Tuesday, December 18, 2007

McQuaig: Downplaying Mulroney's Offence

As McQuaig suggests there could very well be a connection between payments by Schreiber to Mulroney and the Airbus contract but I doubt that this will ever be established as fact. Both Schreiber and Mulroney agree to deny it. Of course that should be a signal to reporters that it might very well be true but it seems not to be! The is from Straight Goods.

Downplaying Mulroney's offence

Far from digging for facts, media seem to be looking for excuses for PM accepting cash.

Dateline: Tuesday, December 11, 2007

by Linda McQuaig

The media often are accused of fanning the flames of controversy. But in the drama surrounding Brian Mulroney, it seems to be trying at times to bring a raging fire under control.

With some notable exceptions — such as investigative journalists Harvey Cashore, Linden McIntyre, Greg McArthur and commentator Andrew Coyne — there's been a surprisingly blasé attitude from some leading journalists and media commentators toward the startling implications of the Mulroney-Schreiber saga.

It is irrelevant if a benefit is received after the official has left office, if an agreement was made while the official held office.

In an extreme example of journalistic indifference, Ottawa Citizen columnist Dan Gardner suggested that the $300,000 cash payment former prime minister Mulroney received from lobbyist Karlheinz Schreiber shortly after leaving office is "greasy and dubious but it barely raises the needle of public significance above zero."

And last Thursday, when TVO host Steve Paikin asked political scientist Heather MacIvor what she found newsworthy that day — a day of explosive testimony — MacIvor responded: "I'm not sure there was anything particularly newsworthy."

MacIvor apparently didn't find newsworthy testimony that suggested the payments to Mulroney came from a Swiss bank account, which contained "success fees" from projects advanced under the Mulroney government, including the $1.8 billion sale of Airbus aircraft to Air Canada. Later in the show, MacIvor, who teaches political science at the University of Windsor, commented that her students couldn't understand the "beating up on poor Mr Mulroney."

Perhaps they don't understand because their political science professors don't explain why the public might be exercised over a former prime minister accepting envelopes full of cash from a man who had been a notorious lobbyist.

Schreiber testified that Mulroney had been told he would receive funds from a lobbying firm representing Airbus after he left office. If Schreiber's allegations are true — and they have not been proven in court — it suggests that Mulroney may have agreed while he was in office to accept what amounts to a secret commission. Canadian law prohibits government officials from accepting secret commissions.

It is irrelevant whether a benefit is only received after the official has left office, if an agreement was made while the official held office, according to Fred Fedorsen, a criminal lawyer who has handled cases involving secret commissions.

Meanwhile, on CBC's The National, Rex Murphy complained that we're paying too much attention to Schreiber, a man fighting extradition. "Why are we listening to Schreiber?" Murphy asked.

Well, the reason we're finally listening to Schreiber is that his allegation about the $300,000 payment to Mulroney — long ignored by the media — was recently demonstrated to be true, when Mulroney admitted to belatedly paying tax on the money.

For years, Mulroney had been evasive, even suing the government when it attempted to investigate him and downplaying his dealings with Schreiber.

After confirming the $300,000 payment earlier this fall, Mulroney spokesman Luc Lavoie switched tack, explaining that Mulroney had been short of cash and his family had certain lifestyle expectations.

That should clear up any remaining controversy.

As we all know, being short of cash is always considered an adequate explanation. Just look at our courts. Judges get soft-hearted whenever someone explains that he was only trying to meet certain lifestyle expectations.

It's an argument that works every time. Just try it.

Toronto author and journalist Linda McQuaig appears fortnightly.

No comments: