17 July 2006

The Mile One Foundation?

Did anyone else find it strange that the Premier's Office was taking questions about the operation of a private charitable foundation?

There doesn't seem to have been any effort to direct questions about the operation of the Williams Family Foundation, Inc. (WFF) to the foundation itself or its lawyers.

Nope. The Independent got comment directly from the Premier's Office.

We'll be posting more on later on the idea of a serving first minister being so intimately connected to a charitable gift-making organization.

For now, let's just note that The Independent missed a bunch of relevent information:

1. The registry of companies records that the WFF started life as the Mile One Foundation.

2. The Indy also didn't take issue with the official spokesperson's comment that the WFF couldn't receive donations until 2003 once its charitable status was approved. That isn't strictly true.

The WFF could have taken donations at any point after it was incorporated in 2000. It just couldn't issue tax receipts until its charitable registration was approved by Canada Revenue Agency. It looks like the Williams family waited until it could get tax receipts before it started using the WFF.

3. The Indy also missed the slight discrepancy between the spokeperson's insistance that, in addition to the registered charities reported, the WFF gave money "...to individuals and familes in need who are not registered charitable organizations" and the gift apparently made by the WFF to a school science group in Harbour Grace - apparently in 2003/04.

4. The Indy didn't notice either that the WFF apparently has no assets and exists purely based on the donations it receives from unspecified sources. In 2004 - the last reporting year available from Canada Revenue Agency - donations into the WFF totalled $110, 000.

5. Related to that, the question still remains as to where the Premier's salary goes. All along he has insisted it goes to charity. If so, where does it go and how does it get there? no matter how you slice it, $110, 000 in 2004 doesn't appear to be the right number if it represents the Premier's salary.

6. The Indy did note that in the CRA filing the WFF reported for 2004 over $66, 000 in donations to "qualified donnees", that is other entities with charitable status, yet its list of "qualified donnees" amounted to only one third of that amount. But they just mention it in passing without raising the question as to why the filing is out of whack.

There's no indication the list is a sample. The previous year's filing has the two amounts matching. Check another similar foundation, like say the Johnson Family Foundation, and the numbers all match.

Most likely the discrepancy is an oversight, but still, it's worth asking.

7. The one thing that was unmistakeable from the Indy's coverage though, was that Danny Williams hated - viscerally loathed - having to answer any questions about the WFF whatsoever.

That's too bad, really, because the disclosure of accurate information helps to fight the twisting of facts and misrepresentation the Premier was correct to criticize last week.

But when disclosure is accompanied by so much protest, it just fuels suspicion that something inappropriate is being done even where none may be warranted.

And when the Premier speaks publicly on behalf of an organization that he is not officially supposed to be speaking for - he isn't a registered director - then it just fuels more suspicion and speculation.

Which of course only survivies because of the limited amount of information the Premier grudgingly provided.