OTTAWA - The $90,000 from Stephen Harper's former chief of staff wasn't the only secret, five-figure payment made on Mike Duffy's behalf during the Senate expense scandal, the senator at the heart of the controversy says.
For the second time in as many weeks, Duffy, expelled from the Conservative caucus in May, shocked the normally sleepy upper chamber Monday with a tale of intrigue and betrayal he says starts and ends with the Prime Minister's Office.
"The cheques tell who's telling the truth and who is not,'' Duffy, a former TV broadcaster, declared before releasing more documents to buttress his explosive claims.
At issue is an alleged coverup in which the Prime Minister's Office paid off Duffy so that he could repay disputed expenses, in return for which a Conservative-dominated Senate audit committee would whitewash Duffy's behaviour and make the scandal disappear.
Instead, the flames just keep getting higher, and on Monday, Duffy poured more fuel on the inferno.
Facing suspension without pay for the next two years, Duffy and fellow Conservative exiles Pamela Wallin and Patrick Brazeau have all lashed out at a PMO they say is railroading them out of political expediency.
Duffy tabled a document with the Senate that shows Arthur Hamilton, the Conservative party lawyer, signed off on a payment of $13,560 to Duffy's legal representative last April 3.
Duffy says he'd already been "coaxed'' into accepting $90,000 from Nigel Wright, Harper's chief of staff, to be used to pay off disputed Senate housing expense claims, notwithstanding written assurances from Wright that he'd broken no rules.
"It was never about ethics, it was always all about politics, which explains why Arthur Hamilton was busy cutting cheques,'' Duffy charged.
Repaying expenses he'd been cleared to claim would make him look guilty, said Duffy.
"But when I insisted on written guarantees that repaying money I didn't owe would not be seen by the Senate as a guilty plea, Nigel Wright arranged to have my legal fees paid,'' he told a rapt upper chamber.
"That's right. One cheque from Nigel Wright? No, ladies and gentlemen, there were two cheques, at least two cheques.''
An audible gasp went up from the gathered senators.
Hamilton, who works for the firm Cassels-Brock, would not comment on any of Duffy's claims when reached by The Canadian Press, Nor did the Prime Minister's Office respond immediately to inquiries.
It was the revelation last May that Wright himself paid off Duffy's expenses that brought the Senate scandal to the prime minister's front door.
Harper has steadfastly maintained he knew nothing of Wright's largesse, but the circle of PMO and party insiders who were in on the deal appears to keep growing.
And Duffy keeps fanning the flames.
"I've never seen a cheque from Nigel Wright,'' Duffy noted, almost as an aside Monday.
"But I do have the cheque stub and transmittal letter from Arthur Hamilton, the Conservative party's lawyer.''
Duffy alleged, while conceding he could not prove, that the funds for his legal fees came from the Conservative party and thus from the pockets of the same party donors that the PMO was attempting to dupe and placate.
He laid the blame directly on Harper.
"This was all part of his strategy, negotiated by his lawyers and the Conservative party's lawyers, to make a political situation embarrassing to his base go away,'' said Duffy.
Even the story Duffy first offered the public last February about how he'd borrowed the money to repay his expenses was cooked up by the PMO, the senator says, and he claims to have the email to prove it.
Duffy said the PMO "rehearsed with me, right up until minutes before I went on television, the lines I would use in the media.''
The prime minister in the Commons last week used Duffy's claim of remortgaging his own home as proof that the senator's words could not be trusted: "When Mr. Duffy went on national television (last March) to say that he had repaid his own expenses by taking out a loan against his assets, that is exactly what he should have done,'' Harper said in the House.
According to Duffy, "the PMO told me to say that my wife and I took out a loan at the Royal Bank.''
"That line was written by the PMO to deceive Canadians as to the real source of the $90,000,'' he asserted.
And he says he was well within the rules in filing his expenses, and that the true amount of claims that were found to be improperly filed totalled less than $500.
The Senate continued to debate a motion Monday evening to suspend Duffy, Wallin and Brazeau without pay for two years, although the sanction is meeting fierce resistance from some Conservatives who feel it fails to give the three due process.
Read the documents below:
Like this article? Follow our Facebook page
Or follow us on Twitter
Also on HuffPost:
Prime Minister Stephen Harper, question period, Feb. 13
"In terms of Sen. Wallin, I have looked at the numbers. Her travel costs are comparable to any parliamentarian travelling from that particular area of the country over that period of time. For instance, last year Sen. Wallin spent almost half of her time in the province she represents in the Senate. The costs are to travel to and from that province, as any similar parliamentarian would do."
Wallin speaking Wednesday in her own defence
"By throwing a member of this Senate under the bus, finding her guilty without a fair hearing such as any other Canadian could expect — a right guaranteed us by the charter — to proceed without the evidence having been adduced and considered on which the charge in the motion is based, is a fundamental affront to Canadian democracy and makes a mockery of this chamber. This charade is supposedly about preserving the reputation of this place, but the real intent is to remove a perceived liability — namely, me."
Harper on Wallin's expenses, question period, Feb. 14
"The senator and all other senators and members of the House are fully prepared and committed to have an examination of expenses to ensure that they are appropriate. That is the commitment the government has made in both chambers, a commitment we will keep."
Harper in question period on May 28 on when he learned that former chief of staff Nigel Wright personally wrote a $90,000 cheque to cover Sen. Mike Duffy's expenses
"Mr. Speaker, I have been very clear on this question. This matter came to my attention two weeks ago, after speculation appeared in the media. On Wednesday, May 15, I was told about it. At that very moment, I demanded that my office ensure that the public was informed, and it was informed appropriately."
Duffy in the Senate on Oct. 22
"I made one last effort. I said: 'I don't believe I owe anything, and besides which, I don't have $90,000.' 'Don't worry,' Nigel said. 'I'll write the cheque.'"
Harper in question period, May 28
"As I have said repeatedly, my first knowledge of this was on the date and at the time indicated. Prior to that point in time, it was my understanding that Mr. Duffy had paid back his own expenses."
Harper in question period, May 28
"If the leader of the NDP is suggesting I had any information to the contrary from Mr. Wright prior to this, that is completely false. I learned of this on May 15 and immediately made this information public, as I have said many times."
Harper in question period, June 4
"Mr. Speaker, that information was already made public on Feb. 13, and I have been very clear about this. Mr. Duffy approached me after a caucus meeting to discuss this matter. From the beginning, my position has been clear: any inappropriate expenses should be refunded to taxpayers by the senators concerned."
Duffy in his Oct. 22 Senate speech
"I've violated no laws, I've followed the rules."
NDP Leader Tom Mulcair in question period June 4
"Mr. Speaker, why then did the Prime Minister, last week, deny instructing any members of his personnel to settle the Mike Duffy matter when he gave that order with that personnel present in the room at a caucus meeting in February of this year?"
Harper, in reply to Mulcair in question period June 4
"Mr. Speaker, it was my view from the beginning that any inappropriate expenses by any senator should be repaid by the senator, not by somebody else. That was very clear. Those are the facts obviously before us. As I say, my statements on this matter have been very clear and very consistent."
Harper in question period June 5 explaining his meeting with Duffy
"Mr. Duffy was seeking clarification on remarks I had made to this effect in caucus and I was adamant that any inappropriate expenses had to be reimbursed by him."
Duffy in the Senate Oct. 22
"So after caucus on Feb. 13 of this year, I met the prime minister and Nigel Wright, just the three of us. I said that despite the smear in the papers, I had not broken the rules, but the prime minister wasn't interested in explanations or the truth. It's not about what you did; it's about the perception of what you did that has been created in the media."
Harper in question period Oct. 23, referring to Duffy's account of the Feb. 13 meeting
"No, Mr. Speaker I absolutely did not say that."
Duffy to the Senate on Oct. 22
"I argued: I'm just following the rules like all of the others. But it didn't work. I was ordered by the prime minister: Pay the money back, end of discussion. Nigel Wright was present throughout, just the three of us."
Harper in question period on June 5
"I have made it very clear what my views were to all my staff and to our caucus. We expect inappropriate expenses to be reimbursed and I would expect they would be reimbursed by the person who incurred them. I would certainly not expect them to be reimbursed by somebody else."
Harper in question period on June 5
"Mr. Speaker, as I have indicated, Mr. Wright informed me of his personal cheque on May 15. This was an error in judgment. He indicated he did this because he believed that taxpayers should be reimbursed and he was prepared to ensure that happened, as in fact it did happen. However, obviously this was an error in judgment for many reasons that have already been outlined and for that reason, I accepted his resignation."
Harper at a news conference on July 6 in Calgary
"I think if you read the affidavit it makes very clear that the decision to pay money to Mr. Duffy out of Mr Wright’s personal funds was made solely by Mr. Wright and was his responsibility. Obviously, had I known about this earlier I would never have allowed this to take place. When I answered questions about this in the House of Commons I answered questions to the best of my knowledge."