Tories ban use of prepaid credit cards in leadership race

OTTAWA — The federal Conservative party is banning the use of anonymous prepaid credit cards to buy memberships in the ongoing leadership race, the Star has learned.

And they’ll also review and potentially revoke the memberships of anyone found to have used such a card as of Feb. 2, the day Erin O’Toole was removed as party leader, kick-starting the current race.

Leadership campaigns were notified of the change late Thursday after several of them had complained to the party in recent weeks that allowing prepaid cards opened the membership process up to fraud.

The party’s specific membership bylaws insist that only personal cheques or credit cards in the name of the prospective member are allowed.

Still, the party has allowed prepaid cards to be used in the past, acknowledging that not all potential members — anyone 14 and up — have cheques or their own credit cards.

Concerns that prepaid credit cards could allow leadership campaigns to effectively buy votes is a perennial issue for the party, now in its third race in five years.

In 2017, the party struck 1,351 people from its membership rolls after accusations a campaign was engaged in widespread fraud and vote-rigging.

The party’s review of the complaint found the memberships were purchased through two IP addresses and not paid for by the individual members.

In the 2020 leadership race, organizers tried to limit the number of memberships that could be bought with any one card, and when they saw multiple sales, did review them, sources told the Star.

The payment processing system the party uses wasn’t set up to make prepaid cards easy to track, but that’s now changed, two sources told the Star late Thursday. They were granted anonymity as they were not authorized to discuss party and campaign operations.

It means the party can now block the use of the cards, and also scour its membership database to see how many memberships have been sold using them.

How many that will be is unclear.

The party had no official statement immediately on Thursday afternoon.

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