David Sidoo charged in US College Bribery Scandal (Reports)

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David Sidoo charged in US College Bribery Scandal (Reports)
David Sidoo charged in US College Bribery Scandal (Reports)

Time to follow the money: David Sidoo, caught in a U.S. college bribery scandal, and SNC-Lavalin gave plenty of cash to the B.C. Liberals.
David Sidoo, the wealthy Vancouver businessman caught up in the U.S college-bribery scandal, is a deep-pocketed and generous backer of the B.C. Liberal Party.

The millionaire football-player-turned-entrepreneur gave some big donations to the Liberals back when Gordon Campbell was premier, including a one-time $20,000 gift in 2009.

Sidoo dug deeper for the Libs after Christy Clark became Liberal leader and premier in 2011. That included a pair of eye-popping donations in 2014 and 2015 for a cool 50 grand apiece. In total, Sidoo gave more than $166,000 to the Liberals over 11 years.

Clark was on hand in 2016 when Sidoo was awarded the Order of B.C., the province’s highest civilian honour, the same year he was introduced in the legislature and showered with praise by Peter Fassbender, then the Liberal education minister. The Clark government appointed Sidoo to the UBC board of governors.

Sidoo is now charged with paying US$200,000 to help students, including his two sons, to cheat on American college entrance exams. The U.S. indictment also alleges Sidoo agreed to pay someone to take a high school graduation exam for his oldest son, sparking an internal probe by St. George’s, an elite private Vancouver prep school.

Sidoo’s plight, and his well-known Liberal connections, were surely not lost on NDP Premier John Horgan on Wednesday when he was asked about the scandal.

“Mr. Sidoo, of course, is innocent until found guilty in court,” Horgan said. “Media assertions certainly don’t look good for him and a range of other luminaries — wealthy individuals who may have used their position in society to advance their children’s ends.”

Asked if the government would take back Sidoo’s Order of B.C. medal — something that’s never been done over the 30-year history of the award — Horgan answered: “I don’t feel any responsibility to do anything other than let due process run its course.”

But Horgan doesn’t need to take back Sidoo’s medal for the NDP to reap political benefits from this one. On social media, NDP supporters and spin-doctors are eagerly following the money in the case, as well as the SNC-Lavalin scandal that has engulfed Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government in Ottawa.

Clark has been publicly defending Trudeau in the SNC-Lavalin affair, suggesting the prime minister was right to remove Vancouver MP Jody Wilson-Raybould as attorney-general after she refused to give the Liberal-connected firm a prosecution deferral on criminal corruption charges.

“If you’re talking about 9,000 jobs, and the attorney-general is refusing to save them, I think that’s a pretty good argument to move the attorney-general and find somebody who wants to support a growing economy,” Clark told CBC.

Between 2005 and 2013 SNC-Lavalin and former company chairman Gwyn Morgan donated nearly $200,000 to the B.C. Liberals. Morgan was the head of Clark’s transition team when she won the Liberal leadership and became premier in 2011.

The Horgan government banned corporate and union donations to political parties in 2017, and capped individual donations at $1,225 a year, though watchdog groups say there are still loopholes.

“The individual donation limit is too high,” said Duff Conacher of Democracy Watch, warning businesses and unions could still funnel multiple donations through their executives and employees. “It allows wealthy people to continue to use money as an unethical way to influence politicians and parties.”

But I think the NDP will be willing to live with those complaints, while happily pointing to Liberal financial ties to sensational scandals dominating the headlines.

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