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opinion

The sponsorship scandal has receded from general attention with the passage of time and the defeat of the Liberals. This week, however, justice was meted out to one of the perpetrators.

Chuck Guité ran the advertising branch of the federal Department of Public Works from 1995 to 1999. He oversaw the sponsorship program created by prime minister Jean Chrétien to lavish federalist attention on Quebeckers after the separatists almost triumphed in the 1995 sovereignty referendum. And Mr. Guité couldn't get rid of public money fast enough, for precious little public return. He threw $480,000 of it at Montreal ad agency Groupaction Marketing Inc. to promote the federal gun registry, even though, as they testified at his trial, the Justice Department and the firearms registry had not commissioned those services and no work was done for the money. He paid another $1.5-million to Groupaction to suggest ways to make sponsorship more visible in Quebec. Groupaction did little to justify the money, and Mr. Guité made it clear he didn't care. According to the Crown's main witness in the trial, Mr. Guité said he and Groupaction president Jean Brault could always claim the documents were destroyed.

Having not so much managed as emptied the public purse, Mr. Guité retired from the civil service in 1999 to set up a private consulting firm. How happy he must have been to find a familiar client waiting for him. Groupaction's Mr. Brault paid him $130,000 in consulting fees, in addition to a $25,000 loan, new tires for his Mustang and tickets to the Italian Grand Prix at Monza in 1998.

Fortunately, Mr. Guité received another gift this week. A jury found him guilty of five counts of fraud for his dealings with Groupaction. Mr. Brault had earlier pleaded guilty to similar charges. Tired but dauntless, the sponsorship pigeons are coming home to roost.