A former Ontario Liberal political staffer facing criminal charges related to the gas-plant scandal is turning to crowdsourcing to fund her legal defence.
Laura Miller, who was deputy chief of staff to premier Dalton McGuinty, had raised $15,095 from 22 donors as of Monday evening. Her FundRazr.com page was launched on Dec. 24. According to the site, she is hoping to raise a total of $100,000 to help pay her legal bills. She has retained Clayton Ruby, a high-profile Toronto human rights lawyer.
Ms. Miller appears to have received financial contributions from several prominent Liberals, including the president of the British Columbia Liberal Party and a former B.C. cabinet minister.
Ms. Miller went to work for the B.C. Liberals after Mr. McGuinty stepped down in 2013. She left her job as the party's executive director last month when she was charged.
She said on Monday she is not receiving any funds from any Liberal party.
"I have resigned my employment to mount a strong legal defense. I have no sense how long this fight will last or how much it will cost," she wrote in an e-mail to The Globe and Mail. "The Ontario Liberal Party, Ontario government or BC Liberals are not paying Clay Ruby."
Ms. Miller said the online effort does not amount to crowdfunding because it is aimed at people who know her, and not the general public.
"This is not crowdfunding. It is a private fundraising effort set up in response to family and friends who offered to assist. The page is not indexed (searchable) on the fundrazr platform or google. I have not shared the link proactively through social media or email," she wrote.
As of Monday evening, the page could be found on Google by searching "Laura Miller defence," for which it was the top result, but not on FundRazr's internal search tool.
A slew of high-profile Liberals in B.C. appear to have donated. The page shows contributions from Sharon White ($2,500), Bruce Burley ($1,250), Mark Robertson ($1,000), Garth Evans ($1,000) and John Les ($500.)
Ms. White is president of the B.C. Liberals; Mr. Les is a former B.C. solicitor-general; Mr. Evans, a former Burnaby city councillor, ran for the Liberals federally in 2011; Mr. Burley and Mr. Robertson are party organizers. Mr. Robertson is facing legal troubles of his own, accused of breaking B.C. election financing laws in a 2012 by-election; his case is before the courts.
B.C. Liberal spokeswoman Jillian Stead confirmed Ms. White had contributed to Ms. Miller's defence, but said the donation was "personal in nature."
"To answer your question, the BC Liberal Party has not paid Ms. Miller's legal fees," she wrote in an e-mail. "Any contributions made to the private fundraising effort on Fundrazr are personal in nature, such as the contribution made by Party President Sharon White, Q.C."
Mr. Evans and Mr. Burley also confirmed they had contributed. In an email, Mr. Burley wrote: "Yes I can confirm that I did donate the amount you are inquiring about and that this was strictly a personal decision," he wrote.
Reached by phone, Mr. Les refused to say whether he made the donation. "I have no comment," he repeated twice.
Mr. Robertson did not respond to a requests to confirm he had contributed.
In an e-mail, Ontario Liberal Party executive director Earl Provost wrote that his party had not paid any of Ms. Miller's legal fees.
Ms. Miller and another former McGuinty aide, David Livingston, were charged last month with breach of trust, mischief in relation to data and misuse of a computer system to commit mischief. They will make their first court appearance at Toronto's Old City Hall on Jan. 27. Both have maintained they did nothing wrong.
Ms. Miller and Mr. Livingston are accused of arranging for Ms. Miller's partner, Peter Faist, to erase e-mails and other files from computers in the premier's office shortly before Mr. McGuinty resigned. At the time, a legislative committee was demanding the government release documents related to the $1.1-billion cancellation of two gas-fired power plants. Mr. Faist, police allege, was an outside IT expert who did not have government security clearance.
During the OPP investigation, Ms. Miller complained about two of the officers involved to the Ontario Independent Police Review Director (OIPRD). Ms. Miller said the OIPRD partly substantiated her complaint and ordered a disciplinary hearing for one of the officers. The OPP is appealing the ruling. Ms. Miller contends her complaint to the OIPRD caused the OPP to become biased against her.
On her FundRazr page, some donors offered messages of encouragement.
"Good luck Laura. We are all here to support you," an entry under the name Garth Evans said.
"Go get em," an anonymous contributor of $200 said.
Another anonymous donor, who gave $20, wrote: "Believe in you 1000% Laura. Wish I had more to give. Stay strong!"