Wednesday, February 13, 2019

... and now, we wait.

I will keep this brief ... the appeal of the s. 137.1 anti-SLAPP ruling against me versus Ezra Levant happened yesterday. I am sufficiently pleased with how it went; the court reserved judgment so now we wait for the ruling.

Until that happens, as Forrest Gump would say, "And that's all I have to say about that."

Thursday, January 31, 2019

You keep using that word "anonymity" ...

While I wait for the tea to brew, I can throw out another, short episode related to my upcoming s. 137.1 appeal against Rebel Media's Ezra Levant, and this relates to a head-scratchingly bizarre submission in the Responding Party's recent factum.

One of the more significant issues to be addressed at the upcoming appeal is whether, under the Ontario Libel and Slander Act (LSA), I was entitled to a Notice of Libel within the mandated six weeks that the LSA requires given that I was posting on Twitter. In other words, the question being asked is, "Is public expression on Twitter covered by the LSA"?

I'm not going to get into the nuances of that here, but in arguing that Twitterers are not entitled to a Notice of Libel, the Responding Party makes a very weird argument. I will present it via screenshots since, if I reproduced it manually, you would swear I was pulling your leg.

In arguing that the LSA does not apply to Twitter, the Responding Party suggests, well, I'll just let you read the opening paragraph of that argument, because trying to summarize it could not possibly do it justice:


If I read this correctly, Ezra is suggesting that he had no obligation to serve me with a Notice of Libel because of ... a Twitter user's potential anonymity.

Pause.

I will admit that this is a rather novel argument, and clearly applies to me because of my nefarious, closely-guarded, secret identity, oh, wait ...

Further pause for muffled laughter.

Not knowing when to quit, Ezra (or his lawyer, it's not clear who conjured up this novel argument), continues:


"... whose identity ... can be readily ascertained." You mean by, oh, I don't know, asking Google? You mean like that?

In any event, having beaten that argument senseless, Ezra sums it all up:


In short, Ezra's argument seems to be that he had no obligation to serve me with a Notice of Libel since ... he had no idea who I was.

I won't bother pointing out that my true name has been public knowledge for, oh, a decade.

I won't bother pointing out that, having failed to serve me with a Notice of Libel because of my alleged anonymity, Ezra's lawyer delivered the subsequent Statement of Claim to me at my real-life e-mail address.

I won't bother pointing out that, for someone who claims he had no idea who I was, Ezra seemed to have every idea who I was, given:


and:


and:


and:


and:


and:


and:


I'm just saying that, when it comes to knowing who I was, Ezra seemed to have a pretty good handle on the situation, so we'll see how well that argument flies at the Court of Appeal.

P.S. It's worth noting that this is the very first time this argument has appeared in any pleadings in this case, so it remains to be seen how the CoA enjoys getting sandbagged with an argument never argued before in lower court.

I hear they really enjoy that sort of thing, but I could be wrong.

Yeah, about that "matching" ... (Part Deux)

A followup to my previous post, wherein I believe I established conclusively that, despite Rebel Media's Ezra Levant's public assurances that all donations to his May 2016 hubris-driven boutique Indiegogo fundraiser page would be matched both federally and provincially when turned over to the Red Cross:


Ezra did, in fact, come up way, way, way short in handing over those donations by the hard matching deadline of May, 2016, as confirmed in this Jan 2017 e-mail from the Red Cross' Sue Larkin:


that is, $60,921 short, meaning that that amount failed to be matched both federally and provincially, depriving the Red Cross of double that amount, or $121,842. (Having used Indiegogo rather than encouraging his followers to donate directly to the Red Cross lost an additional 5 per cent of all donations to Indiegogo's processing fee but, at this point, that 5 per cent loss is insignificant compared to the loss of well over $100,000 due to Ezra's failure to get that money to the Red Cross in time. But ... onward.)

What is curious, as I pointed out last time, is that, having assured everyone for the entire month of May that matching would happen, neither Ezra nor anyone else at Rebel Media responded to pointed criticism and questioning from numerous people, asking quite specifically how that matching could possibly happen, given Indiegogo's time requirements on when you can withdraw your collected funds. Having assured everyone on May 6, 2016 that this would happen, neither Ezra nor any other Rebel staffers had a further word to say about this, until this puzzling tweet from Ezra on June 1, 2016, the day after the matching deadline:


Out of nowhere, Ezra is finally announcing that he has gotten around the Indiegogo withdrawal restrictions by using some unknown "financing" that allowed him to transfer funds by the deadline of the previous day, which inspires a number of questions and observations.

The first obvious observation is that Ezra is clearly (and finally) admitting what everyone had been telling him throughout the month of May -- that it was impossible for him to withdraw the Indiegogo money in time for matching. Let's be clear -- with that tweet, Ezra is conceding what everyone on social media had been saying that whole time, something he refused to acknowledge for that entire month, even as everyone was saying it. In short, Ezra was admitting that he was wrong and everyone else was right. But there's more (as there always is).

Note also (as I mentioned last time) how Ezra very carefully does not claim that all funds collected were matched by his mysterious financing; rather, he soft-pedals his claim and describes only how his mysterious financing allowed him to make "a" payment which, as I demonstrated last time and as you can see above, was only $96,000, a massive shortfall from the amount of $162,476 that was in the Indiegogo account, and here's what's so amusing about that shortfall.

To the best of my knowledge, at no time before, during or after his fundraiser, to this day, am I aware that Ezra has ever publicly admitted the precise and horrifying size of that shortfall. I have searched hither and yon and, while perhaps I missed it, I have never, ever found any public acknowledgement by Ezra Levant as to how much he cost the Red Cross in terms of federal and provincial matching money. Never. Rather, if one searches, one finds only vague references that admit to a shortfall of some kind, if an admission exists at all.

For example, here's a snippet from a June 16, 2016 Rebel Media web page wherein Ezra clearly admits to a shortfall of some kind but, astonishingly, tries to spin the fact that some money was handed over in time as some weird reason for celebration:


Even more hilariously, here's an August 13, 2016 tweet from Ezra, wherein he thanks the Red Cross for its assistance with "gov't matching funds", with no hint whatsoever of the massive shortfall he was responsible for:


Even Ezra's June 7, 2016 Statement of Claim to me refuses to be specific about this, stating only:


It is something to behold -- even while suing me, Ezra can't bring himself to admit to the actual amount he handed over, choosing to describe it only as a "majority." As I said, to this day, I am unaware that Ezra Levant has ever quantified the loss of matching funds he was personally responsible for, but there's one more point worth examining.

Given that Ezra admitted that he managed to transfer $96,000 in time for matching due to some mysterious "financing" that he worked out, the obvious question is -- what kind of "financing" did Ezra use and, if he had the ability to front the money, why did he stop at $96,000 and not front the entire $162,476? So let me provide the answer to that in the form a series of e-mails between Rebel Media and the Red Cross in the final hours of May 31, 2016, as Ezra realizes he needs to get that money moved before the end of the day for matching to happen.

11:43 AM: Rebel's Eitan Gilboord e-mails the Red Cross' Matthew Auld, trying to confirm that everything is in place and (curiously) still seeming unsure as to whether matching will still happen:


2:06 PM: Matthew Auld replies, apparently confirming that everything is ready to go, and wondering how the transfer will take place, as time is getting short:


2:08 PM: And here's the money (screen)shot, wherein Rebel's Eitan Gilboord explains that Ezra is going to make the transfer on (God help us) his American Express card:


His American Express card.

His. American. Express. card.

The mind reels, as some things perhaps become clear. With Ezra bragging about how he used "financing" to transfer some of the money in time for matching, it's natural to wonder why he didn't just finance the entire amount to salvage the situation, and one is left only to speculate that even American Express has its limits as to how much money they're willing to allow Ezra to drop on his card at one time.

This is, of course, all speculation, but given the PR nightmare that would naturally ensue if/when it came out how much money Ezra had cost the Red Cross in matching funds, one can only wonder why Ezra didn't mortgage heaven and earth to somehow come up with the full amount. But the fact that Ezra dropped $96K on his AmEx card inspires one more question, which is -- how many bonus air miles did Ezra collect for a transaction of that size?

I have no idea how AmEx cards work, or what type Ezra had at the time, but most credit cards have programs that give you bonuses of some kind based on your transactions, and one can only ponder what Ezra might have received in personal perks in exchange for a transaction of $96,000. One can only speculate.

P.S. Apropos of nothing, I'm going to once again remind everyone that, after having established conclusively and inarguably that Ezra Levant came up way, way, way short in turning over funds to be matched, it's worth revisiting my October 2016 questioning for discovery, wherein Ezra's lawyer tried to bullshit me by claiming that all money had "ultimately" been matched:


This claim is, of course, absolute nonsense, and is totally and utterly contradicted by the subsequent Jan 2017 e-mail I received from the Red Cross' Sue Larkin, which makes it absolutely clear what the final numbers were:


And in a contest of credibilities between Ezra's lawyer and the Red Cross' Susan Larkin, I'm going with Larkin. I just thought you needed to know that.

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

You keep using that word "matched" ... I do not think it means what you think it means.

As my last major post in this series related to my upcoming February 12 anti-SLAPP appeal against Ezra Levant, I'm going to describe what was easily the most misleading, deceptive and expensive aspect of Ezra's 2016 Indiegogo fundraiser for the Red Cross, and that was Ezra's unambiguous assurance that all donations to his Indiegogo fundraiser page would be properly "matched" when turned over to the Red Cross. And to understand what that means, we need to review the general timeline of the Fort McMurray fire, for reasons that will become excruciatingly obvious in short order.

It was on May 1, 2016 (according to Wikipedia) that the Fort Mac fire started, at which time the Red Cross swung into action and began soliciting donations specifically for Fort Mac fire relief. The Red Cross was suitably prepared for situations like this, already having a reliable and established online donation infrastructure, which guaranteed a number of things regarding donations:
  • donations made through the Red Cross' online donation portal were immediately available to the Red Cross (unlike with fundraisers such as Indiegogo),
  • the RC's online portal (unlike fundraisers such as Indiegogo) did not charge a processing fee, and
  • money donated through that online portal was timestamped as having been received by the Red Cross at the time of the donation.
That third point might not seem like a big deal right now; it will be soon.

In other words, given all of the above advantages of the Red Cross' online donation infrastructure, donating that way directly to the Red Cross was the obvious and most cost-effective strategy, so it's no surprise that Rebel Media's Ezra Levant ignored it completely and did something else.

Rather than encourage his followers to donate as above, Ezra chose instead, on or about May 3, 2016, to (without the Red Cross' knowledge or permission, as I have previously explained) register a separate Indiegogo fundraising page, ostensibly for Red Cross Fort Mac assistance, with the public assurance that all donations would be turned over to the Red Cross at the conclusion of the fundraiser. I have already pointed out how Ezra's assurance of "100%" turned over turned out to be misleading, but that issue is small potatoes compared to the dumpster fire that was the subsequent matching issue, so let's continue with the timeline.

Perhaps surprisingly, that Rebel Media fundraiser was immediately successful, as only three days later on May 6, 2016, Rebel's Sheila Gunn Reid gloated online about how Rebel's Indiegogo page had already brought in $140,000:


And that is when the sky fell in on Ezra, as it was on that very day (or possibly late the night before) that both the federal and Alberta provincial governments announced their program for "matching" donations to the Red Cross, and it was the details of that matching program which caused Ezra's sky to fall.

The details of that matching program can be read here, but this screenshot isolates the only two features of that program that matter here:


those two features being:
  • both the federal and Alberta provincial governments were going to match all donations, thereby fully tripling the value of everyone's donation, and
  • the matching program had an absolutely hard deadline of May 31, 2016 -- any donations made after that date would, of course, be received by the Red Cross, but they would not be matched and thereby tripled in value.
and it was at that point that one can imagine Ezra Levant realizing what a PR nightmare he had on his hands.

Having chosen to effectively compete against the Red Cross for donations for Fort Mac, and having chosen to register his fundraising page with Indiegogo, Ezra was now utterly screwed since one of the inviolable rules regarding Indiegogo fundraisers is that you cannot -- absolutely cannot -- withdraw any of the money deposited until well after the fundraiser has officially ended.

Here, let me prove that with a screenshot from Indiegogo's web site:


Note well how Indiegogo is absolutely adamant that you don't get any of your collected funds until around 15 business days (three weeks) after the official end of the fundraiser. And since Ezra had registered his Indiegogo page on May 3, and had selected a 30-day fundraiser, I believe you can understand Ezra's mounting panic -- regardless of how much money he raised in the month of May, 2016, there was absolutely zero chance of getting that money to the Red Cross by the hard deadline of May 31 to be matched. Quite simply, Ezra had totally and utterly screwed his donors out of the possibility of having their contributions tripled in value. But, as always, it gets worse.

Since Ezra's fundraiser was only three days old, a trivial solution would have been to simply shut it down, take the hit for three days worth of donations, and frantically tell everyone to go straight to the Red Cross, to guarantee that matching would happen for donations for the rest of the month. That might have been a plan, except for this:


That would be Rebel Media's Sheila Gunn Reid, bragging on May 6 about having already pulled in "140k".

Whoopsie.

I'm sure you now understand's Ezra's dilemma -- having refused to work through the Red Cross but instead deciding to register his own boutique Indiegogo fundraiser page, Ezra had already hoovered up around $140K in donations, not a single dime of which he could withdraw from his Indiegogo page and transfer to the Red Cross in time to be matched.

Think long and hard about that -- Ezra is now sitting on $140K which, if it had instead been donated to the Red Cross directly, would have magically turned into triple that, or $420K; instead, that money is now going to sit quietly in Ezra's Indiegogo fundraiser page until well into June, at which time, when Ezra transfers it, it will be nothing but the original $140K (and whatever comes in after that). Buh bye, at least $280K in matching federal and provincial funds.

Lest you think I exaggerate, many, many people on social media immediately excoriated Ezra for having screwed his donors this way, but Ezra had a very curious comeback -- he simply insisted that matching would still happen:


without explaining how that could possibly happen, and then he never mentioned it for the rest of the month of May, ignoring all questions about this on social media.

Oh, and lest anyone think Ezra might have misspoke, here's ex-Rebeler Faith Goldy making the same implausible public promise a couple days later:


So that's two people from Rebel Media assuring the public that all donations to Ezra's fundraiser will be matched, with no conceivable explanation as to how that would be possible, whereupon we jump ahead to June 1, 2016, almost at the end of Ezra's fundraiser, to read the following utterly jaw-dropping tweet in which Ezra, having ignored everyone else for the entire month of May, thinks it's critically important to address me personally with the following incredible explanation:


Now, take your time to really and truly appreciate what Ezra Levant, for the first time anywhere, is now explaining to not just me but the world at large -- he is, for the first time, acknowledging that everyone has been right this whole time about him not being able to withdraw the money from Indiegogo in time for matching and is, again for the first time, claiming that matching will still happen because he used some mysterious "financing" to front the money to get it in before the deadline.

Huh.

Except that's not quite what that tweet says, is it? What it says is that, using his mysterious financing, Ezra was able to make "a" payment -- not a payment matching the full amount in the Indiegogo page (which at that time was up to $162,476), but only "a" payment, which certainly leaves one to wonder, how much, which Ezra does not reveal. Because if Ezra was unable to front the entire contents of the Indiegogo page, he would still be depriving the Red Cross of the matched amount of whatever he was unable to transfer by May 31, an amount he does not in fact reveal in that tweet.

CRITICALLY IMPORTANT SIDE NOTE: Note well that Ezra's tweet above is dated June 1, 2016, whereas the hard deadline for donations to be received by the Red Cross in time to be matched was the day before, May 31. What this means is that, when Ezra published that tweet, he absolutely knew how much he had been able to finance and transfer before the end of the previous day. Also, note well that, once the deadline of May 31 had passed, there was no way to ever retroactively get money to the Red Cross that could be matched. Put another way, if you did not get money to the Red Cross by May 31, there was absolutely no way to somehow make up for that later; no way to say that "hey, we eventually got it all matched afterwards." You'll see why this matters shortly.

Resuming our narrative, we have the above June 1, 2016 tweet by Ezra, for the first time claiming that matching was accomplished by some unknown financing which managed to transfer some unknown amount in time to be matched, and that's where it ends, which would be ultimately unsatisfying, except that only a few days later, on June 7, is when Ezra decided to sue me for defamation for claiming, among other things, that donations to his Indiegogo fundraiser would not be matched, which required Ezra to (among other things) address that accusation in his Statement of Claim, which he did thusly:


Once again, make sure you understand what Ezra has written in his own June 7 Statement of Claim above -- after assuring everyone publicly way back on May 6 that all donations to his Indiegogo page would be matched:


Ezra is now suing me, in part, for saying that donations to his fundraiser would not be matched, even as he clearly admits in his own Statement of Claim that, even fronting the money himself, he failed to deliver all the donations, while still not admitting how much was actually sent, only that it was a "majority."

Make sure you appreciate the significance of all of this. Every dollar received by the Red Cross by the matching deadline would have been matched by both the federal and Alberta provincial governments, and thereby tripled in value. Consequently, every dollar collected that Ezra failed to deliver by that deadline would not have been matched, and would never be matched. Whatever money was not handed over to the Red Cross by May 31 had no chance whatsoever to be matched later, meaning that every dollar of shortfall in that transfer deprived the Red Cross of two dollars in matching funds.

So how large was the shortfall? While Ezra has never revealed it, I will put you out of your misery and reproduce a Jan 10, 2017 e-mail I received from the Red Cross' Sue Larkin, documenting, to the dollar, what was received in time for matching, and what was not:


I am going to give you time to catch your breath, as you realize that Ezra Levant was not just a wee bit short in handing over the $162,476 that was donated to his Indiegogo page ... he was massively, spectacularly, jaw-droppingly short. Larkin makes it absolutely clear that, while $96,000 was handed over in time for matching, the outstanding balance of a full $60,921 was not received until the end of June, and was therefore not matched, thereby depriving the Red Cross of double that amount, or $121,842.

$121,842.

That is how much Ezra Levant cost the Red Cross by refusing to use the Red Cross' donation infrastructure and setting up his own ego-driven Indiegogo page.

$121,842.

Lost.

Not stolen. Not skimmed. Not embezzled. Simply lost because it was not handed over in time. And just to make absolutely sure I was not misunderstanding this, I e-mailed Larkin back to ask for confirmation:


and received it:


I'm going to let you digest all of that for a minute, as you finally begin to appreciate how Ezra's ego and hubris drove him to register his own fundraiser which, in the end, wiped out well over $100,000 that could have gone to the Red Cross. (And that doesn't include the 5 per cent processing fee that Ezra inflicted on all donations that would not have been necessary, either.)

$121,842.

That kind of money could have been useful. What a shame.

P.S. While this is a side issue, it's worth noting how Ezra's lawyer, during questioning for discovery in October of 2016, tried to bullshit me completely on the subject of this matching. While, at that time, Ezra had already admitted both on Twitter and in his Statement of Claim that he had not managed to deliver all the funds for matching (so it was already established that not all donations had been matched), after a tedious discussion on the matching issue, Ezra's lawyer and I had the following brief but jaw-dropping exchange:


I answered that that would surprise me since I already knew (given Ezra's admissions) that that had not happened, so it was beyond me that Ezra's lawyer seemed utterly unaware of his own client's Twitter feed and, more embarrassingly, his own client's Statement of Claim.

One hopes he is up to speed come February 12, when he will have the opportunity to explain all this to the Court of Appeal.

When is 100% not really 100%? (Part Two)

Recall from last episode, if you will, how Rebel Media's Ezra Levant, throughout the course of his 2016 Indiegogo fundraiser for the Red Cross, made two unwavering claims:

  1. that he personally and magnanimously donated an initial $10,000 as a kickstarter, to challenge others to follow his lead, and
  2. that the full and complete "100%" of funds raised via the Indiegogo page would be turned over to the Red Cross.

As we have already seen (and as Ezra eventually admitted to in his own Statement of Claim and subsequent Reply), this did not happen; rather, having relentlessly described his initial $10,000 as a "donation" and bragging about it incessantly, Ezra admitted later that it was no such thing, and that it was in fact a slush fund out of which he covered the loss of 5 per cent of everyone else's donations, in order to (technically) continue claiming "100%". In other words, Ezra admitted that his claim of "100%" could only be true if you allowed him to no longer count his own donation.

That the above is a fact conceded by Ezra is absolutely clear from Ezra's own Statement of Claim, wherein he admits that the 100% he has been touting all this time refers to donations only "from others":


In short, what was happening was exactly and precisely what countless people on social media had been telling Ezra -- that every single donation to Ezra's fundraiser lost 5 per cent to Indiegogo's processing fee (including, hilariously, Ezra's own initial $10,000), and that his claim of "100%" turnover to the Red Cross had been false the entire time. But as embarrassing as all of this is, it is about to get worse for Ezra. Much, much worse.

First, let us remind ourselves how much was donated to Ezra's Indiegogo page, which is still viewable online as we speak:


That would be precisely $162,476 (call this $162K for brevity), and I can assure you it represents the total amount contributed by donors before the deduction of Indiegogo's processing fee. Make sure you understand this as it is crucial for what follows -- that amount (which, in fact, includes Ezra's initial $10,000 "contribution") is the amount before Indiegogo takes its 5 per cent cut, which means that, according to simple math, what would be left to turn over to the Red Cross would be 95 per cent of that amount, or $154,352.20 (let's call this $154K for brevity).

There's no magic here, it's simple math -- the Indiegogo page always displays the total inflow from donors but, when the fundraiser closes, 5 per cent of that goes to Indiegogo, while the remaining 95 per cent is available to the fundraiser. And herein lies Ezra's imminent problem.

If Ezra continually claims that "100%" of funds/donations will be turned over to the Red Cross, and interested parties are watching the Indiegogo page and watching that number rise, they might get the (mistaken) impression that it is that precise amount (in this case, $162K) that will go to the Red Cross, and not the correct final amount of $154K (after processing fee). And it would have been a simple matter to clarify that difference early in the fundraiser ... except Ezra failed to do that, and it is that failure to clarify that eventually gets Ezra in a truckload of trouble.

History shows that Ezra's fundraiser was surprisingly successful in the first couple days, bringing in over $100,000, and surpassing $160,000 not long after that, and it's here where the trouble starts.

First, here's Rebeler Sheila Gunn Reid, on May 11 (only a week into the fundraiser), bragging about having raised "160k":


I'm sure you can see the problem here. We already know that, while the final amount listed on the Indiegogo page was $162K, the amount that would be available for the Red Cross would be only $154K, so one might suggest that Sheila is being just a wee bit misleading here, especially in the context of continuing to insist that "100%" would be turned over.

And one might forgive Sheila for a slip of the keyboard, except that this error continues with both Sheila and Holly Nicholas reporting on the displayed amount on the fundraiser page:


Once again, there is no clarification that "over $160K" is simply the amount displayed on the Indiegogo page, and not the actual amount that will eventually be turned over to the Red Cross. And if there was ever any such clarification posted during (or even after) the course of the fundraiser, I am unaware of it. But that's not Ezra's problem, which is shortly about to appear.

Recall that that displayed, raised amount of $162K included Ezra's own initial donation of $10K, which means that no matter how Ezra played semantic games and redefined the English language, 5 per cent of that entire amount went to Indiegogo, leaving Ezra with only $154K to pass on, and at some point, after his own staffers crowed about having raised "over $160K", Ezra would eventually have to 'fess up to the shortfall, and that fessing up began with no fanfare on June 16, 2016, when Ezra bragged over at Rebel Media about the success of his fundraiser, but quietly back-pedaled on the amount raised:


Yes, you're reading that correctly -- after numerous assurances of "100%" turned over, and after Rebel staffers crowed about raising "over $160K", Ezra has finally been forced to acknowledge Indiegogo's processing fee, and quietly dial back the amount he claims to have raised to actually match what he was able to turn over.

In case you think that's a typo, Ezra published exactly the same, quiet back-pedaling on Rebel TV's Twitter account:


In short, having deceived donors into thinking that their entire donations would be turned over to the Red Cross, once the fundraiser is over, Ezra is now (with no fanfare) very quietly correcting his claims to now match reality, and hoping donors don't realize that their entire donation could have gone to the Red Cross if they had simply donated to the Red Cross directly (which does not charge a processing fee). But we're not done (as we never are).

Even if donors never twigged to what was happening, the Red Cross did note that something seemed odd, as I have in my possession a series of e-mails between Ezra and the Red Cross' Susan Larkin, and it is this e-mail of Jun 13, 2016 that is relevant here:


in which you can clearly read that Larkin seems uncomfortable with Ezra's current bragging about having raised "more than $150,000" and prefers that Ezra use the more precise amount of $162,476 displayed on the Indiegogo page. And while Larkin is probably unaware of Ezra's semantic manipulation, she still obviously realizes that something doesn't sit well with her in terms of how Ezra is downplaying the amount raised. But there is one more point worth making here.

Readers might be a bit concerned in my describing the way Ezra ran his fundraiser and how he misled his donors about the "100%" as "deceptive," wondering if perhaps I'm crossing a line here. I am not worried about calling out Ezra's 2016 Indiegogo fundraiser for the Red Cross as deceptive since, in fact, the Canada Revenue Agency says exactly the same thing.

In their page describing acceptable fundraising practices, the CRA devotes an entire section to warning prospective donors about "Fundraising that is deceptive", and I particularly draw your attention to the caution specifically about fundraisers that claim that 100% of donations will be turned over:


As you can clearly read, the CRA explicitly and specifically warns donors about fundraisers that claim that 100% of their donations will be turned over, particularly in light of having to pay fees to any third-party fundraiser that it employs for that fundraising.

If that sounds familiar, it's because that is exactly what happened here -- Ezra persistently claimed that he would hand over fully 100% of all donations to the Red Cross, even when he knew that was impossible due to Indiegogo's processing fee. In short, that CRA warning describes, to the letter, what Ezra did, and I need only repeat the final highlighted sentence above: "this type of claim could be considered to be deceptive." And if the CRA is willing to call this type of behaviour deceptive, who am I to argue?

Coming up: one last post on all of this, wherein I examine Ezra's claim that all of the donations to his Indiegogo fundraiser would be matched (thereby tripled in value) by the federal and Alberta provincial governments. And how that never happened.

P.S. It's worth mentioning another significant point. Ezra's numerous assurances that he would turn over "100%" of all "donations" rests entirely on his later contention that his own contribution of $10,000 should not be considered such a donation, and that that amount is somehow excluded from his mathematics. That argument is feeble at best, for a number of reasons.

First, as I mentioned earlier, the Indiegogo page for that fundraiser is still online, and it shows both the final raised amount of $162,476, along with a note that that money was raised from precisely 1094 backers:


Remember those numbers for just a minute.

At this point, to see all of the contributors, one need only click on the "BACKERS" link on that page to end up here, and if you scroll down to the very bottom, you end up seeing the very first contributor to that fundraiser; unsurprisingly, it is in fact Ezra Levant with his $10,000:


In short, Ezra's $10,000 was donated to his own fundraiser just as everyone else's donation was received, so there is no reason to treat that contribution any differently from anyone else's. But it gets worse.

In a May 4, 2016 tweet (only one day into his fundraiser), Ezra tweeted thusly:


wherein Ezra is announcing not only his own $10,000 donation but, in the very next sentence, making the promise of "100% of funds to the Red Cross." One would think that it would be difficult to argue in court that, in the midst of a single tweet, you were completely redefining the concept of what constituted a donation, and that that first sentence was in no way logically connected to the second one.

Finally, though, it is Ezra in his own June 2016 Statement of Claim that clearly admits that his initial $10,000 is nothing more than a regular donation by a regular backer when he writes:


That would indeed be Ezra Levant, in his own Statement of Claim, confirming that his Indiegogo page raised $162,476 "from 1094 donors," of which we have already seen that Ezra himself was donor number one, meaning that Ezra is describing himself as just another donor that contributed to the final tally of $162,476.

In short, Ezra's lawsuit-driven contention that his initial donation of $10,000 is not a real donation and is somehow not subject to his assurance of 100% being turned over is totally and utterly contradicted by his own actions and public pronouncements.

P.P.S. In case people want to know exactly what was eventually handed over to the Red Cross, I have a January 10, 2017 e-mail from the Red Cross' Susan Larkin, confirming a precise final amount of $156,921. While that amount is oddly slightly higher than 95 per cent calculated above, that is because a small number of donors chose to Canada Post mail their donations rather than hand them over online. In any event, it is absolutely clear that there was a several thousand dollar shortfall between the "100%" that was publicly promised, and what was finally delivered to the Red Cross.

I will produce that very e-mail in my next and last blog post on this subject; you'll just have to take my word for it for the time being.

P.P.P.S. Apropos of nothing, it's worth pointing out that it's been over two and a half years, and we are still waiting for the Ezra Levant-inspired convoy to head north and put Fort Mac back together:


On the other hand, rumour has it there's another convoy organizing in Alberta these days ... perhaps they could make themselves useful.

It's just a thought.

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

When is 100% not really 100%? (Part one)

In today's episode of my posts leading up to my February 12 appeal against Ezra Levant regarding his 2016 Rebel Media Indiegogo fundraiser for Fort McMurray, I'm going to explain one of the more duplicitous aspects of that fundraiser, an aspect involving two seemingly-unrelated claims that Ezra was making throughout the life of that fundraiser and even for some time afterwards.

During the course of his May 2016 fundraiser, Ezra -- on numerous occasions -- made both of the following claims quite publicly:

  1. that "100%" of all funds raised by his Indiegogo page would be turned over to the Red Cross, and
  2. that he (Ezra) had made an initial donation of $10,000 to kick things off and as a public challenge to other media outlets to step up similarly.

While these two claims would seem to have little to do with one another, it turns out they collide later in a very awkward and embarrassing way.

Let's begin with the first claim -- that all (that is, "100%") of the funds raised via Rebel Media's Indiegogo page would be turned over to the Red Cross. Unsurprisingly, from the very beginning, that claim was met with overwhelming skepticism, as countless readers on social media pointed out the painfully obvious -- that in exchange for registering an Indiegogo fundraising page, you agree to turn over 5 per cent of all donations.

There is nothing untoward about this 5 per cent deduction; it is, in fact, Indiegogo's standard "processing fee" and is the basis of their business model -- put more simply, it's how they make a living. There is nothing secret about the processing fee; everyone knows about it and, more significantly, when you register an Indiegogo fundraiser page, you have to explicitly click that you accept the terms, which does indeed include the processing fee. In short, it is physically impossible to register an Indiegogo fundraiser and not know that they will collect their standard 5 per cent.

Despite the above, throughout the entire month of May 2016, both Ezra and other staffers at Rebel Media stubbornly stuck to their claim that "100%" of all funds raised via the Indiegogo page would reach the Red Cross.

To start things off, here's a snippet from the 2016 Indiegogo page:


In case you didn't catch the claim there, it is repeated elsewhere on that page:


And once you pop over to Twitter, the reassurances come fast and furious. There's this one:


and this one:


Most critically (and pay attention here), Ezra was even assuring people publicly about the 100% turnover when, in early June, he began tweeting at me personally. There's this tweet of Ezra's from the morning of June 5:


I could go on, but I think I've made my point; that in the face of month-long skepticism and criticism, Ezra Levant never, ever wavered in his insistence that the full "100%" of funds would go to the Red Cross and, more to the point, never, ever addressed numerous people on social media who directly and explicitly asked Ezra how that could be possible, given Indiegogo's 5 per cent processing fee. In any event, let's (temporarily) put this issue to the side and visit the other one.

In addition to his dogged insistence of "100%", Ezra (and others at Rebel Media) were also publicly bragging about how Ezra started things off with the very first donation of $10,000, ostensibly as a show of his bottomless humanitarianism and as a challenge to others to match his boundless generosity.

Right on the Indiegogo fundraiser page, one reads about Ezra's initial $10,000 "contribution":


Shortly thereafter on the morning of May 4, Ezra begins patting himself on the back for his generosity:


and, three minutes later, continues the self-congratulation with:


At this point, we need to recap because what happens next is quite stunning. Thus far, we've seen Ezra Levant, on numerous occasions and quite publicly during the course of his fundraiser, assure all donors to his Indiegogo page that:

  1. he started things off with an initial donation of $10,000, and
  2. the full 100% of collected donations would be turned over to the Red Cross
Keep these two claims in mind as you see what happens next, as it's quite something, because it was in the June 7, 2016 Statement of Claim from Ezra that I, for the very first time, saw the following claim from Ezra:


Go back and read that again slowly until you appreciate what Ezra is suddenly claiming -- for the very first time (and not publicly but only in his June 7, 2016 Statement of Claim to me), Ezra has changed his story dramatically, and is now taking the position that his initial $10,000 donation is, in fact, not a "donation" at all, but is reserved as some sort of Indiegogo slush fund to cover the 5 per cent Indiegogo processing fee that people had been telling him about for the last month and that had, of course, been deducted from every donation coming in.

Let me describe this another way -- having bragged for a month about his dizzying humanitarism, Ezra is finally (and quietly) admitting that he had been misleading donors that entire time, and that the only way he could technically continue claiming that 100% of donations would be turned over is to (here it comes) quietly go back and redefine his own $10,000 outlay as not a donation after all, but a backstop to cover the 5 per cent Indiegogo processing fee, the very problem he created by registering an Indiegogo fundraising page in the first place. But don't go away -- it gets worse.

Note in the above how Ezra describes his $10,000 no-longer-a-donation as a top-up "if Indiegogo took a fee for processing the donations."

If?

IF?

Ezra is now clearly trying to give the impression that he wasn't sure if there would be an Indiegogo processing fee, despite the fact that:

  1. he has run Indiegogo fundraisers before
  2. everyone was telling him about it
  3. he would have had to accept the processing fee at the time of registration
But it gets worse (as you knew it would).

As you might expect, I pointed out this howling inconsistency in my Statement of Defence, at which point you will never believe what came back in Ezra's August 2016 Reply. I give you paragraph 4(a):


This is Ezra's rebuttal to my pointing out his spectacular historical revisionism as to his $10,000 "donation," and it represents the final duplicitous bit of sleight of hand since, as you can see, Ezra is finally admitting that, well, of course there is a processing fee associated with online fundraisers.

Pause, take a breath and think about all of the above as I recap the evolution of Ezra Levant's Indiegogo fundraiser.
  1. First, Ezra assured everyone (in the face of overwhelming criticism and actual explanations) that he was donating the first $10,000, and that all donations would go to the Red Cross.
  2. Subsequently, after being caught out misrepresenting the value of 100%, Ezra frantically went back in time and repurposed that $10,000 to be, not a donation, but a slush fund to cover the 5 per cent lost to Indiegogo, a problem Ezra in fact created in the first place.
  3. Finally, after being caught out again, Ezra's Reply admitted what everyone had been telling him along -- that online fundraisers cost money and that Indiegogo had been taking their 5 per cent the entire time.
Quite simply, after having assured everyone regarding 100% for the entire month of May 2016, and refusing to listen to or address countless people trying to explain to him how his claim could not possibly be true, Ezra resolved his obvious deception by going back and redefining what his initial $10,000 was for. In short, Ezra was saying, "I can promise you that 100% is being turned over, as long as you let me redefine the words '100%' and 'donation'."

And if you think this is bad, it gets far, far worse in Part 2. So stay tuned.