An NDP MP is turning to the Internet to cover his legal bills in the face of a lawsuit for wrongly accusing an Alberta company of electoral fraud.
Supporters and friends of Pat Martin are trying to raise $250,000 after the Winnipeg MP was sued for comments he made about the 2011 election robo-calls scandal.
A new website, the Pat Martin Legal Defence Fund, is soliciting contributions.
“The court case is proceeding and legal expenses are mounting,” the website says.
“We are reaching out to supporters for help in meeting these costs and we appreciate any contribution you might make.”
In an interview via e-mail, Mr. Martin said it’s estimated he would need up to a quarter-million dollars to defend himself – and so that’s the target for fundraising. The NDP is also being sued.
Elections Canada is trying to find the fraudster behind thousands of misleading calls made to non-Conservative voters in Guelph, Ont., during the May 2, 2011, election. These voters were sent to the wrong polling station, a ploy that discouraged some from voting.
This past February Mr. Martin, who’s never shy in front of a reporter’s microphone, accused RackNine Inc. and CEO Matt Meier of involvement in the matter. RackNine’s equipment was used to make the misleading robo-calls.
On Feb. 23, during a news conferfence, Mr. Martin compared RackNine with Groupaction Marketing Inc., a company whose president has been convicted of fraud in relation to the sponsorship scandal that hurt the Liberal Party in the 2000s.
“I predict that RackNine will become the Conservative Party’s Groupaction, and I predict that we will find that the sheer magnitude and audacity of the ‘ RackNine rascals’ will be enough to make Richard Nixon blush,” Mr. Martin said in February.
But Elections Canada has said RackNine is not under investigation and Mr. Meier has co-operated extensively with the watchdog to help track down the culprit, saying he had no idea his dialing equipment was being misused.
RackNine served notice it would sue.
Many weeks later, Mr. Martin eventually offered a blanket apology on paper and in front of journalists.
“RackNine was merely an innocent intermediary, not a participant in electoral fraud,” Mr. Martin said April 16 at a brief Parliament Hill news conference.
But Alberta’s RackNine is still proceeding with a suit against Mr. Martin as well as one against the New Democratic Party.
RackNine is seeking $5-million. There have been attempts to settle but these have so far failed.
Mr. Martin said the House of Commons might cover some of his legal costs – but he can’t predict what.
“The House may pick up some of my costs based on the outcome of the lawsuit,” he said. “In the meantime the legal costs are staggering.”
He said fundraising is being undertaken for him because the party has its own legal bills to cover. “The party has its own case to defend,” Mr. Martin said. “This is my problem and I’m handling it as best I can. I’m very grateful to … trustees of the Defence Trust Fund for their support and kicking off this fund raising drive.”
He said the distances between himself, his lawyers and the plaintiffs are contributing to the cost.
“It’s extraordinarily expensive and costs are compounded by the fact the case is being heard in Alberta and my lawyers are in Toronto and I’m in Ottawa,” Mr. Martin said.
Preparations “involves teams of lawyers on both sides flying around the country.”
RackNine alleged in its statement of claim that Mr. Martin’s comments “carried the innuendo that [the firm] had committed criminal activity, fraudulent activity, participated in a conspiracy, intimidation, sabotage and/or deceit.”
Mr. Martin says any unused cash raised will be donated to the Children’s Wish Foundation and the Canadian Museum for Human Rights.