Politicians can get irritated when asked about where they get money to fund their reelection campaigns.
I can recall former Vancouver mayor Larry Campbell once announcing at the start of a news conference that he wouldn't take questions from me. Later that afternoon, he trashed me in a CBC Radio interview with Stephen Quinn.
I believe it's because he suspected I was going to ask who was funding his new party, which eventually became known as Vision Vancouver.
Now, Vision mayor Gregor Robertson is getting pestered with questions from Vivian Krause, a North Shore blogger and researcher who has been looking at his party's fundraising.
In letter to Robertson in late October, Krause pointed out that in 2011, Vision received three notable donations:
• $27,500 from Renewal Partners. This company, which funded Robertson's Happy Planet juice company, received $286,002 from a registered charity called Tides Canada in 2010. The U.S. Tides Foundation paid Renewal Partners $257,000 in 2011, according to Krause's examination of U.S. tax returns.
• $18,230 from Interdependent Investments Ltd. This company received $14,828 in 2011 from Endswell Foundation, which is a registered charity. Interdependent Investments and Renewal Partners are tied to Joel Solomon, a friend of the mayor, as are the Tides and Endswell foundations.
• $25,000 from Strategic Communications, which is run by the mayor's friend and pollster, Bob Penner.
Krause asked the mayor whether Vision Vancouver "may have received campaign finance from these charities indirectly, through Renewal Partners, Interdependent Investments Ltd. and a series of P.R. firms including Strategic Communications".
It's illegal for registered charities to be engaged in partisan political activities.
Robertson was a director of Tides Canada from 2002 to 2004 before being elected as an NDP MLA in 2005; his chief of staff, Mike Magee, was a senior policy adviser for Tides Canada from 2002 to 2007 before joining the mayor's office in 2008.
Krause has been raising questions in letters like these for quite some time, which has led to her being vilified by the mayor's supporters as being some sort of stooge of Big Oil.
Robertson himself claimed in an interview with the Straight that there was "a well-organized campaign to besmirch" what his party is doing and organizations like Tides, which are "doing really important work for the community and the country".
In a 2011 article posted on the Tides Canada blog, former NPA mayoral candidate Peter Ladner—who ran against Robertson in 2008—defended Tides for "bringing together diverse interests to forge a new economy that will last well past the current oil boom".
But this time, something unusual has taken place after one of Krause's letters to the mayor's office.
She sent the Straight a printout showing that someone using a Canada Revenue Agency computer has viewed numerous articles on her blog in November, including some dealing with the U.S. Tides Foundation's purchase of Hanks Beach on Cortes Island.
A year ago, I wrote an article about Krause's research into this site. It's immediately adjacent to an 82-acre ocean-front property owned by a company listed by Robertson on his financial-disclosure form.
Just because someone from Canada Revenue Agency is looking at an article on Krause's blog is no evidence of wrongdoing.
Tax-department staff aren't the only ones visiting the website. On November 20, the RCMP in Ottawa was on her blog for a half-hour, downloading her recent letter to the mayor. It's worth repeating: this is no evidence of wrongdoing.
Curiously, someone at Tides Canada also visited Krause's blog this week, downloading an astonishing 170 documents, according to her records.
Follow Charlie Smith on Twitter at twitter.com/csmithstraight.