Mark Marissen is the most well-connected Liberal in the province of British Columbia, where politics is an incestuous business and played like a blood sport.
He is the man who runs British Columbia for Prime Minister Paul Martin and who is married to the province's second-most powerful politician, Deputy Premier Christy Clark.
This week, the 37-year-old backroom politician emerged as a common link in the police investigation that led to raids on two legislative offices and other premises, and eventually to the firing of a senior B.C. political aide, David Basi.
Mr. Marissen was also visited by the police. He handed over some documents to them, and said in a newspaper interview that the police told him he was an innocent recipient of certain documents.
By most accounts, Mr. Marissen is a well-liked, politically savvy but aggressive organizer. Although he plays politics like a true British Columbian, he is from southwestern Ontario -- a man who began his career as a Chrétien Liberal and who idolized the architect of Pierre Trudeau's election successes, the Rainmaker, Keith Davey.
"He fancies himself as a young Keith Davey," says a long-time B.C. Liberal.
And like a true back-roomer, Mr. Marissen has cast a wide net in his effort to make British Columbia a Martin province.
So, welcome to the six degrees of separation of Mark Marissen:
Mr. Marissen is a friend of Mr. Basi, who helped organize ridings for Mr. Martin's Liberal leadership bid. Mr. Marissen's wife, Ms. Clark, works with Mr. Basi's former boss and close friend, Finance Minister Gary Collins, who was once a Chrétien Liberal.
Mr. Collins is married to Wendy Cox, a Canadian Press journalist who used to work in the Ottawa press gallery.
Mr. Basi, who is in his early 30s, first met Mr. Collins in 1993 when the young man was a political intern working for the struggling Liberals in the provincial legislature .
A University of Victoria graduate who in the past two years has made donations of more than $15,000 to his alma mater, Mr. Basi is well known in provincial political circles.
He is also a friend of Bill Cunningham, the president of the B.C. wing of the federal Liberal Party. Mr. Cunningham is a staunch Martinite, and plans to run against long-time NDP MP Svend Robinson in Burnaby-Douglas in the next election.
Mr. Basi helped organize the Indo-Canadian community for Mr. Martin, leading a group of young Liberals called the "Basi Boys."
Mr. Basi is a friend of Bob or "Bobby" Virk, an assistant to Transportation Minister Judith Reid. Mr. Virk was suspended from his job Monday as a result of the raids.
Mr. Virk, who is in his late 20s, also helped Mr. Marissen organize ridings for Mr. Martin's campaign.
Both men were being touted for jobs in Mr. Martin's new government, but did not pass scrutiny of the Martin team overseeing the hiring of senior ministerial staff.
"The one thing I was told explicitly was that while on paper they looked pretty solid because they [worked for]provincial ministers, you have to take a look at the difference between what a chief-of-staff would do federally and what a chief-of-staff does provincially," a senior Liberal official said.
"And at the end of the day they just were not deemed to be of that calibre."
Then there is Erik Bornman, 27, the lobbyist from Pilot House Public Affairs, whose offices were also searched in the police raid. Mr. Bornman is considered a protégé of Mr. Marissen and worked as the director of operations for the Martin leadership campaign in British Columbia.
Mr. Bornman is well known in B.C. political circles, having earned the nickname "Spiderman" for his attempt several years ago to get into the B.C. Liberal Party's locked membership offices through its ceiling panels.
According to a friend, he said it was to retrieve a knapsack or gym bag, though there were whispers at time that he was after coveted membership lists. The story is legend among some Liberals, and has grown in its retelling.
Mr. Bornman is on the executive of the federal wing of the B.C. Liberal Party, a former youth president, and worked for Paul Martin when he was finance minister and also for Environment Minister David Anderson.
Mr. Bornman's brother, Roy, now works for Mr. Anderson's office in British Columbia, which brings us back to Mr. Marissen.
Mr. Marissen ran Mr. Anderson's regional office in Vancouver in the late 1990s, where it was rumoured he spent most of his time organizing the Liberal youth wing to take over the province's federal Liberal organization for Mr. Martin.
Mr. Marissen wanted to change the way the powers in Ottawa viewed B.C. -- and he got it.
In a recent interview with a local Vancouver newspaper, Christy Clark spoke of the differences between herself and her husband:
"If I get mad, I get mad. Mark is the 'revenge is best served cold' kinda guy."
The ties that bind
Paul Martin, Prime Minister
Erik Bornman is a partner of Pilot House Public Affairs Group Inc. He is a protégé of Mark Marissen and former president of the federal wing of the B.C. Young Liberals. During Mr. Martin's leadership campaign, Mr. Bornman served as Mr. Martin's director of operations in B.C.
Environment Minister David Anderson seems to have at one time or another employed most of these people including Mark Marissen and Erik Bornman.
Bill Cunningham is the president of the federal Liberals in B.C. He is running against NDP MP Svend Robinson in the next election, and is a friend of Mark Marissen, knows David Basi and is a huge Martinite.
Gary Collins the Finance Minister
David Basi is a friend of Mark Marissen and worked for Gary Collins, the Finance Minister.
Bob Virk is a friend of David Basi and one of the so-called "Basi Boys" group of young Liberals.
Judith Reid the Transportation Minister employed Bob Virk as a ministerial assistant.
Christy Clark, the deputy premier and Education minister in B.C. is married to Mark Marissen (they have one child) , a son) They have been described as the "ultimate power couple" by a B.C. newspaper.
Bruce Clark, Christy Clark's brother, was the chief fundraiser in B.C. for Mr. Martin, during the leadership campaign.
Mark Marissen is Paul Martin's campaign director in British Columbia. He was his campaign director during the Liberal leadership campaign as well.