PC ‘Invoice’ fundraising campaign causes confusion and anger

Update (Thursday, Aug. 19, 2021)

Vincent O’Connell, of Belleville, emailed his Conservative MPP Todd Smith, Bay of Quinte, at his address [email protected] expressing concern over the invoice mail out. However, the response he received was not what he expected and was not from Smith, O’Connell said.

“Our office is not political” and “I can advise that the fundraising initiative is not a local one and appears to be a party-led matter. As such we suggest that you contact the party directly at https://ontariopc.ca/contact/ / / 1-800-903-6453.” The email is signed by Jennifer Kyte, Director of Constituent Services for MPP Todd Smith, despite the initial email being sent to Smith himself.

In 2011, Smith was nominated to run as the Progressive Conservative candidate provincially.  While in opposition, Smith served the Prince Edward-Hastings riding for seven years.  He served as the PC critic on several files. In June 2018, Smith was elected in the new Bay of Quinte riding as part of a Progressive Conservative majority government. Premier Doug Ford named him Government House Leader and Minister of Government and Consumer Services in June.  In November, he was named Minister of Economic Development, Job Creation, and Trade while remaining Government House Leader.   From June 20, 2019, to June 18, 2021, he sat as Minister of Children, Community and Social Services.  Currently, Smith is Ontario’s Minister of Energy.

Kingstonist will continue to follow this story as it develops.

Original article:

Local residents are among those who received an unexpected invoice in the mail from the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario.

An envelope a local man received in the mail advising him of the IMPORTANT: INVOICE ENCLOSED. Photo submitted.

Greg Gies from Elginburg received an unexpected invoice from the Progressive Conservative (PC) Party when he checked his mail on Tuesday, Aug. 17, 2021.

“It was a solicitation for political donation to the Ontario PCs and the envelope was marked ‘IMPORTANT: INVOICE ENCLOSED,’ and you open it up and it was an invoice for $800,” said Gies.   

On the second page of the invoice, he said, “was a fundraising letter from Tony Miele [Chair of PC Ontario Fund] saying they need to raise money, prepare for an election at any time, and fill the war chest, type of thing.”

Gies said he has sent donations to the provincial PCs in the past, however, “I probably haven’t sent them any money for 10 years, but I still regularly get solicitations for donations.” He also said has seen other people online saying they, too, received an invoice, and “what’s interesting is they’re soliciting for different amounts, I don’t know what that’s based on.”

In fact, on Twitter, there are many Ontarians expressing dismay, saying they received invoices for between $300 and $1,000. Others are expressing concerns that the elderly and other possibly vulnerable former PC supporters may be confused. Gies, a financial and estate planner, agreed that this is not a funny gimmick, but that instead it “borders on fraud or even extortion,” and that there is “certainly a possibility” that some vulnerable people may be confused by the messaging.

“The tone of the letter and everything else,” said Gies, “is very much like Republican fundraising. I think it appears there’s an encroachment of American-style political fundraising with the Ontario Progressive Conservatives based on the way the whole thing was formatted and presented. So, that’s worrisome.”

Kingstonist reached out to the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party for comment but had not received response by time of publication.

An attempt to reach out to MPP Daryl Kramp of Hastings-Lennox & Addingonton was met  with an explanation by his representative, who said, “We’re entirely different than and don’t have anything to do with the party, but I would love to take your name and phone number and I can pass it forward to the party.”

MPP Kramp is, in fact, a member of the Ontario PC Party, and has been affiliated with the party since 2018, according to the Ontario Government. Prior to that, Kramp served as a Conservative MP for Prince Edward-Hastings from 2004 to 2015.

Invoice received by Gies, which indicates a “balance due.” Photo Submitted.
The letter that was enclosed with Gies’s “Invoice.” Photo submitted.

The letter enclosed with the invoice reads:

“Winning an election demands an enormous effort. Thousands of campaign workers and volunteers must be mobilized. You need a great around game to get out the vote. Of course [sic] you also need the right candidate for the times, armed with the right policies. You could have all those factors working for you and yet still lose an election if you haven’t run a successful fundraising campaign. You can’t win an election today without a well-stocked campaign war-chest.

That’s why we have included an invoice to help you easily donate to our Election Readiness Fund.

To win a provincial election in Ontario, we estimate you need at least $500,000 for advertising and the campaign organization. The easiest way to help us hit that goal is to pay the enclosed invoice to our Election Readiness Fund.”

It goes on to say:

The bottom line is you don’t win elections without a well-stocked campaign war-chest. Doug Ford and your Ontario PC team rely on your generous donations to our Election Readiness Fund in preparation for the coming 2022 provincial election. We have the best leader, the best organization and the best candidates. Please fill out the included Invoice and help ensure we have the resources needed to run a winning campaign.

The letter includes several different phrases regarding the payment of the “invoice,” such as “Help our OPC team prepare by paying the enclosed invoice today,” and “PLEASE PAY THE ENCLOSED INVOICE TO SEND DOUG FORD THE CLEAR MESSAGE THAT WE’VE GOT HIS BACK,” and is signed “Yours Truly, Tony Miele, Chair, PC Ontario Fund.”

In a statement to the media, the Ontario Liberals said they will be “formally requesting an immediate investigation by Elections Ontario and the Ontario Provincial Police’s Anti-Racket/Anti-Fraud Branch, in coordination with the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre, into the apparent scam.”

They contend that “the misleading document, which includes the word ‘invoice’ in large text at the top, is similar to those used in ‘false billing scams’ that aim to defraud vulnerable individuals. Scamming donors is straight out of the Donald Trump playbook.”

“People are already struggling financially thanks to the pandemic. The Conservatives’ apparent attempt to potentially scam vulnerable people out of what little money they have left is despicable,” said Ontario Liberal Party President Brian Johns.

“The Conservatives need to stop this manipulative scam now,” he demanded. “ I’m also calling on them to do the right thing and return any money they may have already received through this tactic to the Ontarians who worked hard to earn it.”

“Seniors and newcomers can be especially vulnerable to fraud,”Johns continued. “They need to know that these invoices are fake and that they do not have to pay. How many entrepreneurs, reeling from lengthy lockdowns, have received these fake invoices? That’s why Ontario Liberals are requesting an investigation.”

The Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre defines a false billing scam as “Receipt of an unsolicited invoice and demand for payment, where no product or service was requested.”

Consumer Protection Ontario advises that to report a fraud or scam, Ontarians should contact local police and the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre.

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