Mike Duffy says PMO wrote second cheque to cover his legal fees

Andy Radia
Politics Reporter
Canada Politics

Last week, Senator Mike Duffy took the Senate floor to defend himself against a motion to suspend him, without pay — along with Senators Patrick Brazeau and Pamela Wallin.

He said that Senate leadership told him it was okay to claim a Senate living allowance. He also alleged that the PMO concocted the plan to have Nigel Wright — the prime minister's former chief of staff — give him money to repay expense claims and forced him to cooperate under threat of expulsion.

Duffy's speech on Monday, was potentially even more explosive and probably more damaging to the Stephen Harper Conservatives.

[ Related: Former Conservative leader in Senate says Mike Duffy’s defence “not based in fact” ]

Duffy said that, in addition to a $90,000 cheque used to repay his Senate expenses, Conservative Party lawyer Arthur Hamilton paid his legal fees.

Here's an excerpt from his speech:

"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.

That's right. One cheque from Nigel Wright. No ladies and gentleman, there were two cheques. At least two cheques. The PMO -- listen to this -- had the Conservative party's lawyer Arthur Hamilton pay my legal fees. He paid for my lawyer.

A cheque $13,560. That's right Senators. Not one payment, not one payment but two.

Contrary to the prime minister's assertion on CFRB last week, that he ordered repayment because 'Senate expense rules were' in his words 'beyond the shadow of a doubt broken,' he had my legal fees fully paid. Why would he do that? He would never do it if he believed my expense claims were improper.

He did this because as I've said from the start, 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.

He took their money, I suspect...I can't prove it yet. I suspect he took their money, the base's money, to pay off to make..a lawyer to make this all go away. The cheques tell who's telling the truth and who is not.

Duffy also reiterated that the plan to pay back the money was concocted by the PMO and that he was told what to say to media. Specifically, he says the PMO told him to tell media that he took a $90,000 loan from RBC.

Duffy tabled documents and emails in the Senate that he says collaborate his story.

The submission includes an email from Nigel Wright to Duffy with regard to a media story about the latter's housing allowance. And there's also a copy of the cheque that Duffy alleges was used to pay his legal expenses.

All of Duffy's submitted documents can be seen here.

Duffy said he had more information to come.

[ Related: Stephen Harper takes to the airwaves to defend Senate suspension motions ]

The fall-out from Duffy's speech could be significant especially with the revelation that the Conservative party lawyer was involved and the allegation that party money was used to pay legal fees.

CBC News' Chris Hall says it could be damaging to the Tories.

"I think it does lend support to Mike Duffy's suggestion. This really wasn't about ethics about overspending at all. This was clearly a political problem. And had to be dealt with politically -- as opposed to formally -- through the office of the prime minister," Hall said on the news network.

"Again, this is untested, it's not in court. We have not heard from Nigel Wright, we have not heard from the prime minister's office about any of these allegation."

NDP House Leader Nathan Cullen suggested Conservative donors should be weary before donating any more money.

"Here's the question: Have Conservative donors helped pay Mike Duffy's legal expenses over accusations of his misspending and taking taxpayer money?" Cullen told CBC's Power and Politics.

"How can they...ask the Conservative donor for money, how can they honestly and ethicaly say this isn't going to be used in some sort of hush-em up scheme to get scandal away from the prime minister when they have done wrong."

[ Related: Brazeau said he was offered 'backroom deal' by government leader in the Senate ]

The debates about the motions have been nothing short of spectacular.

In addition to Duffy, both Wallin and Brazeau also spoke last week.

Last Wednesday, Wallin told her colleagues that the Conservative Party leadership in the Senate had a vendetta against her.

And, on Friday, Brazeau told his colleagues that Senator Claude Carignan — the government's leader in the Senate — offered him "backroom deal" to go easy on him if he issued a public apology.

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As of Monday afternoon the Conservative caucus, in the Senate, were still in discussions about the potential of softening the penalties against the three senators.

A vote on the motions is expected later this week.

(Photo courtesy of Canadian Press)

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