06/02/2017 12:33 EDT

Conservative Party Demands National Firearms Association Destroy Membership List

"We regret that this incident has occurred. "

OTTAWA — The Conservative party is demanding that the National Firearms Association destroy a party membership list that it appears to have illicitly obtained from one of the camps in the recent leadership contest.

"We are aware that our members are being contacted by an outside organization," the party said Friday in a Facebook post.

"We will be issuing a cease-and-desist letter to the organization in question, demanding that they destroy the list."

Supporters take their seats during the opening night of the federal Conservative leadership convention in Toronto on May 26, 2017 (Photo: Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press)

The party did not identify the outside organization but the post came after numerous Conservatives complained through social media that they'd received a letter this week from the National Firearms Association, seeking a donation.

They suspected that the association had obtained their names and addresses from the party membership list, distributed to each of the 14 candidates during the leadership race, which concluded last weekend with the election of Andrew Scheer.

The party did not name the culprit but said it has "identified the parties responsible for sharing the information, and will be taking disciplinary action against them."

Conservative party executive director Dustin van Vugt earlier confirmed suspicions that a leadership camp was to blame in a response Thursday to one of the complaints posted on Facebook.

We are aware that our members are being contacted by an outside organization. The Conservative Party has not – and will...

Posted by Conservative Party of Canada - Parti conservateur du Canada on Friday, 2 June 2017

"We salted the list given to leadership campaigns so will check to see if we can determine where the list came from," he wrote, suggesting the party included fictitious information in the list given to each camp to allow it to trace leaks.

"If we find the source, they will have broken the rules and can still be fined from their compliance deposit."

Each candidate had to pay a compliance deposit of $25,000. The party can withhold repayment of all or part of the deposit from any leadership campaign that broke the rules.

"We regret that this incident has occurred," the party said. "We have always taken our members' privacy very seriously, and will continue to do so."

However, Michael Diamond, a former spokesperson for Kellie Leitch's campaign, said it's not the first time an outside organization has gotten hold of the party's membership list. He pointed out that Mainstreet Research conducted polls of party members throughout the leadership race for iPolitics, an online media outlet.

Mainstreet president Quito Maggi confirmed his company had access to a copy of the party membership list, which he said was acquired by iPolitics "from several leadership camps."

"We are aware that our members are being contacted by an outside organization."

According to Maggi, the party never complained to him about the use of its membership list. Nevertheless, he said Mainstreet has a "solid privacy policy" and, now that the race is over, has already destroyed its copy.

Diamond was among the first to complain about receiving a fundraising pitch from the National Firearms Association, after noticing "dozens of friends on Facebook, none of whom are part of the gun community," had also received the missive.

"It became very obvious that the common denominator between all of these people was membership in the Conservative party."

While he's somewhat concerned about the privacy breach, Diamond said his primary objection is that he and thousands of other Conservative loyalists spent a year recruiting members in order to "build a better, stronger, bigger" party, not to help some outside organization raise money.

O'Toole allegations 'false': campaign manager

"That is the Conservative Party of Canada's list," he said. "It should be used for the sole purpose of electing Andrew Scheer in 2019 and Conservative candidates across the country."

During the campaign, the National Firearms Association issued a report card on the leadership candidates, giving third-place finisher Erin O'Toole an A, the highest mark awarded to any of the contenders.

O'Toole's campaign manager, Fred DeLorey, is the registered lobbyist for the association.

However, DeLorey said any allegations that O'Toole's camp shared the membership list with the association are "false."

"The party has investigated the matter and (has) identified those responsible and they know it was not me, nor members of my campaign team," said DeLorey, the party's former director of political operations.

Throughout the contest, DeLorey added that he recused himself from any campaign matters related to firearms and also from all NFA work related to the leadership race, including the report card.

With files from Steve Lambert in Winnipeg