Canadian politician defends foreign money

By David Balch and Jeremy Abelson

CNN Business

(CNN) – The leader of Canada’s Green Party wouldn’t say whether he would support a ban on foreign contributions to political parties in the United States if it were to become law.

But he didn’t dispute a report from The Hill that said Green leader Elizabeth May, in a paid email to voters in 2015, was urged to boost her party’s fundraising by getting donations from abroad.

The Hill report cited a slew of emails obtained through a Freedom of Information request and a federal data-exchange. In the report, May was quoted as saying “The invitation to come on a trip is not soliciting any foreign money.” But she didn’t deny any of the other remarks attributed to her.

Canada’s anti-corruption agency, the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, ruled in 2014 that money from foreign sources couldn’t be used to advance political campaigns, but the ruling applies only to federal elections.

“If the US bans foreign money to political parties in the run-up to a presidential election, then the same rule should apply to Canada, including fundraising by federal politicians,” May wrote in the email, according to The Hill report.

The Hill story gave examples of both donations and receipts May posted to a personal website.

“I don’t accept donations over $200 from any source, whether the source is a source or is Canadian,” May wrote in the email.

‘Cause the money’s Canadian?’

Republican politicians have periodically criticized Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta and the Clinton Foundation for taking foreign donations. But it’s not clear whether such critiques would exist had the US moved to curb foreign donations to Canadian political parties.

“Canadians call their politicians ‘Canadians’ and support them in two-to-one,” May wrote in a statement. “The American right refers to them as ’embarrassing cowards’ and ‘stupid savages.'”

“I have never been contacted, asked to do anything, or heard a whisper,” May added. “They know I have shown absolutely no interest in taking foreign money or cultivating foreign donors in my campaign – and most certainly not in the current federal election cycle. The desire to bash me is not a right-wing issue, it is an issue of style.”

May’s comments were echoed by Green Party officials, some of whom volunteered to be interviewed by CNN.

None of the other Canadian federal politicians who were subject to anonymous donations from anonymous donors suggested banning foreign donations in a CBC interview last year.

But Liberal leader Justin Trudeau also told the broadcaster that if Trudeau were at the top of the Canadian political parties’ food chain, he would take steps to ensure foreign money is not being used to promote political campaigns.

The Canadian rules on foreign donations “disarm any American politician from exercising the same rights the U.S. Constitution and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms give them,” Trudeau said.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s office did not respond to requests for comment.

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