What is the WE Charity scandal and who are the Kielburger brothers?
This company was founded in 2016 by three veterans of the presidential campaign of Republican Senator Marco Rubio, and has been a regular pollster for this political party.
While the Firehouse website states that the company’s team “curates authentic content from media sources and influencers that our target audience trusts,” the site also states that its services include “defensive media training / combative ”and“ reputation management ”.
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Company profiles cite President Donald Trump’s effect on political communications during the 2016 campaign and claim that the founders of the company adopted Trump’s aggressive methods for themselves.
Requests for comment from Firehouse Strategies and members of its staff have not yet been returned.
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In 2018 and 2019, opinion pieces by authors with ties to Republican political organizations appeared on Canadian and American news websites that criticized the Canadaland media, citing it as an example of “fake news”. ” in Canada.
One of the writers, Ben Proler, also worked for Rubio’s campaign and now sits on the board of Maverick PAC, which focuses on electing young Republicans to federal political office.
Another writer, Gus Portela, was a delegate of then-presidential candidate Trump to the 2016 Republican National Convention.
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Canadaland has published critical articles and surveys of WE Charity over the past two years, including allegations that the charity has partnered with companies that allegedly used international child labor.
WE Charity has denied these and other allegations and has issued defamation notices to Canadaland, although it has not taken legal action.
While opinion pieces stopped before mentioning WE Charity by name, they alluded to Canadaland’s coverage by naming the reporter behind much of the coverage, Jaren Kerr, claiming he was behind a story “about a global nonprofit” that “garnered attention. “
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Canadaland itself wondered why several articles critical of its journalism appeared to be written by authors with ties to the Republican Party.
Jesse Brown, publisher of Canadaland, told Global News that WE Charity should be transparent about whether Firehouse has been hired to discredit his journalism and the journalists he hires.
“The founders of Firehouse Strategies bragged about their Trump-inspired tactics that include spreading negative stories about their clients’ perceived enemies,” he said.
“Why did the US branch of WE Charity hire such a company?”
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Although WE Charity is based in Canada, it also hosts WE Day fundraising events in the US and UK, and has worked in communities around the world.
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The IRS tax record shows that the U.S. branch of the charity, based in Williamsville, New York, had total revenue of $ 31.1 million at the end of the fiscal year se ending in August 2019, up from $ 18.2 million the year before.
WE Charity has yet to respond to requests for comment on why Firehouse and the other companies were hired.
Besides Firehouse, the charity also donated $ 297,570 to 202 Strategies, a consulting firm founded by strategist and pollster Stephan Miller. Miller previously worked for Democratic political agent James Carville and his wife, Republican strategist Mary Matalin.
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202 Strategies boasts on its website that it helps clients “win campaigns”, “communicate effectively” and “turn crisis into opportunity”.
The last company paid by WE Charity was David Baum and Associates, who received a total of $ 178,283. Baum, who describes himself as a “conversation architect and consultant,” includes multiple mentions and photos of his work with WE on his website.
In 2015, WE Charity co-founders Craig and Marc Kielburger wrote an op-ed for Postmedia on male mentors, and specifically cited Baum as a “trusted friend” who has guided their careers.
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“On long walks with David, we cover everything from staffing strategies to our work-life balance and relationships. We always leave with several blisters above our heads and several loads on our shoulders, ”the brothers wrote.
In a testimonial included on the home page of Baum’s website, Craig Kielburger is quoted as saying of the consultant, “An invaluable mentor for many years. We couldn’t have done it without him.
Requests for comment to both 202 Strategies and Baum have not yet been returned.
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An ongoing parliamentary ethics inquiry seeks to determine whether the federal government has engaged in a conflict of interest by awarding WE Charity a contract to administer a $ 900 million grant program to student volunteers in the midst of the new coronavirus pandemic.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has come under fire after it was revealed that his mother, brother and wife had each received payments from the charity for various conferences over the past few years.
Last week, Finance Minister Bill Morneau told a House of Commons committee that he recently reimbursed WE Charity over $ 41,000 to cover travel costs incurred when he, his wife and their girls were participating in trips with the organization.
Morneau and Trudeau both apologized publicly for not recusing themselves from contract negotiations.
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On Tuesday, Craig and Marc Kielburger testified before the committee, saying the organization had good intentions in agreeing to the sole-source contract.
The brothers have repeatedly refused to respond directly to a question from Conservative MP Pierre Poilievre when testifying about whether WE’s lawyers hired a private investigator to “investigate” Brown and Kerr of Canadaland.
Brown released a document earlier this month appearing to show that Investigative Solutions Network, a Toronto-based investigative service, was hired to “perform a discreet background check” on Brown and an “online investigation” on Brown and Kerr.
An email that appeared to come from Peter Downard, the lawyer mentioned in the document, said the investigation was “a prime example of due diligence before bringing a libel action.”
– With files from Hannah Jackson
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