Monday, February 25, 2013

RoboCon : Michael Sona and Sun News Network

Former Guelph Con Party communications director Michael Sona relates how he was sitting in his Hill office on Feb. 23 2012 when he was shocked to hear Sun News reporter Brian Lilley fingering him on air for the Guelph robocalls election fraud. Sona  : 

 "I contacted a few people at [Con] headquarters and I just said I wanna know what's going on. Like why am I being thrown out here because Sun News is you know kind of an alternate method of getting press releases and other stories out from the party, right? I mean everyone knows that, right? It's just a standard comm's tactic. And I knew if this is on Sun News, this isn't just some you know hack journalist picking up some story that he's fabricated in his head. This is someone. Someone is feeding him this."

Sona eventually hears back from Con Party lawyer Arthur Hamilton who tells him not to worry about anonymous sources.

Excerpted from that 2012 Sun News broadcast with Brian Lilley :
"The Conservatives have someone identified already on who they think this could be. ... We've been talking to sources here for the Ottawa bureau for Sun News Network and they're pointing towards on individual in particular. His name is Michael Sona. ... We're waiting on an official statement on this but sources are saying at this point it appears it is this one individual, a Michael Sona, who has associations with the campaign, may have worked on a local campaign, but he's not, was not with the national Conservative campaign. So then it becomes a question of was this a directive from the top, was this someone acting on their own locally to try and help their candidate win? ... "
Lilley says Con lawyer Arthur Hamilton is already on it - praises him as a "no-nonsense guy"
"But it does look at this point that it was Michael Sona who was behind this ...."
A statement is then read out from Steve's political director Jenni Byrne denying Con Party headquarters involvement. Back to Lilley :
"Sources say that it does look like it was Michael Sona who was behind this but no confirmation for sure, no charges laid at this point and we'll wait and see what Mr. Sona himself has to say. We'll be reaching out to him today of course as well."
After the broadcast and a phone call from Jenni Byrne, Con MP Eve Adams asked Sona to hand in his resignation.

DefMin Peter MacKay answering a question on the Guelph robocalls three days later :
"I think they've identified the individual that was involved in this ... and that individual is no longer in the employment of the party."
Eye-bleach graffic above inspired by the cover of Brian Lilley's popular runaway! runaway! bestcellar book CBC Exposed  which accuses the CBC of being the state broadcaster : 
"This book takes on the holy grail of the Canadian media landscape and lays bare the truth about CBC. Reckless reporting at the state broadcaster has ruined lives ...
"Ruined lives" indeed. Michael Sona, forced to resign his job on the Hill the day of that Sun News broadcast, is still waiting for resolution a year later.

Big City Lib blogged on Thursday that Harpercrat Action Plan ads appear to account "for well over half of the adverts on the Sun TV website."  
"Does this amount to a government subsidy...the Harper Gov. throwing money to a message friendly news service?  And if so, does that make Sun TV Canada's REAL state broadcaster?"
Certainly the Conservative Party seems to think so. 
Just before the last federal election, Patrick Muttart, Harper's former deputy chief of staff and chief marketing strategist for the Conservative Party of Canada, forwarded what appeared to be a photo of Michael Ignatieff in Kuwait in US battle fatigues on to former Harper spokesy now founder and VP of Sun News Kory Teneycke - presumably for election news publication. Teneycke caught it in time.
Muttart, who had moved to the Canada/ US practice of a US marketing firm, told reporters that at the time, he was both an unpaid advisor to Sun News to launch their TV network and "on the Con payroll as a consultant to the party's election war room."

CBC is the national public broadcaster. Sun News Network, as Michael Sona puts it, is an alternate method of getting stories out from the party.

Michael Sona's video interview with McMaher on Friday , btw, well worth a full listen.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

A word from our new Ambassador of Religious Freedom

"Religion, artificially divorced from the public sphere, makes for an impoverished politics at best, and a benighted political class at worst."
Our new Ambassador of Religious Freedom, Andrew P. W. Bennett, 2 years a dean of Augustine College,  is passionate about returning religious discourse to public life.
Our "official secular religion", he argues two years ago here, "violates freedom of religious expression." 


In April 2011, ImmMin Jason Kenney announced that Canada's religious freedom office "would be modeled after the Office of International Religious Freedom within the US Department of State," whose head is styled as an ambassador. 

Two days ago, in announcing our ambassador for the new Office of Religious Freedom within Foreign Affairs, Harper "denied the office would be modeled after its U.S. counterpart, which has been accused of being biased towards Christians"

A closed-door ORF Stakeholders Conference in 2011 chaired by Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird and the following four out of six Christian panelists advised the government 
  • Thomas Farr, the State Department's first director of the U.S. Office of International Religious Freedom. Catholic
  • Father Raymond De Souza, Roman Catholic priest, NattyPost columnist, and on the Board of Directors at The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs
  • Anne Brandner, former policy analyst with the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada., which "promotes Biblical principles on matters of public policy"
  • Don Hutchinson, vice-president of the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada, who yesterday suggested : "A key part of the ambassador’s job should be to help formulate immigration policy."
  • Frank Dimant, CEO of B'nai Brith Canada and Chair of the Department of Modern Israel Studies at Charles McVety's Evangelical Canada Christian College .
  • Susanne Tamas of the Baha'i Community of Canada.
Our Ambassador of Religious Freedom has a Ph.D in political science and has been a policy research & analysis manager at Natural Resources Canada and senior political risk analyst at Export Development Canada. He is currently working part-time towards a theology degree in Ottawa.

Which of the above credentials do you think will be most useful to him in defending "freedom of religious expression" against our "official secular religion" ?

Update -- DJ : 'Acids of Modernity' at a Christian Finishing School Ha!

Thursday, February 14, 2013

RoboCon : RMG and the US Right to Life Committee

--- updated below ---

In August 2004, three telemarketing companies - RMG (Responsive Marketing Group), Xentel DM, and Univision Marketing Group - jointly petitioned the Governor General to have not-for-profit organizations and their fundraisers exempted from certain CRTC regulations they felt were unfair to the success of their trade. Citing the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, "freedom of expression", and the "moral rights of authors" over their copyrighted telephone scripts, they objected to :
"the requirement that tele-canvassing service providers identify themselves, their organization, and their organization’s client right at the beginning of the call"
because, among othe reasons :
"if a recipient other than the intended recipient hears the name of a not- for-profit or a cause that he or she is not supportive of, there is a high likelihood that that not-for-profit is vetted before reaching the intended recipient. The not-for-profits most affected by this are those which represent views that society deems controversial or not mainstream, for example: gun control, women's rights, abortion, environmental issues, politics or religious issues."
Women's rights are controversial?

So given that RMG described itself in the brief as "providing direct marketing services to non-profit and political organizations across Canada and a relatively small number of North American corporations" and on its website as working "exclusively with right-of-centre campaigns", I googled up RMG and abortion.
NATIONAL RIGHT TO LIFE COMMITTEE, INC. of WASHINGTON, DC will be conducting a telephone solicitation campaign beginning November 23, 2009 and ending July 26, 2010. NATIONAL RIGHT TO LIFE COMMITTEE, INC. has hired RMG USA, INC. of TORONTO, ON, to conduct the campaign.  According to the fundraising contract filed with the State, NATIONAL RIGHT TO LIFE COMMITTEE, INC. will receive a minimum of 1 per cent of the gross funds raised from this solicitationRMG USA, INC. will be required to file a financial report on the results of this solicitation campaign within 90 days after the end of the campaign.
Financial reports were duly filed in Washington, Colorado, Connecticut, North Carolina, Massachusetts, Washington, New Hampshire, Vermont, Pennsylvania, Ohio, California ... ok, all the states apparently.
Here's Colorado's in 2011 : 
That 1% to Charity is a bit of a misnomer as the contract signed by NRL Exec Director David N O'Steen and RMG's Andrew Langhorne states : "The main Agreement between RMG and Charity is not a percentage-based agreement ... and the language is provided only for the purposes of complying with the contract disclosure requirements of the states ..."  
Instead RMG USA was paid a fixed hourly fee to contact NRLC's house file of donors to recruit them as volunteers in a phone/mail/online pledge drive to enlarge the NRLC donor membership.

And that "USA" after RMG's name? RMG founder Michael M Davis incorporated RMG USA, Inc. in Ontario in March 2008 under RMG's then 1235 Bay Street address. 

Coincidentally, there is another unrelated telemarketing/data-mining company based in Richmond Virginia called Response Marketing Group ( who once had an office in Toronto many years ago called Interactive Marketing Group .

Update : It's a small small small telemarketing world.
Steven Hubley, founder of Univision Marketing mentioned at the top of the post, later became RMG's VP of Business Development. From his bio at left bank international where he is a partner :
"Founded in 1988, RMG has been a leader in high quality, high response telefundraising. RMG merged with Xentel in 2010 and their fundraising division, [is] now known as Engage Interactive 
RMG's parent organization iMarketing Solutions Group lists Engage Interactive as a subsidiary.
Engage Interactive President Marianne Mulders is RMG's President of Non-Profit and Relationship Management, and was formerly listed as President of RMG USA.
Len Wolstenholme, spokesperson  for Xentel for over 20 years and now Chief Compliance Officer of iMmarketing Solutions Group, is listed on Engage Interactive's Meet the Management page.

In August 2012, Xentel advised the West Virginia Sec. of State's office that its new head office address was at 700 W. Virginia Street, Suite 700, Milwaukee, Wisconsin. This is the same address as the US office for both Engage Interactive and another iMarketing Solutions Group subsidiary - Target Outreach
"For the past 15 years the principals of Target Outreach have helped Republicans win."  
Xentel's Sept. 2012 Renewal of Charity Registration at the US Sec. of State lists David Winograd of Mequon Wisconsin as President of Xentel. Winograd is also President of iMarketing Solutions.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Ratz abandoning ship


Sixth Estate celebrates Pope Benedict XVI’s tenure.
I hadn't realized Bennie had annointed two Canadians to sainthood for performing miracles - one of which involved a cure consisting of prayer and antibiotics. Heh. Go. 

DAMMIT JANET! does the Best of Bennie.

Thursday, February 07, 2013

RoboCon : Do you have a cat?

30 seconds of Red Dwarf nicely illustrates the Cons' 'evolving' versions of their no-we-didn't-ok-then-yes-alright-we-did shenanigans this week after they were cornered with evidence they were behind the RackNine push-poll robocalls to Saskatchewans to foment opposition to proposed new riding boundaries. 

Seems despite what Steve says about 75% public support for his version of "Saskatchewan values", submissions to the Federal Electoral Boundaries Commission up to that point "almost unanimously voiced opposition to the continued use of hybrid urban-rural districts in Saskatchewan" and would support five new urban ridings.
Urban ridings - you know, the kind that don't reliably vote Con.

Regina Con MP Tom Lukiwski immediately threw Steve's chief political operative Jenni Byrne under the bus for the robocalls -which was a bit of a surprise until you remember that in addition to being the Regina MP and deputy house leader, Lukiwski is also a member of PROC, the parliamentary committee ( 7 Cons, 4 NDP, and 1 Lib) which will take a run at the proposed redistricting report sometime next year.
Hence his attempt to distance himself and his committee from any accusations of complicity in the Con robocall shenanigans while simultaneously diverting Con Party heat away from himself for not being on top of the commission's preliminary report in the first place.

Alice Funke explains :
"To local Conservative Party activists in Saskatchewan it meant that party headquarters had dropped the ball on the pre-submission phase, and that from that point forward they would be fighting a rear-guard action. Fingers were pointed during a behind-closed-doors meeting for over an hour, with Ottawa bearing the brunt of the blame and resentment.
Party Operations Director Jenni Byrne is said to have demanded in return that she wanted to see 8,000 submissions in the public hearing phase against the ending of the rurban seat boundaries."
800 identical postcards attacking the urban seat boundaries were subsequently received by the committee.

Because despite our crappy first-past-the-post system, new urban ridings might not support a near-Con sweep in Saskatchewan like the one in the last federal election :
Cons :   256,004 votes     (13 seats)
NDP :   147,084 votes     (0 seats)
Liberals :   38,981 votes   (1 seat)

Alice has a theory about those covert robocalls :
"It might have been part one of a two-stage process, where you run a push-poll to plant the information, and then follow it up with a legitimate poll to “capture public opinion” on the basis of the information just planted. Anyways, if that was the plan it likely wouldn’t work now.`

Meanwhile, RackNine, hapless home of Pierre Poutine and the latest batch of robocalls in Saskatchewan, is continuing to help Elections Canada in their 650-day-and-counting investigation into election fraud and voter suppression, and when the independent Electoral Boundaries Commission finishes its report, it will be sent on to Chief Electoral Officer Marc Mayrand for review and implementation.

Alice's very excellent post at Pundits' Guide is well worth a full read, Sixth Estate is also on it, and Saskboy got one of those recent RackNine robocalls.

So, Jenni Byrne ... do you have a cat?
( Friday : Edited twice for clarity)

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