Libertas fails to co-operate with loans inquiry

 

LIBERTAS HAS failed to provide information on loans to the Standards in Public Office Commission, according to a report on the Lisbon Treaty referendum commissioned by Minister for the Environment John Gormley.

The standards commission said it wrote to Libertas regarding the provision of loans to fund its referendum campaign after Libertas informed the commission of a loan provided by its founder, Declan Ganley.

The commission asked whether other loans had been provided to fund the campaign. “At the time of writing this report, and despite a number of written and telephone reminders to Libertas, it has failed to provide the required information to the standards commission,” the report said.

Recommending ways to improve electoral legislation, the report proposed that failure to co-operate with inquiries “should constitute an offence”.

It also said political parties and “third parties” should be required to disclose details of expenditure on referendum campaigns. Individuals or groups, other than registered political parties or candidates at an election, which accept political donations exceeding €126.97, must register with the commission as “third parties”.

The commission said media reports prompted it to check that Libertas was complying with legislation regarding the opening and maintenance of a political donations account, as well as the non-acceptance of prohibited donations. It wrote to Libertas on June 19th, 2008, requesting details of any loans provided to it from a financial institution or other person for the purposes of funding its referendum campaign.

The report said Mr Ganley replied on August 13th, 2008, confirming that Libertas had received a personal loan from him “in respect of which a detailed legal agreement and repayment plan in accordance with commercial lending norms” had been agreed.

The commission wrote to Mr Ganley again on August 22nd, 2008, requesting a copy of the legal agreement and repayment plan for the loan made to Libertas.

“In spite of subsequent correspondence with Mr Ganley and his legal representatives, the information requested by the standards commission has not been provided by Libertas at the time of writing this report.” The commission also made inquiries about employees of Mr Ganley’s communications technology company, Rivada Networks. “It was suggested that persons employed by Rivada may have been paid by that company while working for Libertas on its referendum campaign,” the report said.

The commission said if that was the case it could be regarded as a donation to Libertas from Rivada. “If the total value of the services provided exceeded €6,348.69 in any year, Libertas would be required to refund the excess donation to Rivada.” Libertas confirmed that Rivada employees “who worked on the Libertas project did so in their spare time and on a voluntary basis”.

Last September the commission asked Libertas to provide further details of employees who worked on the referendum campaign. “At the time of writing this report, Libertas has not provided this information to the standards commission.”

The commission also looked into Libertas’s distribution of copies of a book, The Lisbon Treaty: the Readable Version, as part of its campaign.

“It was reported that the book ‘sells for €20’ and that 35,000 copies of the book had been given to Libertas by another organisation, the Foundation for European Democracy,” the report said.

Following an inquiry, Libertas confirmed on August 13th, 2008, that it had received a number of copies of this book from “the EU Democrats”.

Libertas said the books did not contain any political message and were distributed free of charge.

The commission wrote again to Libertas, advising that if the books were provided free when a charge normally applied and were given for the purposes of seeking to influence the outcome of the referendum, “it would be regarded as a donation to Libertas”.