Wednesday, December 05, 2007

The Agreement in Principle

In his testimony yesterday, Karlheinz Schreiber seemed to be doing his darnedest to clear Brian Mulroney. Just last week, Schreiber told the Ethics committee that he and Mulroney had made an agreement on June 23, while Mulroney was prime minister. Today he made a big deal of saying that money was not discussed: it was just "an agreement in principle".

But Schreiber is being somewhat disingenuous. Consider:

- Schreiber said that an agreement was made on June 23 for Mulroney to do work for which Schreiber would pay him. The whole point of the meeting was for Mulroney to get money; Schreiber went to the meeting because "Doucet told me Mulroney was in desperate shape and needed money so badly that I should help him." Schreiber said he needed to check his bank records before knowing how much he had to pay, but it's not true to say that money was not discussed - just not the figure $500,000, presumably.

- Mulroney solicited the June 23 meeting with Schreiber via Mulroney's old right-hand man, Fred Doucet. Mulroney sent a car to pick up Schreiber and drive Schreiber to the official cottage of the PM, Harrington Lake. This was presumably Schreiber's first invitation. It is clear that Mulroney was using the trappings of his position to squeeze conservatives for money.

- There is no indication that this was a legitimate business discussion about lobbying. The only work that Schreiber said he was paying Mulroney for was to promote the Bear Head project, but Mulroney had cancelled the project in 1990 (as Schreiber later learned, and is the basis of his law suit against Mulroney). If what Schreiber says is true, then Mulroney was asking for large cash payments without being willing to do anything in return.

- Schreiber didn't seem to be treating this agreement as a legitimate business deal, either. As Schreiber describes the meetings where he gave Mulroney cash, there was no serious discussion of what Mulroney was doing for him. Mulroney instigated the meetings with Schreiber when he needed money. Mulroney didn't give Schreiber reports on the defunct Bear Head project. Again, this was not a legit business arrangement.

- Schreiber's story is that he and Mulroney agreed in principle that Schreiber would give Mulroney cash, but that Schreiber had to find out how much money he had before he committed a firm figure. It sounds like the agreement was that Schreiber would give Mulroney everything he had - and then he went to his Swiss bank accounts, found that he had $500,000, and told Mulroney he could have that much. What sort of business arrangement is that?

- Schreiber said he was partly willing to give money to Mulroney because he understood that Mulroney needed cash badly. When describing his reasons for agreeing to the meeting, Schreiber said, "the problem was they sold the furniture and Fred Doucet was out of his mind, no money, and Elmer MacKay was nearly crazy that they took the furniture away." The picture Schreiber describes is of Doucet and MacKay putting huge pressure on Schreiber to cough up everything he could lay his hands on.

- Schreiber said he was also willing to give money to Mulroney to thank him for helping with German reunification. This seems utterly absurd. However, it sets up an M.O. that I have read elsewhere - that Schreiber tended to pay people after they helped him do something, rather than before. (This may have been a way to circumvent certain anti-bribery rules.) Schreiber said he never paid Mulroney a bribe for Airbus, but perhaps the $500,000 was a thank-you for Mulroney's help in securing the Airbus deal. (At the least, Mulroney fired all the Air Canada directors just before the deal was approved and replaced them with his own choices, some of whom were associates of Schreiber.) It is clear that the sub-text of the agreement was that Schreiber was paying Mulroney in thanks for something, and the reunification story is an unlikely reason for the quid pro quo.

- When you've read Stevie Cameron's On the Take you realize just how much money Mulroney needed to maintain his lavish lifestyle. Mila's twice-weekly shopping sprees to Montreal, where she took an expensive suite and had designers come calling, were just the tip of the iceberg. That doesn't even touch on Mulroney's mega-Gucci tastes or the couple's extensive collections of Canadian art, antiques and jewellery. $500,000 over several years was not a great deal of money to Mulroney. It's difficult to believe that Schreiber was the only shady character being picked up by the prime minsterial limo.

So to sum up, we have a picture of the dying days of Mulroney's prime ministership. His bagmen were frantically badgering every rich conservative they could find for as much money as they could cough up. Mulroney was sending out his limo to ferry possible donors to official residences for private audiences where he pressured them to give every penny they could lay their hands on. Even if there was a facade of business in the deal, Mulroney did not offer any services in return - these under-the-table deals were apparently either thank-you gifts for services Mulroney rendered while prime minister, or some sort of con wherein Mulroney promised services he didn't intend to deliver. For years after he left office, Mulroney's men badgered the donors to meet Mulroney in hotel rooms and hand over huge quantities of cash under the table.

And that description is what pundits are describing as the clearing of Brian Mulroney.

One final thought: Why did Schreiber change his tone over the weekend? Did Mulroney settle the civil suit in which he sought to get his $300,000 back (plus interest)?



Joseph said...

Excellent Post!

wilson said...

Schreiber cleared Mulroney of receiving any money re: Airbust

therefore, the $2.1m Mulroney rec'd for costs, in the defamation suit was justified.

Shcreiber cleared PMSH of any interference in his extradition.

That is what this circus was created to find out.
The answers are there, the rest is just sensationalizing the private dealings of a man who used to be PM, and smearing reputations of innocent people, by association.

IF an inquiry proceeds, it may have the 'proof of vendetta against Mulroney' slant.
Libs/CBC will be sorry they went down this path.
PMSH tried to warn yah!

Anonymous said...

Your mental and the liberals are wasting money again.