescott sent an email saying he did not want to comment. Pressed, he emailed back, “you’ve already tried and sentenced me in your own mind, so I’m through talking to you. But for the record, you’re wrong. Goodbye.” <-- I would suggest that the culmination of his actions were responsible for any judging, they're not pulling these claims out of thin air.

+ The National Post’s John Ivison reported Thursday that Meier told him he helped trace the robocaller by tracking down the Guelph Rogers Hi-Speed Internet address that he used to sign up for his account.

+ Meier says Pierre Poutine signed up as 'Pierre Jones' and claimed to be a commerce student at the University of Ottawa.  However, Meier found the IP trail that he thinks will lead investigators to the door of the real Pierre Poutine. “He screwed up,” Meier told the Post. “Just for a fraction of a second, but it was enough for me to find him.”

+ The Ottawa Citizen was unable to find any evidence of a Pierre Jones enrolled in commerce at the University of Ottawa.

Update #5

Canadians may not know real ID of `Pierre Poutine' until probe ends - March 12, 2012

What new/interesting info did we learn here?


+ If Pierre Poutine walked into Elections Canada's office on Monday with a written confession, we might not know about it for months or years, until after the investigation concludes.  There were rumours that a key suspect did spill the curds on the affair on Monday, but Elections Canada would not confirm this.

+ ``The normal process in an investigation is that if charges are resulting, that's normally when evidence in the case is presented to the director of public prosecution.'' - Diane Benson

+ Sources say that the news that an IP address for a home in Guelph has been identified has convinced someone with knowledge of the affair to step forward and talk to investigators. But even if someone were to confess to making the calls that misdirected voters, investigators working for Commissioner of Canada Elections William Corbett could not immediately lay Elections Act charges.

+ The commissioner could enter into a compliance agreement that requires a written accounting by the person who confessed that there had been a breach of the rules, and an undertaking to not do it again. <-- this would be the most boneheaded decision since the idea to let the CPC plea bargain out of those In-And-Out charges

+ A more likely result in this situation, however, is that the commissioner would refer his findings to Director of Public Prosecution Brian Saunders for a decision on whether to lay charges.  <-- At this point one would hope that this isn't really a 'decision' process.

+ Corbett began his investigation of the ``in-and-out'' scandal over the Conservatives' financing of the 2006 election in the spring of 2007. But it was not until June 2009 that he referred the charges to Saunders.

+ Saunders' office cited the complexity of the case and took another 20 months before it announced charges against the party and four senior Conservative officials, including two sitting senators.

+ The matter did not conclude until last November when the party pleaded guilty and charges against the officials were dropped - more than five years after the 2006 election. Two more elections were held while the case remained unresolved.  <-- this is precisely why the public needs to continue to light a fire under EC's ass, keep the pressure on all involved. We demand answers.

+ Elections Canada has hired 12 junior staff to sift through 31,000 electronic messages it has received since Postmedia and the Ottawa Citizen revealed the robocall affair last month. The agency says the majority of those ``contacts'' result from an online petition, but isn't able to say yet how many are real complaints from voters who received misleading or fraudulent calls.

Tory staffer fingered by own party as ‘Pierre Poutine’ stunned by allegations -March 14, 2012

What new/interesting info did we learn here?

+  Sona told co-workers on Parliament Hill he was stunned to learn he’d been named in connection with fraudulent calls in the Ontario riding of Guelph by unknown senior figures in the party. 


+ He had no idea his name had been linked to the scandal until he heard it on the Sun News TV channel - currently staffed by many former CPC employees (The channel was the first to tie Sona’s name to the calls).  After the TV report, he offered his resignation in writing to Adams because of the media attention he knew would follow.  Sona has retained legal counsel but the identity of his lawyer is not known.

+ Elections Canada never interviewed Sona until after his abrupt departure from his job working in Eve Adam’s office on Parliament Hill on Feb. 24.  No one has produced evidence to tie Sona to the calls.

+ Adams initially refused his resignation, a source said, but after Adams spoke to Jenni Byrne, the Conservative Party’s campaign manager in last year’s election, it was accepted. The party denies that Byrne played any role in Sona’s departure.  “It’s not true,” said spokesman Fred DeLorey in an email on Tuesday.<-- so... Jenni Byrne essentially gave the OK to have Sona resign?

+ Anonymous Conservatives have repeatedly singled out Sona alone among a group of workers on the campaign of Guelph candidate Marty Burke, but a source says Sona had no reason to believe Elections Canada was interested in him until he was named by unidentified senior Tories in a report on Sun News Network the day the story broke. <-- Was it just Jenni Byrne who threw Sona under the bus? Who did she talk to and get clearance from?  That will be telling information in this case.

+ A CTV News report cited unnnamed Conservatives saying Sona had owned up to the calls amid reports that the investigation had traced an Internet Protocol address used by “Poutine” to a home in Guelph. <-- can't find this report anywhere. Anyone know if it's legit or retracted?  Is it the Fake Sona video?

+ A source close to Sona said Tuesday that he did not talk to investigators on Monday.  “He never spoke to Elections Canada yesterday, so whoever spoke to Elections Canada is not him,” the source said. “Whoever did, and confessed, it’s not him.”  Postmedia News and the Citizen have learned that Sona has not met with Elections Canada this week and has no future meetings planned.

+ A source close the investigation said Tuesday that it seems unlikely that a 23-year-old, acting alone, would have been able to pull off the fairly complicated caper — recording a bilingual, legitimate-sounding message purportedly from Elections Canada, setting up a screen of two false identities using a prepaid cellphone and credit card, and expertly covering his electronic tracks.

+ Meanwhile Prime Minister Stephen Harper brushed aside demands Tuesday for an independent judicial inquiry or royal commission into the robocalls affair, saying that Elections Canada had already begun a probe.  <-- because having two independent investigations into the largest betrayal of the Democratic process in Canadian history would just be silly.  And nobody wants that.

+  Democratic Reform Minister Tim Uppal also told the House that the majority Conservative government will “act on” a motion that its MPs supported the previous evening to introduce legislation within six months, extending the investigative powers of Elections Canada.  <-- and how's that going, I wonder?

Confession from campaign worker is not forthcoming - March 14, 2012

What new/interesting info did we learn here?

+ Most of this is just a rehashing of the previous article, but one point is interesting:: The NDP wants an independent inquiry, while the Liberals are calling for something even more ambitious - a royal commission. Both parties want the inquiry to have strong powers to subpoena documents, compel witnesses to testify about the robocalls and recommend how to clean up the electoral system.

Investigators strike information ‘gold’ in Elections Canada robocalls probe: source - March 15, 2012

What new/interesting info did we learn here?

+ The investigation has broadened and intensified since the robocalls story broke last month:  On Thursday (March 15, 2012), Marc Mayrand, the chief electoral officer, issued a statement promising to get to the bottom of allegations of “fraudulent or improper calls.”

+ “Over 700 Canadians from across the country have informed us of specific circumstances where they believe similar wrongdoing took place,” the statement said. “I appreciate the interest that Canadians have shown in this matter and thank them for their continued collaboration.” - Marc Mayrand

+ Mayrand also warned against “drawing conclusions based on possibly inaccurate and incomplete information,” and offered to appear before a parliamentary committee to discuss the investigation.

+ Of the 31,000 submissions received, it turned out that the majority of those “contacts” were the result of an online petition calling for a public inquiry.  But some of the information provided to the agency is “gold,” according to a source close to the investigation, and some complainants have reported followup calls from investigators.

+ At least one other Elections Canada investigator, Tim Charbonneau, has joined former RCMP inspector Al Mathews, who is leading the probe. They have interviewed witnesses beyond Guelph, which suggests they are taking seriously reports of telephone mischief in other communities.

+ According to a CBC investigation voters who revealed they would not be voting Conservative received robocalls sending them to fake polling stations.  The report suggests the misleading phone calls relied on data gathered by the Conservative Party.

+ Court documents filed by Mathews in September said call logs showed 281 people called the prepaid “burner” cellphone used to launch the fraudulent Guelph calls on May 2 after the number appeared on their caller ID screens.

+ Mathews said a voice-broadcasting expert told him that robocalls typically solicit a 1% callback rate. “On that basis, he was of the view that the Elections Day calls to electors must have numbered in the thousands, even assuming a significantly higher call back rate by upset electors,” Mathews said.  <-- "voice-broadcasting expert" = Meier?

+ Elections Canada has followed up on at least two reports of recorded messages. These calls, like the robocalls received by voters on Guelph on election day, purported to be from Elections Canada and told voters their polling station had moved.

+ Specifically:  Eduardo Harari, a volunteer on Ken Dryden’s Liberal campaign in York Centre, has told Elections Canada that he received eight bilingual fake Elections Canada robocalls telling him his polling station had moved: the first on April 21, the last on May 2, election day. “It just said that due to the large amount of people that have been voting at my current location, my voting location had been changed, to 3500 Dufferin, unit 101,” he said.  Harari reported the calls to Elections Canada during the election, and then again after the story broke, after which he was interviewed by Elections Canada investigator Tim Charbonneau.

+ Charbonneau has also interviewed Peggy Walsh Craig, who recently told the Toronto Star that she received a similar fake Elections Canada robocall in the northern Ontario riding of Nipissing-Timiskaming. Both Harari and Craig say they received voter-identification calls earlier in the campaign, purportedly from the Conservative Party, and told them they would not be voting Conservative.

Conservative candidate denies his campaign was involved in robocalls - March 20, 2012

What new/interesting info did we learn here?

``I have absolutely no knowledge of who made such calls or how and why they were made,'' said Marty Burke. ``I do not believe there is any connection between these calls and any member of our hard-working, dedicated campaign team. I would be shocked to find out otherwise."  Burke says a week ago he volunteered to make a witness statement to Elections Canada to share what ``little information'' he had about the matter

+ Conservatives in Ottawa suggest that whatever happened in Guelph must have been the work of rogue elements within the party, and call reports of similar calls across the country a smear from sore losers on the opposition benches. <-- Yes, because if there's one thing we know about Stephen Harper's Conservatives, it's that they have a history of acting out on their own irregardless of orders.

+ The robocall in Guelph did not change the course of the election. Liberal MP Frank Valeriote actually increased his margin of victory. <-- so that makes everything okay again. No harm, no foul, right?  I wonder if this isn't the reason why the whole investigation's been focused on Guelph.

+ Burke's statement dwells at length on another robocall, one made a few days before the election by Valeriote's campaign, anonymously attacking Burke for favouring legal restrictions on abortion. The call did not identify who paid for it, as Elections Canada rules require. The woman who recorded it apparently used a false name and the number provided for callers was also false.  <-- not the brightest of moves, in hindsight.  Ah, hindsight.

+ The call ``appears to have broken several EC laws as well as CRTC laws,'' says Burke in his statement. ``For this reason, I filed a formal complaint requesting that Elections Canada investigate this matter.''
Burke says Elections Canada, which typically refuses to confirm investigations, is looking into Valeriote's robocall as well as the ``Pierre Poutine'' call.

+ The Globe and Mail has reported that Prescott cancelled a planned meeting with an investigator on the advice of his lawyer.

+ Several key members of Burke's campaign team have yet to speak out about the calls. Neither his campaign manager, Ken Morgan, nor the head of the local Conservative riding association, John White, have responded to repeated requests for comment. It is not known if either have been contacted by Elections Canada.

+ Chris Crawford, a Burke campaign worker who now serves as an aide to Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Peter Penashue, has also not returned repeated calls. Postmedia News and the Ottawa Citizen have been unable to obtain comment from anyone in Penashue's office. The minister's press secretary, Cory Hann, has not responded to repeated calls.

+ Meanwhile, the Globe and Mail also reported Tuesday the identity of a key employee of RackNine, the Alberta company that was used to send out the misdirecting robocalls in Guelph on election day.  Citing RackNine chief executive Matt Meier, the newspaper identified him as Rafael Martinez Minuesa, a Spaniard, who uses the name Rick McKnight in his work for RackNine.  The Globe said Minuesa had given his permission for his name to be released in order to clear up the confusion caused when no staffer name Rick McKnight could be found.

Update #6

Robocalls probe extends to Tory headquarters - April 16th, 2012

What new/interesting info did we learn here? [Another long one!]

Elections Canada investigators have been asking questions about the actions of staff at Conservative party headquarters in Ottawa.  Database records provided by the party appear to be missing entries that could help identify who downloaded the phone numbers used to make fraudulent robocalls. Also inquiring about a phone call from CPC headquarters, made May 1, 2011, to RackNine, the Edmonton voice-broadcasting company whose servers were [One of used to send out the robocalls.

+ "As you know, we have proactively reached out to Elections Canada and offered to assist them in any way we can," party spokesman Fred DeLorey said Monday night. "That includes handing over any documents or records that may assist them." <-- 'any' but not 'all'... interesting choice of words. And who 'decides' what will assist EC?

+ Investigators are combing over access logs for the Conservatives' Constituent Information Management System (CIMS) to determine who downloaded a list of phone numbers for non-Conservative supporters in Guelph.  They are now certain the list of numbers in Guelph that received the robocalls came directly from CIMS. The CIMS data was compared to listings of the outgoing robocalls provided under court order by RackNine and matched perfectly, the source said.

+ Non-supporter data are entered into CIMS by volunteers collecting information during neighbourhood canvasses and by phone bank workers contracted by the party.

+ CIMS is known for its tight access controls and detailed event logging and retains a digital record of every transaction on the database. Interns and volunteers have been sanctioned when the logs showed they had looked up Prime Minister Stephen Harper's listing, for example.

+ The investigators inquired about CIMS logs for one particular user in the party's headquarters. The logs show blanks between this person's CIMS logon and logoff on the day the Guelph data was accessed, according to the source.  Investigators Al Mathews and Ronald Lamothe are now trying to determine who had access to a list of voters who previously had been identified as non-Conservatives. <-- And who had access to delete data from the tightly secured logs in the first place?

+ Also of interest is a call to RackNine made on May 1, from a number in the Conservative party war room in Ottawa. The number is listed as belonging to Chris Rougier, the party's manager of voter relation programs. It usually rings on his desk at party headquarters on Albert Street in downtown Ottawa, but was forwarded to the party's south Ottawa war room for the duration of the campaign.

+ Rougier was a key member of the target seat team, working directly under campaign manager Jenni Byrne, acting as a liaison with vendors providing telephone services to the campaign. There is no indication Rougier was involved in the Poutine scheme, only that Mathews was inquiring why his phone line would be used by someone to place a call to RackNine. <-- where have we heard the phrase 'target seat team' before?

+ Another party official who made calls to RackNine, Rebecca Rogers, worked on Harper's cross-country tour and used the voice-broadcasting service to arrange robocalls to promote campaign events.  Other calls — from the offices of Conservative MPs Chris Warkentin and Julian Fantino — were made to the same line to record robocalls promoting events or to get out the vote.

+ The call from Rougier's phone to RackNine is the only one the party has failed to explain in detail to reporters, in spite of repeated requests. "He called to set up legitimate dials," DeLorey said last week. "As I said in the past, we used RackNine for legitimate calls during the campaign."

+ That EC is making inquiries about activities in the CPC war room appears to conflict with the conclusion of an internal probe, led by Conservative party lawyer Arthur Hamilton.  Hamilton, a veteran who handled the party's legal business in the In and Out elections-spending affair and the Helena Guergis scandal, is said to have concluded that no party workers outside of Guelph are implicated, a point that party representatives repeatedly emphasize.

+ Hamilton launched his investigation after Mathews flew to Edmonton in November to serve a production order on RackNine. After learning of the investigation, sources say, Hamilton interviewed key party workers, asking them about their knowledge of events and instructing them not to discuss the matter publicly. It is unclear if Hamilton had access to the same data from RackNine provided to Elections Canada under court order.

+ One source says RackNine owner Matt Meier transferred the same electronic files to the CPC that he provided to EC. Meier said in a Twitter message in March that he had transferred nothing to Ottawa that would affect the investigation. "We're not providing anything that would compromise EC's investigation," he said.

+ Meier's lawyer, Justin Matthews, would not say Monday what files his client gave to the party, and said his client "hopes that the investigation successfully identifies who committed these acts, in short order."

+ Investigators have been asking people connected with the affair about the role of the central party office.  

+ Conservatives in Guelph had circulated rumours that EC had executed a search warrant on a street in the city's downtown but none of the neighbours contacted by the Ottawa Citizen and Postmedia News said they saw anything unusual.

+ "Pierre initially called Meier on Meier's unlisted extension directly and asked for him by name," Mathews wrote in his affadavit for a production order to trace Poutine's email account. "Pierre referred to knowing someone in the Conservative Party. In Meier's view, these facts meant that someone must have given Pierre his contact information." 

Tories, call-bank company reject affidavit alleging voter misdirection - April 18, 2012

What new/interesting info did we learn here?

+ The CPC and RMG, its main call-bank company rejected as false a sworn affidavit from Annette Desgagne, a RMG former phone worker, who alleges she and her colleagues were concerned they had misdirected voters in the days leading up to the recent federal election.

+ In an affidavit released April 18, 2011, Ms. Desgagne said in the last few days before the May 2 election, scripts for callers at the Responsive Marketing Group’s Thunder Bay phone bank instructed them to identify themselves as calling from the “Voter Outreach Centre” and tell voters about last-minute changes Elections Canada had made to polling stations. <-- Even though EC expressly told parties not to contact voters themselves regarding polling changes.

+ One caller, Desgagne claimed, identified himself as calling from Elections Canada.

+ Desgagne’s affidavit was filed as part of a series of court challenges launched by the Council of Canadians. The group alleges fraudulent phone calls in the last election affected the outcome of votes in seven ridings and wants the Federal Court to set the results aside. The CPC dismissed the litigation as an attempt by the losers to change the outcome of the election.

+ “This is a transparent attempt to overturn certified election results simply because this activist group doesn’t like them,” said party spokesman Fred DeLorey in an emailed statement.

+ RMG issued its own statement, saying it called only Conservative supporters in the days leading up to the vote and that the scripts used by call workers clearly indicated they were calling on behalf of the party. “(It) would make no sense for RMG to give identified Conservative supporters incorrect voting information,” the company said.

+ Desgagne began working in the Thunder Bay call centre about three weeks before the election and says her first few weeks on the job were engaged in voter-identification calls.  About three days before the election, Desgagne says, the scripts she was reading off a computer screen were changed to change-of-address calls. “I started to become concerned about the Change of Address Calls, because several of the listeners with whom I spoke questioned me about the new polling location I was providing,” Desgagne said. 

+ One woman from Winnipeg told Desgagne the new poll location she provided was over an hour away from her home. In another call, she says, she gave a new poll location to a woman who had already voted in the lobby of her seniors residence. “As these calls grew in number I became increasingly concerned that I was giving out incorrect information to voters.”  <-- to me, these examples sound too specific to be 'made up'.

+ RMG claims that its callers did not make change-of-location calls, but, rather, made get-out-the-vote (GOTV) calls that included polling address confirmations.

+ “The scripts indicated that Elections Canada had changed ‘some’ polling locations — not that ‘their’ (that individual’s) location had changed,” the company said. “The caller then asked the voter if they knew their location and, if that location was different from what the caller had on screen, informed them of the onscreen location.” <-- again, explicitly stated by EC, no party was to contact voters about polling changes. None. Nada. These calls, even under the pretenses RMG stated, should not have ever happened. No excuse.

+ One of the results being challenged by the Council of Canadians is the Northern Ontario riding of Nipissing-Timiskaming, where Liberal incumbent Anthony Rota lost to Conservative Jay Aspin by only 18 votes.  Desgagne said in her statement that she specifically remembers making calls about a poll in Nipissing-Timiskaming because she had trouble pronouncing the name when speaking to voters.

+ The council has obtained a statement from EC’s lawyer stating that of the ridings involved in the litigation, only one — on Vancouver Island — had polling stations moved.  That suggests that, at the least, the information Desgagne provided about changing polling locations in Nipissing-Timiskaming was incorrect. It also casts doubt on the Conservatives’ contention that calls misdirecting voters may have been the result of honest mistakes. <-- yes, honest mistakes in direct violation of what they were told not to do.

+ Desgagne said she also heard other RMG call workers raising concerns about the poll change calls. “Many callers were still indicating during our breaks that listeners were telling them the change-of-address information we were giving was wrong.”

+ She says she told a supervisor she was worried she was sending people to the wrong locations, but was told to stick to the scripts provided.  “Our concerns were ignored and we had to keep reading and repeating the same scripts about changes of address for polling stations made by Elections Canada.”

+ Desgagne also said she heard another RMG call centre employee claim to be phoning from Elections Canada. She claims she told him, “Dude, you’re not from Elections Canada.”

+ Elections Canada never makes telephone calls about poll changes and, to avoid confusion, discourages parties from making them. Desgagne said she remembers RMG supervisors telling the callers on election day that it was important that they say they were calling from the Conservative Party of Canada, after several days where they did not identify the party.

+ When Desgagne heard reports on the radio about misleading calls, she said, “I became very concerned that I was participating in something that involved giving voters wrong information. “My internal radar went off. I wrote down what I could recall from the script I was asked to read about Change of Address Calls and I arranged for the information to go to the RCMP.”

+The Council of Canadians is using a rarely-used provision of the Elections Act that allows any elector to ask a court to set aside the result in his or her riding if there is convincing evidence of illegal or fraudulent activity that changed the outcome. They're focused on closely-contested seats where there have been reports of alleged voter suppression calls. 

+ So far, none of the winning candidates in the seven ridings have filed their statements of defence. Conservative Party lawyer Arthur Hamilton has suggested in an interview with the Toronto Star that the claims will not withstand legal scrutiny.

+ The council launched its legal challenges in Federal Court after the Citizen and Postmedia News reported on an Elections Canada investigation into robocalls made in Guelph and a pattern of suspicious live calls in other ridings.  Chief Electoral Officer Marc Mayrand told a parliamentary committee last month that his agency has lodged about 800 complaints over live and automated election calls from 200 different ridings. <-- or as the CPC would have you 'do the math', only 4 complaints per riding.  Sure... but over 200 ridings.  That's suspicious activity, right there.

+ On April 17, 2012 the New Democrats seized on the report of the apparent gap in data logs [see previous article], and accused the Conservatives of erasing electronic records, comparing the missing information to a mysterious gap in audiotapes in the Watergate scandal.  In reaction, the Conservatives sent an email to supporters denying that Elections Canada is investigating the party. “Contrary to media reports, the Conservative Party of Canada is not under investigation for what went on in Guelph,” said the email.

+ Conservatives point out that the party made millions of voter-identification and get-out-the-vote calls during the campaign, and suggest that misdirecting calls may be explained by bad data, caller error or incorrect recollections by the people who received the calls.  <-- The long and short of it: You're all lying. All of you. No possible way any of the 800 complaints registered have any merit whatsoever. Yeah, which seems more plausible to you?

Liberal, NDP supporters targeted for calls, pollster says - April 24, 2012


What new/interesting info did we learn here?


+ A poll, conducted April 13-19 by Ekos Research Associates, found that Liberal, NDP and Green party supporters in seven ridings -- where the Council of Canadians is seeking new elections -- were much more likely to report receiving a call directing them to the wrong polling station than CPC supporters, or opposition supporters in other ridings.

+ The pattern is “highly statistically significant and we can say with confidence that this is not an artifact of chance,” Ekos president Frank Graves writes in an affidavit filed as part of the Council of Canadians’ legal challenge of the results in seven closely fought seats.  

+ Conservative spokesman Fred DeLorey attacked Graves’ reputation, saying the pollster is a past Liberal Party donor, and pointed to his controversial remarks during a CBC panel interview that advised the Liberals to stir up a “culture war” to win votes. “I can’t believe anyone would ever take him seriously,” DeLorey said in an email. <-- and DeLorey's party stands to gain nothing by attacking Grave's credibility

+ Graves was hired by the left-leaning advocacy group [not actually a Left-leaning group, more Center] to study the effects of misleading calls as part of the group’s Federal Court application. They're seeking new elections in seven ridings where, they say, a voter-suppression campaign was effective in dissuading opposition supporters from voting, casting doubt on the outcome. <-- this has been pretty much proven now - Robofraud did effect voter turnout which did give Harper a Majority instead of a 3rd Minority. (Which would've cost him his job as leader of the CPC... so, yeah, no motive or anything).

+ The survey was performed using Interactive Voice Response (IVR) — an automated system — not live callers. Graves says he was surprised at the results of his research because the pattern of misleading polling-station calls is so clear.  “It’s really obvious that you were way more likely to get that if you weren’t a Conservative than otherwise,” he said. “You were literally three times or four times as likely to get that call.”

+  Only 6.9 per cent of Conservative supporters in the ridings in question reported receiving a call directing them to the wrong polling station late in the campaign, while 29.5 per cent of Liberal supporters say they received such a call, many after having received a voter-identification call.  The poll was a random sample of 3,297 Canadians in the seven ridings and is considered to be accurate to within plus or minus 1.7 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

+ Because of the risk of opposition supporters “over-remembering” receiving calls directing them to the wrong polling station, Graves used a control group of 1,500 respondents in other ridings, where there were no allegations of misleading calls. Only 14.3 per cent of Liberal supporters in those ridings reported receiving misleading calls. There’s no way that voters in the seven ridings named in the legal challenge would be making up stories at a higher rate than voters in other ridings, said Graves. “It just stretches the thing beyond any possible plausibility,” he said. “That just didn’t happen.”

+ Figuring out what percentage of the electorate in those seven ridings was dissuaded from voting by the calls is more difficult, said Graves, because the numbers are “fuzzier.” “We come up with an estimate of roughly 1.5 per cent, which is a conservative estimate,” he said.

+ That would be enough to have tipped the balance for the Conservatives in four or five of the seven ridings, Graves said.  “It’s clear that there are other ridings throughout the country that would fall into that category as well.”

+ Figuring out what percentage of the electorate in those seven ridings was dissuaded from voting by the calls is more difficult, said Graves, because the numbers are “fuzzier.” “We come up with an estimate of roughly 1.5 per cent, which is a conservative estimate,” he said. That would be enough to have tipped the balance for the Conservatives in four or five of the seven ridings, Graves said. “It’s clear that there are other ridings throughout the country that would fall into that category as well.”  <-- one VERY important point that the Globe and Mail caught on this story, that I feel must be added for context: 

+ Mr. Graves said Ekos found that 1.5 per cent of voters surveyed in the seven ridings stayed home because of calls concerning polling station location changes – and 0.1 per cent, or 1/20th of the total, identified themselves as Conservative supporters. Mr. Graves said the margin of error in this finding is 0.4 per cent.  He said a vote shift of less than 1.3 per cent in six of the seven ridings was all that was needed to shift the outcome.  <-- That's right, 1.5 % stayed home, but only 1.3% was needed to shift the outcome of the election.

Elections Canada diving into phone records to track suspicious election calls - April 25, 2012



What new/interesting info did we learn here?

+ EC Investigators recently contacted voters with specific questions about their home telephone providers, in an apparent attempt to electronically trace incoming calls they received leading up to the May 2 vote. The interviews suggest the agency is using the same investigative techniques in tracing fraudulent ``live'' calls that it used to track the ``Pierre Poutine'' robocall sent to thousands of voters in Guelph, Ont.

+  Two weeks ago, Elections Canada investigator John Dickson - a former RCMP inspector with a pilot's licence - flew up to Mattawa, Ont., in Nipissing-Timiskaming in his own plane to interview Ken Ferance and Linda Hearst, who share an address and a phone.  

+ During the campaign, Hearst received a voter-identification call from the CPC, to which she responded negatively. On election day, after he had voted, Ferance, 66, received a call from a 647 area code - in Toronto - that claimed to be from Elections Canada, telling him that his polling station had moved to a location about 20 kilometres away.  ``I said to him you're obviously a government employee, because that information is totally wrong,'' said Ferance. ``It's wrong because A, I just voted, B, I live next door to the voting station, and C, I can still see people coming and going.''

+ Ferance said two Elections Canada workers at the polling station told him other voters reported receiving the same kind of call.

+ Ferance and Hearst met Dickson at the Mattawa airport and drove to a local restaurant, where he interviewed them about the call. He later sent them an affidavit for their signatures.  Dickson told Ferance that his joke about government workers was significant, because it demonstrated that the caller claimed to be from Elections Canada. He also said that the agency ''would try their best to try to track the phone records,'' said Ferance.

+ Ferance said Dickson discussed evidence of a Thunder Bay call centre worker who has reported to Elections Canada that she made calls telling people their polling station had moved. [regarding Ms. Desgagnes, Thunder Bay, earlier and so this section was skipped.]

+ Ferance said Dickson said it was likely that an investigation would take many months, and end without a conviction.  ``He said most of these are agreements reached out of court,'' Ferance said. <-- Talk about burying the lead.  It's almost as if the article is setting us up to be prepared for disappointment.  Pre-emptively softening the blow to come.

+ Elections Canada often settles violations of the Elections Act by entering into compliance agreements with party volunteers or local campaigns. In such agreements, the offending party takes responsibility for their actions and agrees to terms and conditions that ensure compliance with the law in the future.  <-- so, rather than enforce Election Law, Elections Canada lets them off with no punishment. No wonder people don't take the bloody law seriously, there are absolutely no significant ramifications for their actions.

+ Ferance is one of the electors named in a series of legal challenges launched by the Council of Canadians that alleges fraudulent calls affected the outcome of the vote in Nipissing-Timiskaming and six other ridings across the country.  Another elector involved in the litigation, Peggy Walsh Craig, said she was called last week by an Elections Canada investigator seeking details about her phone provider. She told him it was Cogeco, she said, and was left with the impression he would take steps to obtain the phone records from the company.

+ Rota, the riding's former MP, is not directly involved in the litigation, but he said he's heard from people in the area about increased activity by Elections Canada investigators recently.  ``I understand they've been fairly active. I've had people tell me they've been called over the last few weeks,'' Rota said. ``From what I've heard, they want to prove something but without the (telephone) records, it's hard to prove anything.''

+ Investigators require court orders to compel a list of different telephone companies to produce the data on incoming calls. Phone companies typically keep billing records for inbound long-distance calls but records of local calls may not be tracked by switching equipment. In each case, the investigator would have to swear a statement, called an Information to Obtain, to back up the request for the production orders. If the orders are granted by the court, the billing records could help investigators trace the calls to their source.

+ One voter in the Ontario federal riding Nickel Belt says Elections Canada investigator Andre Thouin told him he was unable to retrieve the phone records. ``When the commissioner's office investigated, Bell didn't have the records,'' said Adam Caldwell-Toews, who had complained about an election day robocall claiming to be from Elections Canada.  The call said his polling station had been moved from a location near his home, where he lives with his mother, to Chelmsford, outside of Sudbury, Caldwell-Toews said.

+ Four or five days before the vote, Caldwell-Toews said, his mother received a live call asking whether the Conservatives could count on her support. His mother, a Liberal Party member, said no. 

Update #7

Robocalls IP address same as one used by Conservative candidate campaign worker, Elections Canada alleges - May 4, 2012

What new/interesting info did we learn here?

+ Mathews filed a sworn statement on March 20, 2012 to request a court order for Rogers to turn over subscriber information for all transactions related to 99.225.28.34, the IP address used during the election and for a period earlier this year. The company complied with the order the following day, providing three different account numbers.  <-- Meaning that Mathews now knows the names attached to the accounts attached to the IP address in question at the very least.

+ Prescott downloaded a list of numbers from the CIMS database on April 30, 2011 - the same day that ‘Pierre Poutine’ bought a disposable “burner” cell phone, according to the Mathews statement.

+ According to Christopher Rougier, the Conservative Party's Director of Voter Contact, Prescott had access to CIMS.  Records from CIMS given to Mathews by Rougier indicate that Prescott downloaded three “Daemon Dailer” reports for Guelph — a list of phone numbers with voters identified as supporters or non-supporters. One of those reports “cannot be recovered from CIMS,” Rougier told Mathews. <-- But who gave Prescott, a man hired to do 'General Labour' for the Marty Burke campaign, that access? And why?

+ Of note: Elections Canada has not served the CPC with a production order, instead, they have been “proactively” providing information to the investigation.  <-- very generous of them.  Also avoids the messy problem of being forced to hand over documents they 'don't think are necessary'.  Why does a Government under direct suspicion for stealing an election get handled with Kid gloves by the Investigators?  Oh, right, Prescott's the Patsy now... sorry.

+ RackNine records showed that Prescott’s account had been accessed from 99.225.28.34, a Rogers IP address in Guelph.  He used his account to send out robocalls promoting Burke campaign events.

+ Most of the IP addresses used by "Pierre Poutine" to logon to RackNine’s website to set up the calls were hidden by freeproxyserver.ca, a proxy server, but "Pierre Jones”, as he was known to RackNine and PayPal — slipped up and made contact from the same address used to access Prescott’s account with the company.

+ The data linking the two RackNine clients, identified by client numbers 45 for Prescott and 93 for “Jones,” was captured in session logs not discovered by RackNine owner Matt Meier until March 6, 2012 although Mathews first asked for the IP address in November. Meier, who handled a lot of legitimate robocalls for the Conservatives during the campaign, uncovered the link after combing through session logs.  <-- And Meier, helpful as he is, had no inclination to do any of this in the 10 months before hand, of course.  

+ Client 93, the Jones account, used an IP that traced back to the proxy server, while client 45, Prescott's account, used the Rogers IP.  But in the two days before the election, both clients used both the proxy server IP and the Rogers IP, Mathews’ statement says. And on election day both accounts connected to RackNine from the Rogers IP within four minutes of each other. <-- as one would do while frantically checking status updates during a hectic campaign.  Or if there were, in fact, two people 'monitoring the progress' (remember that IP ended up being tied to 3 accounts).  Also: What the hell is Prescott doing trying to hide his IP address if he's supposed to be doing legitimate Government work?

+ There is no proof that Prescott himself logged onto RackNine using the Jones account — only that the logon came from the same address IP that had also been used by his account.  It is unclear from documents if the Rogers IP address was assigned to Burke’s campaign office or another location but Mathews alleges that the IP address was used by both Burke campaign worker Andrew Prescott and "Pierre Poutine".

+ Mathews says that Matt Meier provided the list of numbers used in the fraudulent robocall to the Conservative Party, which then compared it to the list of CIMS data for Guelph. “They said the RackNine list appears to be a list of identified non-Conservative supporters,” Mathews wrote.

+ Prescott, a self-described 'cellphone expert', is active in provincial and federal politics in the Guelph area. He works in information technology for a local hospital and also writes a politics blog under the name “Christian Conservative.” He was out of the country on a holiday for part of the campaign but sent an email to Campaign Manager Ken Morgan and Michael Sona, Campaign Communications Director, providing contact information for RackNine.

+ Prescott hung up when reached by a reporter on Friday and his lawyer could not be reached.  <-- sounds like Prescott is getting very uncomfortable about the bus that's heading right for him.  If you want to hit a weak link right now, find Prescott and get him to talk.

+ Newly-released court documents also show that a CPC staffer told Elections Canada that he been asked by another Burke campaign worker in the days before the vote about making disinformation calls.  Mathews’ statement recounts interviews with two Conservative campaign workers who now work for the government, who report that Sona discussed deceptive telephone tactics.  Party lawyer Arthur Hamilton sat in on those interviews.

+ Matthew McBain, who worked on the central campaign (in the Ottawa War Room, apparently) and is now a policy adviser to Agiculture Minister Gerry Ritz, said he spoke to Sona in April, 2011 after Guelph campaign volunteer John White vouched for him.  “Sona spoke to McBain about a campaign of disinformation such as making a misleading poll-moving call,” Mathews wrote. “McBain warned Sona off such conduct as the party would not stand for it.”  <-- Who's John White?  Why does a Guelph campaign volunteer 'vouching' for Sona allow Sona to get on the phone with someone in the Ottawa War room?  Why does the timeline for this statement seem so weird? (Follow the link I put up there... interesting read!)

+ Mathews also interviewed Chris Crawford, a Guelph campaign worker who now serves as director of parliamentary affairs for Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Peter Penashue. During the campaign, Crawford was in charge of downloading CIMS data for use by canvassing teams and uploading voter-identification information gathered by volunteers knocking on doors and working the phone bank.  <-- Why did this man not raise any red flags that Prescott had access to CIMS?
+ Crawford told Mathews that, while in Burke’s campaign office, he had heard Sona speaking to campaign manager Ken Morgan about “how Americans do politics.” The conversation referred to calling non-supporters late at night pretending to be Liberals, or calling electors to tell them their polling stations had moved. Crawford told Mathews he did not think Sona was serious but claimed he told Sona the comments were inappropriate.

+ Crawford, Sona and Prescott were good friends who spent time together on provincial and federal political campaigns through their association with the Guelph Campus Conservatives.  In February, on his blog, Prescott wrote of Crawford: “He’s an amazing organizer, and he’s THE BEST Canvassing Coordinator I’ve ever seen in action.”
+ Also of note: Pierre Poutine's RackNine account was funded with PayPal transactions made with untraceable pre-paid “Vanilla” brand gift credit cards. 'He' bought a Vanilla MasterCard ith a $200 credit and three Vanilla Visa cards totalling $260 from two Shoppers Drug Marts on opposite sides of downtown Guelph. Poutine used the proxy server to connect with PayPal, Mathews said.

+ Finally: Mathews said he intends to seek a court order in Saskatchewan to obtain the records from freeproxyserver.ca, the proxy used by Poutine. Marc Norris, who runs the server from his home in Conquest, Saskatchewan, told the Citizen on Friday that he had complied with a court order and provided investigators with the records sometime last month. 

Pierre Poutine's trail goes cold in Saskatchewan - May 8, 2012

What new/interesting info did we learn here?

+ Elections Canada investigator Al Mathews hit a dead end when he tried to track the digital trail of "Pierre Poutine" through freeproxyserver.ca, a computer server in the small town of Conquest, Saskatchewan. Mathews obtained a court order compelling Marc Norris, the owner of the server, to turn over records of contacts from an Internet address in Guelph, Ontario. But a report on the execution of the production order shows that the search came up empty.  "No documents or records seized from Marc Norris or freeproxyserver.ca. Records no longer exist." <-- In short: with a full year gone, you're a bit late to the punchbowl.

+ Norris's server logs would’ve captured information about the visitor's IP address, operating system and web browser.  But Norris said the length of time servers like his retain logs depends on the volume of traffic. A busy server would typically keep records only about a week before overwriting the logs with new data.



+ The digital search appears to have taken Mathews from Ottawa to Saskatchewan, to swear out the affidavit to obtain the court order on April 10, but has turned up nothing useful.  The terse report on its execution was filed by a member of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police's commercial crimes unit in Saskatoon.



+ The failure to obtain the records does not necessarily mean the electronic chase for Poutine is at an end. Mathews last month received account information for the Rogers Cable customer who launched the misleading robocalls through RackNine Inc., an Edmonton voice-broadcasting company. (see previous entry)



+ It is unclear if the Rogers IP address from Guelph corresponds to the account used in Burke's campaign headquarters or belongs to another customer. <-- though Mathews would know that as he was specifically given that information (the 3 accounts tied to that IP address)

Elections Canada's hunt for Pierre Poutine hits another roadblock - May 9, 2012

What new/interesting info did we learn here?

+ Investigators hoping to land a video of Pierre Poutine came up empty when they tracked the robocall culprit to two Guelph, Shoppers Drug Mart stores where he bought disposable gift credit cards.



+ After following Poutine's electronic trail for a year, Elections Canada recently learned he paid for deceptive election-day calls with untraceable "burner" credit cards from two Shoppers Drug Marts, so they contacted the company's loss prevention unit and asked to see video recordings of the transactions  The security videos would have provided images of Poutine as he bought the Vanilla branded MasterCard and Visa cards in April 2011.



+ "Unfortunately we didn't have the video footage they were looking for," said Tammy Smitham, Shoppers' director of communications and corporate affairs. "We don't keep it for that long."



+ She said Shoppers heard from Elections Canada within the past couple of months. "They just called our loss prevention people and we looked back to see if we had it for that date, but it's almost a year old." <-- Long story short: again, too late.  Imagine if they had've started investigating this with such gusto back when it could've actually made a difference? Man, if only they hadn't waited almost a full year and for public outrage to light a fire under their asses.

Billing records cast doubt on culprits behind campaign robocalls - May 10, 2012

What new/interesting info did we learn here?

A comparison of Rogers billing records shows that "Pierre Poutine" did not use a computer in the headquarters of a Conservative candidate in Guelph, Ont., to launch the election day robocalls.  <-- in other words: No, they're not THAT stupid.


+ Two other account numbers provided by Rogers, which had been assigned the same IP address in weeks before and after the election, did not match the Burke campaign account, either. Also, the court documents show that Rogers also gave Elections Canada copies of the account holder's bills dated April 22, 2011, and May 22, 2011 — suggesting the customer was billed on those dates each month. The Rogers bills filed by the Burke campaign show billing dates on a different cycle — April 9 and May 9, 2011.



+ The distinction is significant because some have speculated that any number of Burke campaign workers could have logged onto RackNine from a shared Internet connection in the candidate's headquarters. That does not appear to be the case.



+ Although the court filings appear to rule out Burke's HQ as the source of the Rogers IP, the documents do not indicate to whom the account belongs.

+ Mathews said in his statement he used an online IP tracing service to find that the Rogers IP address was from Guelph Prescott's home is located in the Preston area of Cambridge, Ontario, about 23 kilometres south of Guelph.  <-- Which would mean that if Prescott was masterminding these attacks from home, we'd be seeing 'Cambridge' coming up instead of Guelph.

+ Mathews has been investigating the Guelph robocalls for over a year. He has been joined in the probe by another investigator, Ronald Lamothe, who was key player in the investigation into the Conservative Party's in-and-out election financing campaign from 2006. <-- and we all know how that turned out.  Must be pissed that for all his hard work, Elections Canada gave the CPC a slap on the wrist and a pat on the bum.


Alright, we appear to be caught up for the moment.  Take a look, see what you can see -- and ask some questions yourself.  There seems to be a good lot of'em.

Cheers!
Brandon

7 comments:

the salamander said...

How interesting.. your timeline approach captures a detail that resonates differently today.. Take another look at this quote ..("He estimates 10 million or more phone calls from about 200 accounts went out during the campaign.") based on Elections Canada and current number of ridings where suppression and dirty tricks were complained about. 200 accounts - approx 200 ridings being investigated..

And.. this does not take into account.. 'campaign account's' served by other RoboCall or LiveCall service providers in Canada or foreign service bureaus in the United States or elsewhere.

Brandon Laraby said...

Yes, that is quite interesting, isn't it?

Saskboy said...

A very striking coincidence.

Unknown said...

Brandon,

Good Post! I myself believe that Harper had to be behind but is devious enough to plot it in away he will skate away from it. Look at his record, he must always have his way and has been reported to have tantrums if he can’t get it. Also there was talk that if Harper could not secure a majority government there would be a leadership thing happening. Motive, big motive he could have been relegated to political history of never having been a majority prime minister. Something had to be done to secure his leadership not only of the conservative party but the federal government as well. The database Tom Flanagan built for the con’s CIMS, most definitively gives him opportunity coupled with Rack Nine and RMG’s abilities.

Now here’s one thing I’d like you to consider adding to your list:

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/lawrence-martin/the-curious-case-of-saanich-gulf-islands/article2354592/

This to me stinks rotten to the core as a test to see if robo and/or live calls could effectively change the outcome of a Canadian Federal election. Would it work? Yes. Will anybody notice? Well not enough to matter. Also this should be clearly a part of the current investigation now that we know for a fact that Pierre Poutine called from the Con HQ Guelph. This is perfect to for the Con’s since it was a completely different message, but still voter suppression.

Mogs

Saskboy said...

From the May 4th, and not sure if it still says this, or was updated to this.

"It is unclear from documents if the Rogers IP address was assigned to Burke’s campaign office or another location. Prescott hung up when reached by a reporter on Friday and his lawyer could not be reached."

Read more: http://www.ottawacitizen.com/life/Robocalls+address+same+used+Conservative+candidate+campaign+worker+Elections+Canada+alleges/6567696/story.html#ixzz1uI16uPr6

Unknown said...

Great summary. Thanks for taking the time to write

Saskboy said...

Who knows how Cambridge comes up in an IP trace? It's usual for the larger centre to figure into the name with the IP, so I don't yet discount the possibility that it was from Prescott's home outside of Guelph city.