"The election of Mayor Robertson is the result of creating conditions where these things could take hold. Nearly 20 years of moving in a purposeful direction."
- Joel Solomon, The Huffington Post
By any measure, $520,000 in campaign finance over six years is a lot of money. If a single politician or political party received more than half a million dollars from a real estate developer or a corporation, it would not go unnoticed.
According to my analysis, $520,000 is what Mayor Gregor Robertson has received in terms of campaign finance from a series of so-called "investment firms," public relations firms and individuals that are affiliated in various ways with the U.S. Tides Foundation ("Tides") and Tides Canada. In a nutshell, my question about this money is whether Mayor Robertson's political career has been supported indirectly as part of a sophisticated, U.S. funded strategy to thwart the Canadian energy industry.
For several years now, the U.S. Tides Foundation, the parent organization of Tides Canada, has been involved in an elaborate campaign, financed and co-ordinated by the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, that would block Canadian energy exports to Asia and choke off investment in the Alberta oilsands.
In 2010, Mayor Robertson and his chief of staff, Mike Magee, visited the Rockefeller Brothers offices in New York, and met specifically with the Rockefeller's co-ordinator of this campaign, Michael Northrop.
Vancouver's Mayor Robertson has taken a strong stand at the forefront of the campaign that would landlock Canadian energy within North America. This campaign continues the U.S. monopoly on Canadian oil exports, keeping Canada over a barrel. The problem is that this costs the Canadian economy billions of dollars every year because Canadian energy is sold into the U.S. below market value.
Robertson says he will "fiercely oppose any expansion of oil tankers in the Vancouver harbour." His stance raises fair questions about whether Mayor Robertson's anti-pipeline policies are in any way related to the fact that his political career has received substantial support from the U.S. funders of the campaign against Canadian energy. Not only Mayor Robertson has received substantial campaign finance from Tides-affiliated organizations, Tides also purchased a $2 million 150 acre ocean-front property that just so happens to extend Mayor Robertson's beachfront at his private property on Cortes Island.
Gregor Robertson and his wife are no strangers to Tides Canada. In fact, Mayor Robertson was a director of Tides Canada from 2002 until 2004 when he entered B.C. provincial politics with the New Democrat Party (NDP). In the biographical profile of Mayor Robertson which was on Tides Canada's web-site prior to his entry into politics, several organizations with which Mr. Robertson was involved are listed. To the best of my knowledge, without exception, all of these organizations are funded by Tides USA and/or Tides Canada. For example, Mayor Robertson was involved with the Linnaea Farm Society where his wife was president. Payments from Tides Canada to the Linnaea Farm Society spiked sharply to $298,415 in 2004 and $192,406 in 2005, just prior to Mayor Robertson's entry into B.C. politics.
During the course of six years of politics at the provincial and municipal levels, Vancouver's Mayor Gregor Robertson received roughly $520,000 in campaign finance from sources that are affiliated in various ways with two registered charities: The Endswell Foundation ("Endswell") and Tides Canada. The exact amount, according to my calculations, is $519,642.
The $519,642 consists of $73,147 that went towards Mayor Robertson's career with the B.C. provincial N.D.P., prior to 2008, and $446,495 towards funding his mayoral campaign with Vision Vancouver, and the party itself.
The $446,495 towards Gregor Robertson's municipal political career and his party, consists of $339,265 that was paid prior to 2011, and $107,230 for the 2011 municipal campaign season. The $339,265 for the pre-2011 years is roughly consistent with the figure of $330,000 that was estimated by Lori Culbert in The Vancouver Sun, August 18, 2010.
In the 2011 municipal election, one of Vision Vancouver's largest donors was Renewal Partners which contributed $27,500. The president of Renewal Partners is Joel Solomon, a friend and major financial backer of Mayor Robertson. In 2011, Tides Canada invested $US286,002 in Renewal Partners and the U.S. Tides Foundation invested $US257,000.
Mayor Robertson has been asked repeatedly about whether any of his campaign finance may have originated indirectly from Tides Canada and/or Endswell. The mayor has not answered this question. What he has said is that his political party is not funded by a charity. Frankly, that's a no-brainer. One only has to read the campaign finance disclosure statements to know that Vision Vancouver has not been funded directly by any charities. That's also not the question that I have been asking. My question is whether the mayor's political career has been funded indirectly by Tides Canada and/or Endswell, through a series of intermediary organisations, "investment firms" and P.R. firms that serve, for lack of a better term, as a front.
Other questions have also been raised about Renewal Partners but no answers have been forthcoming from Mr. Solomon. One of these questions concerns the fact that the salaries of the staff at Renewal Partners were paid by the Endswell Foundation - to the tune of $2.3 million. What kind of "investment firm" has its salaries paid for by a charity? Another question pertains to the companies in which Renewal Partners has invested. Joel Solomons has said that Renewal Partners has invested in 75 companies but the names of only 26 of them can be found.
Back to campaign finance...
The $446,495 includes $375,409 that is attributed to a series of "investment firms" and P.R. firms that are affiliated in various ways with Tides Canada. The $446,495 also includes a total of $71,086 attributed to a long series of individuals who are affiliated in various ways with the U.S. Tides Foundation and Tides Canada (see below).
As individuals, the largest donors to Mayor Robertson's political career are reported to be two well-known individuals, Joel Solomon and Carol Newell. Their reported contributions total $56,055 over the years. Solomon and Newell are said to be the benefactors behind the Endswell Foundation, a major donor to Tides Canada, but this appears to me to be questionable since both individuals are also listed as paid employees of the foundation of which they are supposedly the benefactors.
According to publicly available U.S. tax returns going back to the origin of the Endswell Foundation in 1992, Joel Solomon did not donate a single penny to Endswell and yet he has given the impression that he is a "multimillionaire philanthropist" who has been giving away part of his personal inheritance through Endswell. (If Joel Solomon did make any monetary contributions to Endswell, it may have been in 1993 or 1999, the years for which the tax returns are not publicly available).
Martha Burton, the treasurer of Vision Vancouver, is a long-term senior advisor to Tides Canada. Burton is also the vice-president of Renewal Partners and was the secretary of Interdependent Investments Ltd. until her name was hastily taken off the list of directors of that "investment firm," days after I sent a letter to Mayor Robertson in which I inquired about her multiple roles at Vision Vancouver as well as some of its largest donors.
Mike Magee, the Chief of Staff at Vancouver City Hall, was also a senior advisor to Tides Canada (2002 to 2007). By my analysis, roughly half of the clients of Mr. Magee's private consulting firm, Convergence Communications, are clients of Tides Canada or the American foundations that fund it. (That's as of July 3, 2013).
Endswell and Tides Canada are legally distinct but for practical purposes, Endswell appears to me to be part and parcel of the network of the U.S. Tides Foundation. Here's why:
- The U.S. Tides Foundation has reported to the Internal Revenue Service (I.R.S.) that both Tides Canada and Endswell are "related" parties to the U.S. Tides Foundation," tax returns show.
- Tides Canada is referred to by at least one U.S. donor as a "division" of Tides. The Wilburforce Foundation, a major funder funder of environmental initiatives in B.C. and the Yukon, funds Tides Canada through the U.S. Tides Foundation.
- For most of the 2000's, Endswell and Tides Canada had the same chair, president/vice-chair and treasurer. In both charities, these positions were held by Drummond Pike, Joel Solomon and James Morrisey, an Ernst & Young accountant. Pike and Solomon also hold key positions in the U.S. Tides Foundation. Pike was the CEO of Tides USA for 34 years until he quietly stepped down in the fall of 2010. Solomon is a former chair of the board of Tides.
- Between 2003 and 2009, fully 99 percent of the funds granted by Endswell went to Tides Canada, a total of $8.7 million. Between 2003 and 2009, Endswell hardly made a single grant to any organization except Tides Canada. When Endswell made grants to Tides Canada, money was simply being transferred from one charity that the directors controlled, to another. In essence, money was just shifted from one pocket to another, both pockets in the same pair of pants.
- According to my analysis of Tides Canada's donors, one of the largest donors to Tides Canada over the years is the Endswell Foundation which has contributed at least $12 million to Tides Canada.
Interestingly, Endswell closed down its operations in 2009. "Endswell’s grant-making era is now complete," the foundation says at its web-site. Total expenditures in 2010 were only $12,710 and didn't include any salaries.
About the video above: Cutting the ribbon with Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson are Carol Newell and Pamela Chalout, on the mayor's right, and Martha Burton and Joel Solomon, on the mayor's far left. Ms. Burton is the treasurer of Vision Vancouver. At the time that Ms. Burton and Mr. Joel Solomon were on staff at Renewal Partners, the "investment firm" that has been the biggest funder of Vision Vancouver, their salaries were paid by the Endswell Foundation, a registered charity. Source: Ribbon Cutting at the Tides Renewal Centre from Christopher Roy on Vimeo.
The information and analysis presented here with regards to Vision Vancouver's campaign finance is based on these disclosure statements from Vision Vancouver:
The $375,409 includes $319,354 from "investment firms" and P.R. companies and $56,055 attributed to Carol Newell and Joel Solomon. The $319,354 consists of $248,624 that was paid prior to 2011. Below, here are the excerpts from the campaign finance disclosure statements of Vision Vancouver for the $248,642 which is reportedly from Renewal Partners, Interdependent Investments LTd., Strategic Communications, Convergence Communications & Communicopia.
Below, here are excerpts from the Vision Vancouver campaign finance disclosure statements for the 2011 election. In addition to the $31,880 from Carol Newell and Joel Solomon, $4,620 was received from other individuals, as summarized in the table below.
Contributions from Individuals
Here's a table that lists the contributions from individuals, for a total of $150,437. That included $23,296 towards Gregor Robertson's NDP campaign and the NDP, and $127,141 towards his mayoral campaign and Vision Vancouver.
N.D.P. Campaign Finance
From the disclosure statements that Gregor Robertson and his team filed in 2005, and re-filed in 2007, it seems to me that a large part of the funding that Strategic Communications contributed to the NDP may have gone specifically to Gregor Robertson's MLA campaign in the Vancouver Fairview riding.
Gregor Robertson's NDP campaign finance disclosure statements report a total of $138,528. Of that, according to my analysis, at least $72,438 was from sources who are affiliated in various ways with Tides Canada and/or Tides USA. Including $10,000 from Gregor Robertson and his wife, Amy, that accounts for 40 percent of Robertson's NDP campaign finance.
The reason that I have included both Gregor Robertson and his wife as affiliated with Tides/Tides Canada is because from 2000 to 2005, Amy Robertson was the president of the Linnaea Farm Society on Cortes Island which has been funded by both Tides Canada every year since 2003, that's as far back as on-line records go, and also by Tides U.S.A. According to Gregor Robertson's profile that was posted at the web-site of Tides Canada, he worked with the Linnaea Farm Society from 2002 to 2004. Tides Canada also reports that Robertson worked with the Wild Salmon Fund which is heavily funded by the Gordon & Betty Moore Foundation.
The $72,438, includes:
- $28,530 from Strategic Communications.
- $20,642 from Convergence Communications. U.S. tax returns indicate that Tides Canada paid $204,036 to Convergence Communications in 2003 and 2005. (The information about how much Tides Canada paid to its highest five-paid contractors is not included in the publicly available tax return for 2004). The B.C. company summary for Convergence Communications indicates that its sole officer is Michael Magee, your Chief of Staff. He was a senior advisor of Tides Canada from 2002 to 2007.
- $6,000 from Carol Newell. When Ms. Newell was awarded the Order of Canada for having "placed" $60 million, Tides Canada reported that she is the "founder" of Tides Canada. U.S. tax returns show that since 2004, Ms. Newell has contributed $1.1 million to the Endswell Foundation - a far cry from $60 million. The 2009 tax return for the Endswell Foundation reports that a person by the name of Carol Newell was paid $49,921 as "secretary." That same year, Carol Newell contributed $73,206, U.S. tax returns say.
- $6,328 from Andrew Beath. Mr. Beath is said to be the "founder" of the Earthways Foundation which has received a small amount of funding from Tides U.S.A.
- $680 from Renewal Partners
- $259 from Mark Deutschmann, the CEO of Village Real Estate of Nashville Tennessee, a company in which Renewal Partners has "invested." U.S. tax returns say that Joel Solomon has 10 percent ownership in Village Real Estate.
NOTE: In addition to the above, there are three contributions for a total of $10,500 (or $11,500, its hard to read the hand-writing) which were made from the Vancouver Fairview Constituency Association. Where those funds originated and whether they went towards the NDP in general, or specifically towards Gregor Robertson's campaign, is not clear. For the purposes of the analyses presented here, these funds have not been included.
Excerpts from U.S. tax returns of Tides Canada Foundation showing payments to Convergence Communications:
Note: In the 2004 return, this table is not included.
Excerpts from the campaign finance disclosure statements of the NDP Vancouver Fairview Constituency Association:
Updated: July 3, 2013.
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