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".


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.


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.


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.



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.)


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.

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