Schreiber affair hurts reputation of all politicians

Former PM's explanation rings hollow with some people

L'affaire Mulroney-Schreiber

With a special inquiry on the way and the Commons ethics committee asking to hear from Brian Mulroney and Karlheinz Schreiber pronto, doing damage control on this story is now Mission Impossible.
Oil just keeps getting spilled on this fire. On Wednesday, Mulroney spokesman Luc Lavoie went from having called Schreiber "the biggest f--- g liar the world has ever seen" to saying Mulroney made a "colossal mistake" when he took $300,000 in cash from Schreiber in 1993-1994.
Sadly for Mulroney, the admission came too late. His colossal mistake wasn't only in taking the money, it was in denying for years that he'd taken any money or had any dealings with the German lobbyist Schreiber, who worked for Airbus and other companies.

His denials got him a $2.1-million settlement and an apology from the Liberal government with Jean Chrétien now saying that if he'd known about the $300,000, no payment would have been made.
In answering why Mulroney had taken the cash, Lavoie said that as Mulroney was about to leave office in 1993, he "was not a rich man." He was "the head of a young family with certain lifestyle expectations." "So the man kind of - I wouldn't say anguished - but worried about how the future would unfold." Come on.
Worried? So this is what justified a former prime minister taking $300,000 in cash? Does worrying justify doing what Mulroney must have known was ethically wrong since he spent years denying it?
If Mulroney had been so worried at the time, why did he buy a mansion in Westmount for $1,675,000 with planned renovations of well more than $500,000? Was that the behaviour of someone who worried about his future income?
But beyond the denials, the belated admission, the strange explanation for it or the question of whether he worked for the money, most troubling is the fact that Mulroney would have taken the first $100,000 in cash while he was still an MP.
How can an MP risk jeopardizing the integrity of his role as an elected representative by taking cash from anyone, anywhere, regardless of the amount or his financial situation, real or perceived?
Moreover, if Mulroney hadn't been a former prime minister, if he hadn't had contacts with Schreiber for more than a decade and perhaps if his government hadn't given Schreiber's client, Airbus, a $1.8- billion contract, would this money have been given to Mulroney? By getting this money in cash, without declaring it as income until years later, did Mulroney benefit from his former title while he was still an MP?
Everyone is innocent until proven guilty. But now that the passing of the money in cash is an established fact, questions need to be answered. Trying to keep up a posh standard of living doesn't sound like an acceptable explanation. Even if Mulroney had felt financially insecure, how could this justify taking money from Schreiber?
Santa Claus Schreiber said he distributed about $10 million across Canada from Airbus in so-called grease money to get politicians and well-connected people to help his client get lucrative government contracts. Perhaps unbeknownst to Mulroney at the time, his $300,000 in cash appears to have come from a Swiss bank account in which Schreiber deposited part of that grease money.
On the CBC's Fifth Estate, Schreiber said that he gave a lot of money to a lot of people in Canada. Wanted on fraud and corruption charges in Germany, it wouldn't be a big surprise. So the question becomes: Where did the other $9.7 million of that Airbus money go?
There's no getting away from it. The Mulroney-Schreiber affair, like the sponsorship scandal, stands to further damage the image of Canada's politicians. And the price will be paid with more voters losing confidence in them.
It's a sad predicament for democracy in this country and for all those politicians who are honest men and women.
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