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Democracy Watch fears Wright-Duffy investigation will produce no results

The citizens' advocacy group Democracy Watch released details today about what it considers failures in the Senate scandal investigation.

In a press release, Democracy Watch claimed Nigel Wright and Mike Duffy should have been found guilty by the ethics commissioner and Senate ethics officer, calling them "lapdogs" rather than watchdogs.

The coordinator for Democracy Watch, Tyler Sommers, took aim at federal Ethics Commissioner Mary Dawson saying she "dragged her heels and delayed her investigation" when there was evidence Stephen Harper's former chief-of-staff Nigel Wright had violated the Conflict of Interest Act for making a secret $90,000 payment to Senator Duffy.

Dawson suspended the inquiry yesterday because the RCMP chose to investigate the issue. Now she will have to wait until the RCMP completes its investigation before deciding whether or not to continue her actions against Wright. "The law states that if the RCMP is investigating a situation she is looking into, she must suspend the investigation," Sommers told The Tyee.

"Wright made a decision related to his exercising of power that he knew would place him into a conflict of interest because it furthered Senator Duffy's private interest," said Sommers.

Sommers didn't express much optimism about the RCMP investigation outcome. "There are questions about the RCMP independence in this case," he said. "We will be watching very closely."

At the same time, Sommers noted that the legal framework is different for the senate ethics officer. He critiqued Senate Ethics Officer Lyse Ricard for also suspending her investigation against Senator Duffy. "She may suspend the investigation if the RCMP is looking into, but she doesn't have to necessarily," said Sommers.

"The only money that a Senator can get is the compensation they normally get for their payments, their benefits for being a Senator and the regular hospitality that they receive for traveling and attending events," Sommers said. "None of these was Senator Duffy's case."

"I have been calling her [Ricard] to immediately resume her investigation and to make the decision as soon as possible," concluded Sommers.

Sebastian Salamanca is completing a practicum at The Tyee.

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