This post is an open letter to Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson. For my earlier letter to Mayor Robertson, please see below.
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9 November 2010
Since July, I have been trying to inquire about whether a large portion of Vision Vancouver's campaign finance may have originated from a Tides-affiliated charity such as the Endswell Foundation. I'm not asking about a few thousand bucks. I'm asking about at least $159,783, maybe more.
When I wrote to you back in July, I thought that you would have bristled at the mere possibility that some charity funds might have found their way into your campaign coffers. I hoped that you would take immediate action to investigate thoroughly and clarify the facts. Instead, as far as I can tell, you have done absolutely nothing about this.
The main reason that I feel that it is important to get an answer to this question is because charity is important. Food banks, shelters and other charitable organizations need all the help they can get. No politician should stoop to taking money that should go to charity.
Another important reason to get an answer to this question is because the Endswell Foundation is an integral part of the Tides network which is heavily funded by foreign interests - huge, U.S. foundations and a hedge fund billionaire who, in my opinion, is heavily funding the Tides campaign to thwart the development and export of Alberta oil. According to my research, published recently in The Financial Post and The Vancouver Sun, Tides Canada and Tides U.S. have funded at least 36 organizations that campaign against Alberta oil.
My calculations based on U.S. tax returns and on-line databases indicate to me that since 2000, Tides Canada has been granted nearly $57 million by U.S. foundations. Four of these foundations alone have assets of $22 billion, and they give away about $1.2 billion every year. If they decide to thwart an industry or sway the course of a municipal election, I am concerned that they might be able to.
Even President Obama recently expressed concern about foreign interests swaying the outcome of the mid-term elections in the U.S. "This is a threat to our democracy. The American people deserve to know who’s trying to sway their elections," he said.
Another concern that I have is that if charity money had been used to fund Vision Vancouver, how would we know? The sr. vice president of the Endswell Foundation, Martha Burton, is also the treasurer of Vision Vancouver. As far as I can tell, Ms. Burton is or has been simultaneously involved with at least seven Tides-affiliated charities and businesses.
As sr. vice-president of Endswell, Martha Burton's boss, I presume, is the president of Endswell: Joel Solomon. According to U.S. tax returns, Ms. Burton's salary nearly doubled in one year, from $72,036 to $135,325. Martha Burton is also sr. vice-president at Renewal Partners, the "investment firm" where Joel Solomon is president.
Without any further delay, I appeal to you to please investigate and clarify whether any portion Vision Vancouver's funding originated from charity. Here's why:
1) Vision Vancouver has reported a substantial amount of campaign finance from Joel Solomon and from individuals and companies who appear to me to be affiliated in various ways with Tides-affiliated charities where Joel Solomon is intimately involved: 1) the Endswell Foundation, where Joel Solomon has been an employee since 1997, and 2) Tides Canada, a registered charity of which you have been a board member. According to the Vancouver Sun, Joel Solomon was the 2nd largest financial contributor to the 2008 election campaign, 2nd only to CUPE, British Columbia's largest labour union. Apparently Joel Solomon brought in $330,000 including $111,194 from three Tides-affiliated P.R. companies (Strategic Communications, Communiciopia and Convergence Communications), and $70,469 from Renewal Partners.
2) Between 2004 and 2008, the staff at Renewal Partners, were paid salaries by the Endswell Foundation - to the tune of $1.9 million, according to my calculations based on U.S. tax returns. I would find it hard to believe that Renewal Partners and Strategic Communications (of which Renewal Partners is said to be a significant client), would have been able to afford to contribute $153,783 to Vision Vancouver if staff salaries and who knows what else weren't paid by the Endswell Foundation.
3) One of the campaign finance contributions to Vision Vancouver was a total of $6,000 from Interdependent Investments Ltd.: $5,000 in 2008, and $1,000 in June of 2010. The B.C. Company Summary for Interdependent Investments Ltd. says that the president is Joel Solomon and that the secretary is Martha Burton.
5) For the 2008 contribution of $5,000, the address given for Interdependent Investments Ltd. is Unit 610-220 Cambie Street in Vancouver. Referring to Tides Canada, Endswell and Renewal Partners, Joel Solomon once wrote that "all called 220 Cambie home at some point."
6) I believe that there are outstanding questions about how the Endswell Foundation has spent $11.4 million since 2003. That includes the $1.2 million paid to Interdependent Investments Ltd.
At the very least, please clarify whether any of the campaign contributions to Vision Vancouver, such as any of the $153,783 from Renewal Partners and Strategic Communications and the $6,000 from Interdependent Investments Ltd., originated from a registered charity.
1. Letter of 7 July 2010 RE: Tides Canada
- Company Summary: Interdependent Investments Ltd.
- Excerpts of U.S. tax returns: Payments from the Endswell Foundation to Interdependent Investments Ltd. for $1,200,948
- e-mails to Martha Burton: 15 - 22 September, 2010. No reply was received.