MONTREAL - The vast majority of federal political donations from suspects accused of corruption in Quebec went to the Liberal Party of Canada in the era that predated fundraising reforms, construction scandals, and an extended exile in opposition.
The Liberals were a money-raking machine at the height of their power a decade ago — and some of their benefactors from back then are in legal trouble now.
An analysis by The Canadian Press has found that the Liberals received 85 per cent, or $1.86 million, of the nearly $2.18 million in registered contributions between 1993 and 2011 from the dozens of people and companies charged as a result of recent investigations by Quebec's anti-corruption police squad.
Elections Canada records from that same period, during which the Liberals were mostly in power, show that smaller amounts went to other parties.
The modern Conservative party got $39,945 and its predecessors, the PCs and Reform/Canadian Alliance, received $211,274 and $15,120 respectively. The Bloc Quebecois got $54,579.
Neither the New Democratic Party, nor the Greens, received donations from the people and companies facing present-day charges.
Those contributions began to dry up after 2003 — when new laws limiting political donations were gradually brought in, first by the Chretien Liberals and then the Harper Tories.
They virtually vanished by around 2009, while the current political scandals began to rock Quebec. Some witnesses at the Charbonneau inquiry have described that moment as a turning point, testifying that increased media and police pressure led the industry to change its ways.
While the size of the overall pie shrank the last few years, there was a clear shift in the ratio claimed by each party in accordance with a timeless trend: money followed power.
The Liberals, who out-raised their rival parties, combined, by a ratio of 47-to-one among those donors in 2003, saw that towering advantage whittled down in conjunction with their subsequent political fortunes.
As the Conservatives took office, they caught up. Although the amounts involved were comparably tiny by then, the Conservatives eclipsed the Liberals among those donors one year they were in office and ran neck-and-neck in another.
The Canadian Press researched the donation history of all 102 individuals charged by Quebec's anti-corruption police squad.
The results showed that nearly half — 45 of them — made registered contributions to federal parties from 1993 to 2011. Elections Canada's public online database only goes as far back as 1993.
Records also revealed that of the 13 companies charged by the police squad, three-quarters of them — or 10 firms — made federal political contributions between 1993 and 2006. Corporate donations in Canadian politics were restricted in 2003, then banned outright in 2006.
The analysis included federal contributions made by engineering and construction firms where some of the 102 individuals held influential positions, such as owner or senior executive.
The NDP has reacted to the findings.
It is calling on Elections Canada to investigate whether any of those donors inflated the cost of public projects, or received contracts in exchange for contributions.
"We find it extremely sketchy that once again the Liberals and Conservatives are implicated with people who had extremely questionable practices in the past," Montreal New Democrat MP Alexandre Boulerice said Thursday.
"We want to know if they got favoured treatment from either the Liberals or the Conservatives in exchange for this money. For us, it's more confirmation that the Liberals and the Conservatives are one and the same, and it's time to do politics differently."
The Conservatives were asked about the contributions they received from the suspects and companies implicated in Quebec's corruption scandals.
In an email, the party pointed to its first major act in office: the 2006 Federal Accountability Act, which banned union and corporate money.
"We only accept individual donations within the legal limit," Conservative party spokesman Fred DeLorey wrote in a brief email.
"We banned corporate donations and imposed a strict limit on personal donations."
Liberal spokeswoman Andree-Lyne Halle also responded in an email exchange.
"I can tell you that all donations to the Liberal Party of Canada were made in accordance to the law," she wrote Thursday.
"We don't have any other particular comments."
A veteran Bloc MP said in an interview that his party received very few corporate donations, and he believes individual contributions were based on conviction.
The Quebec-only party could have never formed government to offer anyone favours anyway, MP Andre Bellevance added.
As for the suspects who gave to the Bloc in the past, Bellevance said, no one could have predicted the future.
"If the donation is effectively legal, according to Elections Canada, (then) we accept the donation — and we can't presume that the person, 10 years later, could find themselves in a problematic situation," said Bellevance, an MP since 2004.
Little else is known about ties between federal parties and figures in Quebec's construction scandals.
In fact, it's unclear to what extent they will ever be explored.
The ongoing public inquiry in Quebec has heard stunning testimony about illegal political financing, corruption of officials, and Mafia and biker ties in the province's construction sector.
Industry players have described how they used political contributions to gain influence at the provincial level, in the hope of lobbying politicians to provide public funds for projects that had frequently been rigged at the municipal level.
But the inquiry does not have a mandate to probe whether such activities have occurred in the federal sphere.
Bellevance said it would be naive to think that no one has ever tried similar schemes in Ottawa — particularly with billions of dollars in federal contracts up for grabs year after year.
"If there are dishonest people in one place, I don't know why they wouldn't be elsewhere," he said.
The Canadian Press also analyzed which federal riding associations received the most donations from people and firms charged following investigations by Quebec's anti-corruption police unit.
Here are the ridings that received the most money (minimum of $10,000 worth of donations):
1) Outremont: $48,196.56, all to the Liberals.
2) Bourassa: $46,808.56, all to the Liberals.
3) Papineau-Saint-Denis/Papineau: $23,931.01, all to the Liberals.
4) Laval-Centre: $23,827.04, most to the Liberals, some to the Bloc, and one donation to the old PCs.
5) Laval-East: $21,974.16, most to the Liberals and less than one-quarter to the Bloc.
6) Terrebonne-Blainville: $19,042.25, most to the Liberals, with Bloc and Conservatives getting less than $2,000 each.
7) Saint-Leonard/Saint-Leonard-Saint-Michel: $17,978.44, all to the Liberals.
8) Chambly/Chambly-Borduas: $15,135.17, all to the Liberals.
9) Montcalm: $13,203.14, two-thirds to the Bloc, the rest to the Liberals.
10) Laval-West: $13,084.31, most to the Liberals, less than one-tenth to the PCs.
11) Riviere-des-Milles-Iles: $11,473.06, more than one-third to the Conservatives, less than one-third to the Liberals, less than one-quarter to the Bloc, $1,000 to the old PCs.
12) Quebec: $10,331.95, almost all to the Liberals, barely one per cent to the old PCs.
Thomas Steyer: $11.1 Million
Thomas Steyer, head of the San Francisco-based hedge fund Farallon Capital, gave $11,110,000 to a super PAC he founded to help elect more lawmakers who support action on climate change. CE Action Committee (formerly NextGen Committee) spent millions in 2013 to support Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) in his successful special election Senate bid and to help Democrat Terry McAuliffe win the Virginia governorship. Steyer told Bloomberg Businessweek that he wants to push climate change into election conversations in 2014 and beyond. "If you look at the 2012 campaign, climate change was like incest -- something you couldn't talk about in polite company," he said. Steyer was not a super PAC donor in the 2012 election.
Michael Bloomberg: $8.7 Million
Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg donated $8,718,679 to super PACs through the end of 2013. He contributed more than $5.9 million to Independence USA PAC, his own group; $2.5 million to Senate Majority PAC, which supports Democratic Senate candidates; and $100,000 to Americans for Responsible Solutions, the pro-gun control super PAC founded by former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.). In 2013, Independence USA PAC spent big to support pro-gun control candidates in the special election for Illinois' 2nd Congressional District seat and in both the Virginia gubernatorial and attorney general races. In all three elections, the candidate supported by Bloomberg won.
Democratic Governors Association: $7.6 Million
The Democratic Governors Association gave $7,580,552 to its own super PAC, DGA Action, in the first six months of 2013. The group spends large sums on advertising and ground support for Democratic gubernatorial candidates across the country. In 2013, much of its spending went toward helping Democrat Terry McAuliffe win the Virginia governor's race. <em>Pictured: DGA Chairman and Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin</em>
National Education Association: $5.7 Million
The National Education Association contributed $5,696,250 to super PACs in 2013. The union and its affiliated groups gave $5.3 million to its own super PAC, NEA Advocacy Fund; $175,000 to DGA Action; $100,000 to Senate Majority PAC; $100,000 to American Bridge 21st Century; $16,250 to Patriot Majority PAC; $5,000 to House Majority PAC; $5,000 to Americans for Responsible Solutions; and $3,800 to America Votes Action Fund.
United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners: $3.8 Million
The United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners gave $3,822,972 to Working for Working Americans, a pro-labor super PAC. The 130-year-old union is funded by dues contributions made by its half-million members.
AFL-CIO: $2.4 Million
The AFL-CIO, the largest federation of labor unions with more than 11 million members, gave $2,375,000 in 2013: $2.35 million to its Workers' Voice super PAC and $25,000 to House Majority PAC. <em>Pictured: AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka</em>
AFSCME: $2.2 Million
The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees has given $2,187,250 to super PACs in 2013. The group contributed $1.15 million to the AFL-CIO's Workers' Voice super PAC; $250,000 to Senate Majority PAC; $250,000 to House Majority PAC; $175,000 to Women Vote!; $105,000 to Battleground Texas; $100,000 to American Working Families; $100,000 to American Bridge 21st Century; $40,000 to Win Minnesota Federal PAC; $16,250 to Patriot Majority PAC; and $1,000 to America Votes Action Fund. <em>Pictured: AFSCME Secretary-General Lee Saunders</em>
John Jordan: $1.7 Million
California vintner Thomas John Jordan gave $1.7 million to Americans for Progressive Action, a super PAC that supported Republican candidate Gabriel Gomez in the Massachusetts special Senate election in 2013. Gomez lost the race to now-Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.). Jordan told The Wall Street Journal, "I just couldn't sit by and watch and leave [Gomez] alone while the establishment Republican groups decided to sit on their hands and just leave him on the beach. I just couldn't do that." <em>Pictured: Former Massachusetts Senate candidate Gabriel Gomez</em>
Steve Mostyn, Amber Mostyn And Mostyn Law Firm: $1.4 Million
Texas trial lawyer and Democratic donor Steve Mostyn, through his Mostyn Law Firm, and his wife Amber Mostyn gave $1,392,500 to super PACs in 2013. The Mostyns, who emerged as major national donors in the 2012 election, gave $750,000 to Americans for Responsible Solutions, $255,000 to Battleground Texas, $250,000 to Planned Parenthood Votes, $100,000 to House Majority PAC, $25,000 to Ready for Hillary, and $12,500 to Texans for America's Future.
Harold Simmons: $1.2 Million
Before his death on Dec. 28, 2013, Texas industrialist Harold Simmons, in his own name and through his company Contran Corporation, gave $1.2 million to super PACs in 2013. Simmons, who had been the second biggest super PAC donor in 2012, gave $1 million to American Crossroads, the Republican super PAC co-founded by Karl Rove, and $200,000 to Congressional Leadership Fund last year.
American Bridge 21st Century/Foundation: $1.1 Million
The Democratic super PAC American Bridge 21st Century and its nonprofit arm, American Bridge 21st Century Foundation, combined to give $1,139,835 to super PACs in 2013. The majority of this money -- $1,104,687 -- was in form of staff payments by the nonprofit to the super PAC. The super PAC also gave $35,000 to Senate Majority PAC and $148 to the Jewish Council for Education and Research.
Bob Perry: $1.1 Million
Before his death in April 2013, GOP mega-donor Bob Perry gave $1.1 million to super PACs, including $1 million to Senate Conservatives Action, a group aligned with former senator and current Heritage Foundation president Jim DeMint, and $100,000 to Kentuckians for Strong Leadership, a pro-Mitch McConnell super PAC. Perry had been one of the top donors to Republican independent groups over the last decade. He was a major funder of the 2004 Swift Boat Veterans for Truth effort and was the third biggest donor to super PACs in the 2012 election, giving $23.45 million.
Laborers' International Union: $1.1 Million
The Laborers' International Union gave $1,057,800 to super PACs in 2013. The construction workers union and its associated groups contributed $250,000 to Senate Majority PAC, $250,000 to House Majority PAC, $250,000 to Defending Main Street SuperPAC, $250,000 to American Working Families, $50,000 to The Ninety-Nine Percent, and $7,800 to South Forward IE PAC. <em>Pictured: Union President Terrence O'Sullivan</em>
Jonathan Soros: $1 Million
Jonathan Soros, investor and son of the billionaire investor and Democratic donor George Soros, gave $1,005,000 to the super PAC he helped found, Friends of Democracy. The group works to enact campaign finance reform at the state and federal levels, in part by electing or defeating particular candidates. Friends of Democracy spent most of its money in 2013 to help fund a massive effort to enact reform legislation in New York state. Despite support from the majority of citizens and nearly every Democratic leader in the state, including Gov. Andrew Cuomo, the legislation died in the state Senate.
Carolyn Oliver: $1 Million
Carolyn Oliver, a doctor and lawyer based in Austin, Texas, contributed $1 million to Battleground Texas, a super PAC working to increase the strength of the Democratic Party in the Lone Star State. Oliver is a passionate supporter of Texas state Sen. Wendy Davis (D), who is running for governor. She also donated $1 million to Davis' campaign.
David And Mary Boies: $1 Million
Lawyer David Boies and his wife, Mary Boies, combined to contribute $1 million to super PACs supporting Democrats in 2013. They donated $500,000 to Senate Majority PAC and $500,000 to House Majority PAC. <em>Pictured: David Boies</em>
Republican Governors Association: $1 Million
The Republican Governors Association contributed $1 million to its affiliated super PAC, RGA Right Direction, in 2013. <em>Pictured: RGA Chairman and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie</em>
Cooperative Of American Physicians: $915,974
The Cooperative of American Physicians, a membership organization for California doctors to purchase medical liability insurance, gave $915,974 to its own super PAC. The latter group supports candidates who back liability insurance reform, specifically the institution of caps on lawsuit damages, and other legislation to make it more difficult to sue doctors. In the 2012 election, the super PAC backed both Republican and Democratic candidates.
Richard Uihlein: $880,000
Richard Uihlein, the CEO of U-Line Corporation, gave $880,000 to conservative super PACs in the first half of 2013. He contributed $500,000 to Club for Growth Action, $280,000 to Liberty Principles PAC and $100,000 to Senate Conservatives Action.
Working For Working Americans: $875,000
Working for Working Americans, the super PAC funded by the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners, contributed $875,000 to other super PACs in 2013. The group gave $250,000 to Senate Majority PAC, $250,000 to House Majority PAC, $250,000 to Defending Main Street SuperPAC, $100,000 to Win Minnesota Federal PAC, and $25,000 to American Working Families. <em>Pictured: Members of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners</em>
S. Donald Sussman: $850,000
S. Donald Sussman, hedge fund executive and husband to Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-Maine), contributed $850,000 to House Majority PAC in 2013. <em>Pictured: Donald Sussman (second from left) with his wife, Rep. Chellie Pingree (second from right)</em>
International Union Of Operating Engineers: $773,000
The International Union of Operating Engineers contributed $773,000 to super PACs in 2013. The union and its associated groups donated $250,000 to House Majority PAC, $250,000 to Defending Main Street SuperPAC, $105,000 to Senate Majority PAC, $75,000 to American Working Families, $60,000 to Workers' Voice, $25,000 to The Ninety-Nine Percent, and $8,000 to Lunch Pail Republicans IE-Only Committee. <em>Pictured: IUOE members protest in California</em>
Bernard Schwartz: $756,879
Bernard Schwartz, the former CEO of Loral Space & Communications, contributed $756,879 to super PACs supporting Democrats in 2013. He gave $506,879 to House Majority PAC and $250,000 to American Bridge 21st Century.
Communications Workers Of America: $720,000
The Communications Workers of America contributed $720,000 to super PACs in 2013. The union and its affiliated groups gave $550,000 to its own super PAC, Communications Workers of America Working Voices; $160,000 to Workers' Voice; and $10,000 to House Majority PAC. <em>Pictured: Communications Workers of America members protest</em>
Massachusetts Teachers Association: $700,000
The Massachusetts Teachers Association gave $700,000 to Senate Majority PAC in 2013. The organization's contributions helped to fund independent expenditures to support the successful Senate special election campaign of Ed Markey (D-Mass.). <em>Pictured: Massachusetts Teachers Association members rally in support of unionized teachers in Wisconsin</em>
Unite Here: $650,000
Unite Here, a diverse labor union representing workers in the airport, food service, gaming, hotel, textile and laundry industries, contributed $650,000 to the AFL-CIO's Workers' Voice PAC in 2013. <em>Pictured: Unite Here hotel strike in West Hollywood, Calif., in 2005</em>
American Federation Of Teachers: $650,000
The American Federation of Teachers contributed $650,000 to super PACs in 2013. The teachers union and its affiliated groups gave $250,000 to Workers' Voice; $200,000 to House Majority PAC; $100,000 to Senate Majority PAC; and $100,000 to American Bridge 21st Century. <em>Pictured: AFT President Randi Weingarten</em>
Joseph Craft: $600,000
Joseph Craft III, head of the coal company Alliance Resource Partners, contributed $600,000 to super PACs in 2013. Craft gave $500,000 to American Crossroads and $100,000 to Kentuckians for Strong Leadership.
Virginia James: $600,000
Investor Virginia James contributed $600,000 to conservative super PACs in 2013. She gave $500,000 to Club for Growth Action and $100,000 to American Commitment Action Fund. <em>Pictured: Club for Growth, a major recipient of James' contributions</em>
Americans For Responsible Solutions: $587,054
Americans for Responsible Solutions, the pro-gun control nonprofit founded by former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) and her husband, Mark Kelly, contributed $587,054 in in-kind staff time to its super PAC of the same name in 2013. <em>Pictured: Gabrielle Giffords and Mark Kelly</em>
Marc And Lynne Benioff: $550,000
Salesforce.com CEO Marc Benioff gave $500,000 to Americans for Responsible Solutions, the pro-gun control super PAC founded by former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) and her husband, former NASA astronaut Mark Kelly. The Benioffs also gave $25,000 each to Ready for Hillary, the super PAC promoting a potential 2016 presidential bid by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Marc Benioff was a major fundraiser in Silicon Valley for President Barack Obama's reelection campaign. These are his first super PAC contributions.
George Soros: $530,000
Investor George Soros contributed $530,000 to super PACs supporting Democratic candidates in 2013. Soros gave $500,000 to American Bridge 21st Century, $25,000 to Ready for Hillary and $5,000 to Friends of Democracy.
Ronald Firman: $526,000
Miami retiree Ronald Firman gave $526,000 to super PACs in 2013. Firman contributed $525,000 to Values Are Vital -- a super PAC founded to find a replacement for former Rep. Trey Radel (R-Fla.), who retired after his arrest for purchasing cocaine -- and $1,000 to American Crossroads. <em>Pictured: Former Rep. Trey Radel, the reason for Firman's major contribution</em>
United Association Of Journeymen And Pipefitters: $505,500
The United Association of Journeymen and Pipefitters contributed $505,500 to super PACs in 2013. The union and its affiliated groups gave $500,000 to House Majority PAC and $5,500 to Senate Majority PAC.
International Brotherhood Of Electrical Workers: $505,500
The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers contributed $505,500 to super PACs in 2013. The union gave $500,000 to House Majority PAC and $5,500 to Senate Majority PAC. <em>Pictured: Sen. Mark Begich (D-Alaska) speaks before an IBEW local</em>
George Marcus: $500,000
California real estate investor George Marcus gave $500,000 to super PACs in the first six months of 2013. He contributed $250,000 to House Majority PAC and $250,000 to Senate Majority PAC. Marcus chipped in more than $500,000 to super PACs in the 2012 election.
Sean Parker: $500,000
Facebook billionaire and Napster co-founder Sean Parker gave $500,000 to super PACs in the first six months of 2013. He contributed $250,000 to Americans for Responsible Solutions and $250,000 to Friends of Democracy. These are Parker's first super PAC contributions and could indicate the entrance of a new Democratic-leaning billionaire into the political arena.
Amy Goldman Fowler: $500,000
Amy Goldman Fowler contributed $500,000 to super PACs supporting Democrats in 2013. She gave $250,000 to American Bridge 21st Century and $250,000 to Planned Parenthood Votes.