Electoral Commission Is Investigating Gordon Brown / Smith Institute Slush Fund Allegations

The Sunday Times is reporting that the Electoral Commission is to investigate whether, in breach of electoral law, Ed Balls continued working for Gordon Brown while on the payroll of the Smith Institute charity before becoming an MP.

Regular readers will know that this allgation was a central part of Guido’s campaign against the Sith. Essentially the Smith Institute was a slush fund for Gordon’s ambitions. The Tories are now convinced that Ed Balls continued working for Gordon Brown when he was on the charity’s payroll. They have been trying for six months to ascertain whether or not he continued to have access to the Treasury with a security pass. Guido has other evidence that Ed Balls continued to act as Gordon Brown’s political adviser during th 2004 / 5 period when he was being paid by the charity. Not only Balls but also Tony Pilch, a former SpAd close to Balls, and Bob Shrum during the same over-lapping period were working for the Smith Institute.

According to the Sunday Times “the Tories are submitting a complaint to the Electoral Commission and John Lyon, the parliamentary commissioner for standards. They want Brown to be challenged over whether Balls had a pass.”

Guido understands that the Electoral Commission is already making inquiries, including in the United States, following a complaint made last July (after the Charity Commission report condemned the Smith Institute for partisan activity) by the Sunlight Centre for Open Politics. That letter of complaint (here) focused on the activities of U.S. pollster Bob Shrum. Shrum was paid by the Smith Institute to advise Gordon Brown, these slush payments are a serious breach of electoral law.

Welsh Charitable Think Tank Pulls Out of Hain Organised Event Electoral Commission to Examine Foreign Funding

Peter Hain has organised a conference today in his Neath constituency on “Winning Economically, Winning Politically”. Labour politicians and German SPD politicians will be discussing strategy and tactics in a session titled “What was done, what went wrong and how to win back voter support”. The event is financially supported by the SPD’s Friedrich Ebert Stiftung think tank. The Welsh Bevan Foundation, an educational charity, was co-sponsoring it.

On Tuesday following complaints made by Plaid Cymru MP Adam Price, the Bevan Foundation pulled out because it feared its charitable status could be compromised.

Price wrote to the Bevan Foundation’s director Victoria Winckler:

“You will no doubt be aware that the Charity Commission began a formal inquiry into the Smith Institute last year occasioned by not dissimilar circumstances, after the Democratic political consultant Robert Shrum was shown to have given electoral advice to Labour Party members based on US experience.

Commenting on the publication of its report into the institute’s political activity, Andrew Hind, the chief executive of the Charity Commission, said: ‘Trustees of charitable think tanks have a responsibility to ensure the political neutrality of the work they do. When a charity operates close to the political environment, it must safeguard its independence and ensure that any involvement it has with political parties is balanced.’

Clearly the event was political, Price was entirely right to cite the Smith Institute precedent. The Bevan Foundation secretary Mick Antoniw now says:

“Our reputation is everything and because of the concerns raised and the advice the trustees have received, the foundation will be withdrawing from the event….”

Price is not letting the matter rest: “I will be writing to the Electoral Commission as to whether the funding of what in the afternoon is effectively a Labour election strategy seminar amounts to an impermissible donation. I will also be asking the Parliamentary Standards Commissioner to investigate whether the involvement of Peter Hain’s political researcher in organising the conference in any way constitutes a misuse of parliamentary resources.”

Hain is a creature of habit, once again another think tank’s funds are being used to further his political ambitions. Just as with the Progressive Policies Forum there appears to be a case to answer for breaches of electoral law – a foreign foundation funding electoral strategy advice is illegal. You would have thought given he is currently under police investigation for funding irregularities Hain would be more cautious, he already has one criminal conviction, he is asking for another…

Full story in the Western Mail.

Cameron Strips Den Dover of the Whip

This afternoon a source told Guido that the Tory NW Regional HQ was trying to find out which association Den Dover was formally a member. Guido wondered what was going on…

The Tory MEP is being expelled from the party after the EU Parliament’s fraud investigators told him to repay £500,000 in expenses paid to his family for office work. The former chief whip says he will repay all the money and has denied breaking any parliamentary rules.

Below Guido reproduces his June 5 story about Den Dover:

Guido treads warily with this one since Den Dover MEP got The Sun (at the hands of Carter-Ruck) to apologise for accusing him of expense fiddling. Clearly Den Dover is very sensitive to suggestions that he is an expense fiddler.


He is the chief-whip of the Tory MEPs led by Giles Chichester, who has himself been caught whoops-a-daisy paying £445,000 of public funds to a company of which at one time only he and his wife were remunerated directors. So what of his colleague Den Dover? Here is an extract from his recently updated declaration of interest (full document here)

click to enlarge

It was updated shortly after Open Europe’s Transparency Initiative started asking him questions about his expenses. Den Dover said repeatedly he had nothing to declare in the past, but mentioned this time for no apparent reason, in passing, that his wife and daughter work for the company that he pays out of his expenses. Fancy that!

He didn’t mention that as well as paying his wife and daughter some £376,916 in salary, the company in question is based at his home address. The company has spent £32,462 on “repairs”. Presumably repairs to a property. Guido wonders which property could that be getting repaired at the taxpayers expense?

Did Guido mention that the family firm has had £56,411 in motoring expenses off the taxpayer as well? Finally, and this takes the euro-biscuit, the family firm makes five figure profits. Whoops-a-Bloody-Daisy….

Why is his wife’s family firm profiteering out of his expense claims? Shouldn’t the claims and payments be made on a costs basis, rather than a profiteering basis? The family is troughing enough at the taxpayers expense already without rubbing our noses into it and profiteering.

The profiteering factor from bills from his wife, authorised by him, to a business based in the family home is worse than Derek Conway. In total he has authorised payments of £758,143 to his family’s firm since he joined the Euro-gravy train…

It takes time, but in the end…

Sleazy Lobbyists Morgan Allen Moore Suspended from Political Lobbyist’s Standards Body

Morgan Allen Moore MAM, the lobbying firm which managed Peter Hain’s leadership campaign, has been suspended from the Association of Professional Political Consultants (APPC) for “non-compliance” for inter alia non-payment of fees and failure to register clients.Steve Morgan has not had a good year – already under investigation by the police for funding irregularities concerning the Hain for Labour campaign, MAM sued a former employee for libel because James Davenport alleged that MAM had, in breach of the APPC rules, provided campaign services to Peter Hain. The Mail on Sunday alleged that Peter Hain had endorsed MAM clients in what looked like a return of favours.

The MAM case against Davenport collapsed when evidence presented to the Court revealed that cheques were solicited to be sent to MAM’s offices in Cardiff and that MAM employees were dealing with the Hain4Labour campaign finances.

MAM is now reduced to running skeleton staff, with clients shying away and politicians refusing to talk to them, and their influence inevitably waning. Phil Woolas was said to be livid when he discovered that Deborah Morgan (Steve’s wife), for whom his office had arranged a Commons pass, was boasting on her lobby firm’s website that SD Environmental Solutions could influence decisions and had access at ministerial level. Woolas was at the time the Environment Minister.

Steve Morgan claimed to a credulous local paper that he was the “international spokesman” for the Obama campaign. Where was Obama’s international spokesman on the night of Obama’s victory? He was in a Yates’ wine bar in London watching it on TV. Tragic.

Sunday Sleaze Round-Up

Mandy Faces EU Probe News of the Screws
Mandelson Oligarch Oleg Deripaska Linked to Mafia BossSunday Times
Lord Mandelson and Oleg Deripaska, the Billionaire at BaySunday Times
Mandelson’s Last Act in Brussels Boosted Russian OligarchIndy on Sunday
Pressure Mounts on Mandelson to Come CleanSunday Telegraph
Oligarch Flew Mandelson into Moscow for DinnerMail on Sunday

“Osborne and Rothschild’s Drug Crazed Sex Parties”News of the Screws

Vaz : The Ingratitude

Vaz spotted Gordon outside the Midland Hotel Saturday night. He strolled over smiling and said to Brown “Hello Gordon, how are you?” Gordon switched off his smile and walked off without saying word.

This is the man who saved Gordon’s bacon over detention without charge. How rude and ungrateful. Vaz is after all such a paragon of integrity that he has asked the sleaze watchdog to investigate himself.

CCHQ Admits Cawte Declaration Errors Blames “Administrative Oversight”

When you are Chief-of-Staff to the Conservative Party chairman and she is under investigation for expense fiddling to pay for her nanny constituency secretary there is bound to be some scrutiny of your status. Simon Cawte has not yet satisfactorily explained how when she was in charge of the Tory local election campaigns he, as her Chief-of-Staff, was performing a non-partisan role paid out of her Parliamentary Staffing Allowance by the taxpayers.

Off the record and in the comments here CCHQ insiders say “everyone does it”. That is not a defence, that is an admission of guilt.

The Centre for Open Politics has been digging into Spelman’s expenses and discovered that, according to the register, Cawte was not being paid by CCHQ even though he was working at Millbank in the Party Chairman’s office (shaded in blue on the timeline graphic above). After two days of stonewalling by Cawte, CCHQ gave Guido an official response to his questions:

“Simon Cawte has previously declared to the House of Commons Registrar that he is paid for by Conservative Party funds. Whilst this declaration was made in January 2008 it has come to our attention that the declaration should have been made by August 2007. This was an administrative oversight and the registrar has been informed accordingly.”

CCHQ insist, despite the evidence of the register, that Cawte was actually paid by them since July 2007 for doing clearly partisan work. He was also paid by them in 2005 for doing partisan work. In 2006 he wasn’t paid by them, even though he was doing the same job, because it suddenly became a non-partisan job. Guido suspects that it is more likely that CCHQ was only willing to pay for one CCHQ staffer when Spelman was Local Government Shadow – Sheridan Westlake was seconded to her staff as the Local Government portfolio expert. Given that Spelman is about as popular as rabies with activists and donors she was, unlike other members of the Shadow Cabinet, unable to get private funding for her Chief-of-Staff so, in breach of the rules, she slipped him back onto the Parliamentary Staffing Allowance temporarily. She does after all have previous for expediently getting the taxpayer to pay for her private staff…

Sleazy Speaker Sunday Special

Focus this Sunday Sleaze on the Piggy-in-Chief, the Speaker Michael Martin. This is the man supposedly in charge of reform, he is as unsuited to reforming and opening up parliament as can be. The Sunday Times has a fantastic investigation into his affairs by Stephen Robinson. It shows just how Michael Martin has enriched himself and his family at our expense. In many ways the Speaker symbolises all that is wrong with our parliamentarians, the arrogant sense of self entitlement, the dodgy payments to family and friends, the desperate desire to keep it all in the shadows and out of sight of the voters. You must read the article.

Charity Commission Attacks Sith for Spinning Report

According to charity sector specialist magazine Third Sector, Andrew Hind, chief executive of the Charity Commission, has said he is “extremely concerned” that the Smith Institute is misrepresenting the contents of the regulator’s report into the think tank.
The commission reprimanded trustees of the think tank this week for failing to protect the charity from claims that it is supporting the Labour Party.
[…]

+ READ MORE +

Will He Make Another Illegal Donation?

As Barack heads to Europe the Washington Post asked yesterday of Obama, “Surely a man who has said he would talk with U.S. adversaries such as Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad can spend a few moments with journalists from friendlier countries.” After all, McCain spares a moment for foreign press questions – probably because he is comfortable with foreign affairs issues.[…]

+ READ MORE +

Gordon’s Undeclared Donations During the Long Campaign

Last week’s Charity Commission report ruled the Smith Institute was in breach of the laws on political impartiality. Paul Myners whines that the Charity Commission “have shown a fundamental lack of understanding of the work that all think tanks undertake.”* It is Myners and his fellow trustees who have clearly shown a fundamental disregard or lack of understanding for Charity law.
[…]

+ READ MORE +

Sunday Sleaze Round-Up

Time for the weekly Pigs in Shit ratings (ranking guide here). Post links in the comments and we will update this post during the morning.

Dizzy kicks it off with evidence of Cameron’s Piggish Tendencies. Nil pigs.

[…]

+ READ MORE +

Tory Expense List Released

Uploaded to the Tory website.

Ooooh, what a surprise, the troughing Wintertons don’t appear to have put in their return…

+ READ MORE +

Sunday Sleaze Round-Up

Guido has introduced a simple Pigs in Shit rating system for guidance on the misdemeanors of porcine politicians (guide here). Post links in the comments and we will update this post during the morning.

The Multi-Millionaire Civil Servants
The Times

Accenture, is like Capita and Halliburton, a para-statal corporation dependent on government contracts for hundreds of millions in revenue.
[…]

+ READ MORE +

Sunday Sleaze Round-Up

Guido has introduced a simple Pigs in Shit rating system for guidance on the misdemeanors of porcine politicians (guide here). Post links in the comments and we will update this post during the morning.

50 MPs Refuse to Disclose Details of Staff Pay
Indy

1 in 13 MPs refuse to say where the money goes and what the public gets for their money.
[…]

+ READ MORE +

+++ Source : Tories Take Legal Advice on Deselecting MEPS +++

Which could be bad news for John Purvis, he is going around telling everyone he has been cleared.

+ READ MORE +



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Quote of the Day

Sky’s Faisal Islam on the mood in Parliament at the moment:

“It’s a totally febrile atmosphere here. It’s kind of like Game of Thrones meets House of Cards – and if you chuck in the Labour Party – Laurel and Hardy too.”

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