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Kinsella Was Paid to Lobby Les, Executive Says

Patrick Kinsella, chair of BC Liberal election campaigns, has denied lobbying and is not registered.

By Sean Holman 2 Oct 2008 | TheTyee.ca

Sean Holman is legislative reporter for 24 Hours Vancouver where a version of this story appears this morning. Holman also publishes and edits the Public Eye Online blog on BC politics.

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Patrick Kinsella.

A national payday loan company executive says the provincial Liberals' most powerful backroom boy did lobbying work for his firm. But Patrick Kinsella has never registered as a lobbyist for that company -- or any other.

Kinsella -- who co-chaired the Liberals' election campaigns in 2001 and 2005 -- hasn't returned repeated requests for comment. In the past, he has denied ever lobbying the government he was instrumental in electing.

But, in an interview, Cash Store Financial Services Inc. senior vice president and corporate secretary Michael Thompson said Kinsella worked for his company in the "spring of 2007."

"He doesn't work for us anymore. He was just basically bringing [then solicitor general John Les] up to speed on what our position was with respect to the regulation of payday loans in the province of British Columbia," he explained. Asked if that was lobbying work for Cash Store Financial, Thompson said, "Correct."

Indeed, according to records exclusively obtained via a freedom of information request, Kinsella was scheduled to meet with Les for 45 minutes on May 2, 2007 -- two weeks after the then solicitor general introduced a bill to regulate payday lenders. The record of that scheduled meeting includes the notation "Payday lenders."

Under the Lobbyists Registration Act, consultant lobbyists are required to sign-up if, for pay, they communicate with a public office holder in an attempt to influence government or arrange a meeting with an office holder and another "person." But lobbyists don't have to register if they communicate about legislation or regulations in "direct response" to a "written request" from an office holder.

Kinsella 'helped set up meeting' with minister: lending exec believes

At the time Les introduced the Business Practices and Consumer Protection (Payday Loans) Amendment Act, the government promised to consult with consumer and business representatives. And, in December 2007 -- a month after the bill was given royal assent and seven months after Kinsella's scheduled meeting -- the government released a consultation paper requesting comment from those representatives.

Asked whether Cash Store Financial was communicating with government pro-actively or in response to a request, Thompson said, "Proactive." The senior vice president also said he believes Kinsella "helped to setup one meeting between ourselves and the minister's office."

At the time the act came into force, then attorney general Geoff Plant said the registry was "central" to the Liberals' "New Era commitment to openness, accountability and transparency" because it would "allow the public to find out who is being paid to influence MLAs and government staff, who they are lobbying, and the issues they are raising."

'I don't consider myself a lobbyist': Kinsella

Kinsella, whose companies have contributed $67,620 to the Liberals since 2005, has never registered as a lobbyist for any client. In a 2004 interview, he said, "I don't consider myself a lobbyist. I hold myself up as a communications consultant. I don't do any lobbying. They don't need me to pick up a phone and talk to the government or any members of the provincial government. I make it very clear to my clients that I don't do that."

When asked directly whether he ever talks about his clients with cabinet ministers and their staffers, Kinsella said, "Absolutely not. That's an understanding that I have... I suspect there's no one in government who would say they've ever been lobbied by me."

Kinsella, his 25-year-old firm The Progressive Group, its president Mark Jiles and Jiles' own sports marketing company, Bluestone Ltd., have been under review by the lobbyists registrar since June.

The New Democrats requested that review after 24 hours exclusively obtained a May 2006 contract between the Washington State and The Progressive Group in which the firm committed to "facilitate opportunities for Washington State to develop important relationships" with "key individuals within target business, political and Olympic circles" -- including cabinet ministers and senior bureaucrats.

In a written statement, Jiles -- who first registered as a lobbyist in December 2007 -- said Progressive is "confident it has consistently and correctly followed the requirements of the Act," registering "each and every" time it communicates with public office holders on behalf of clients.

Progressive's busy docket

According to other records from Washington State, as well as e-mails and calendar entries obtained from the provincial government during a five month investigation by 24 hours:

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