Ethics Watchdog Studying Senator’s Expenses, MacDougall Says

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s office is cooperating with the country’s ethics commissioner as the agency probes a payment by Harper’s chief of staff to Conservative Senator Mike Duffy, a spokesman said.

“We’re now engaged in the office of the ethics commissioner in this matter,” Andrew MacDougall, Harper’s director of communications, told reporters today in Ottawa. The prime minister’s office acknowledged earlier this week that Nigel Wright wrote Duffy a personal check to help him repay about C$90,000 of Senate expenses he shouldn’t have claimed.

Duffy quit the Conservative caucus yesterday, saying in a statement he will sit as an independent Senator “pending resolution of these issues.” Harper appointed Duffy, a former reporter and broadcaster, to the Senate in 2009.

“It is clear the public controversy surrounding me and the repayment of my Senate expenses has become a significant distraction to my caucus colleagues, and to the government,” Duffy said in the statement.

Wright has the “full confidence” of the prime minister, MacDougall said today.

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