Records obtained by CBC News appear to indicate the campaign of federal Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Peter Penashue deposited a single cheque from a company in the riding, but wrote separate receipts to the board members for the donation.
Corporate donations are illegal in Canada. It's also illegal to contribute indirectly, by going through another person to make a donation.
Six board members of Pennecon Ltd., a construction company based in St. John's, donated a total of $5,500 to Penashue's campaign a few days after he was elected, CBC News reported last week. Each board member was issued a receipt for his donation, which ranged from $550 to the maximum personal contribution of $1,100. Political donations are eligible for a tax refund, which would work out to a $592 refund for an $1,100 donation and $375 for a $550 donation.
But a deposit slip included in Penashue's election file shows a single line for Pennecon — and doesn't list the board members. Under the "list of cheques" heading, the slip shows one entry for Pennecon, with the total $5,500.
Five of the six receipts used the mailing address for Pennecon.
Cheques are usually listed individually on a deposit slip and totalled up at the bottom, indicating that, perhaps in this case, one cheque was issued.
Pennecon conducting internal review
Pennecon said in a statement that it is conducting an internal review and co-operating with Elections Canada.
"In recent days questions have arisen concerning contributions made by some Pennecon Limited executives to the 2011 federal campaign of Mr. Peter Penashue. Pennecon has been in contact with Elections Canada to offer its full co-operation in responding to any questions that the office may have," the statement said.
"Pennecon and its executives place a high priority on ethical and transparent practices. It is assessing the current situation and conducting an internal review."
A spokesman for Penashue didn't explain the deposit slip, but said the campaign wouldn't accept corporate donations.
"The minister was very clear during his campaign that no corporate donations would be accepted, and that donations to his campaign were to be personal donations made by individuals," Cory Hann said.
Over spending limit
Penashue has been under fire over his spending in the campaign that won him his Labrador seat. Documents in his Elections Canada file show his 2011 election campaign would have spent $24,711 in flights during the writ period, but an airline in his Labrador riding wrote off most of that amount under an agreement that appears to have been made months after the election was over.
The cost of the flights that were written off would have put Penashue well over his spending limit — by about 21 per cent.
Elections Canada records show Penashue was already nearly $4,000 over his limit before his campaign retrieved receipts for the flights, which had been missing from the initial filing.
The government initially laid the blame on Penashue's official agent, Reginald Bowers, calling him an "inexperienced campaign volunteer." But they soon stopped using that description after reporters and opposition MPs pointed out that the Conservative government had appointed Bowers to sit on the board of the Canada-Newfoundland Offshore Petroleum Board.
Penashue, who won the Labrador riding by 79 votes, addressed the possible over-spending in an emailed statement, but hasn't answered questions in the House of Commons about it.
"We have appointed a new official agent who is working with Elections Canada to help correct any mistakes that were made by the previous official agent. I am proud to serve as the member of Parliament for Labrador," Penashue's statement said.
Earlier this year, the Ottawa Citizen reported that Conservative MP Dean Del Mastro, parliamentary secretary to Prime Minister Stephen Harper, had been given donations by a number of his cousin's employees. The Citizen reported that one employee said they had been reimbursed for the donations. David Del Mastro said he had asked for voluntary contributions. Dean Del Mastro hasn't responded to questions about the contributions.
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