Calgary·Exclusive

Emergency court injunction seeks to shut down investigation into UCP leadership campaign financing

Former United Conservative Party leadership candidate Jeff Callaway and five others including his wife are seeking an emergency court order that could force the shutdown of an investigation into irregular campaign contributions during his so-called "kamikaze" leadership campaign.
Former United Conservative Party leadership candidate Jeff Callaway, left, and five others are seeking an emergency court order that could force the shutdown of an investigation into irregular campaign contributions. He's pictured with UCP Leader Jason Kenney. (Jason Kenney campaign)

Former United Conservative Party leadership candidate Jeff Callaway and five others including his wife are seeking an emergency court order that could force the shutdown of an investigation into irregular campaign contributions during his so-called "kamikaze" leadership campaign.

Injunction arguments will be heard by a Calgary judge in the Court of Queen's Bench on Monday afternoon. Lawyers will argue the Office of the Election Commissioner (OEC) investigation should be immediately suspended, at least until after Alberta's provincial election.

Jeff Callaway, Nicole Callaway, Jennifer Thompson, Darren Thompson, Bonnie Thompson and Robyn Lore are all listed as applicants in the document filed at the Calgary courthouse Friday afternoon.

According to the document, each has been contacted by the OEC regarding the UCP leadership campaign in 2017.

The investigation led by elections commissioner Lorne Gibson is looking into the financing of Jeff Callaway's campaign.

To date, the investigation has identified five people who donated money that was not their own to that campaign and imposed $15,000 worth of fines on Callaway's former communications director, Cam Davies, for obstruction of an investigation.

It's alleged Callaway ran for the purpose of targeting Jason Kenney's top rival, former Wildrose leader Brian Jean, with a plan to step down before the October 2017 vote and throw his support behind Kenney, who won the race on Oct. 28, 2017.

Both men deny the plot, but emails obtained by CBC News show high-ranking Kenney officials providing resources, including strategic political direction, media, and debate talking points, speeches, videos and attack advertisements, to the Callaway campaign. 

Kenney's current deputy chief of staff, Matt Wolf, even emailed a resignation speech to Callaway on the day he dropped out. 

On Monday, lawyers will argue the OEC had no authority to continue to investigate once the election was called.

"Requiring Albertans to attend such interviews during the election period interferes with their Charter right to participate in the electoral process, despite that the activity being investigated occurred prior to the election period, and there is no urgency to the investigation," reads the application filed with the court.

Last week, according to the application, lawyers for the applicants began seeking an adjournment of their scheduled interview with investigators.

The OEC refused and responded that "enforcement activities and responsibilities of the OEC must escalate during an election period."

Enforcement must ramp up during election: OEC

When lawyers for Callaway and the other applicants learned the OEC was referring its findings to the RCMP, they noted concerns their Charter rights against self-incrimination were not protected.

A letter "guaranteeing that the investigations would only be dealt with internally by the OEC and that any findings from the Investigations would not be referred to the RCMP" was demanded of the OEC but it refused.

The OEC again responded, saying it was within its rights to disclose findings to law enforcement agencies under the Election Finances and Contributions Disclosure Act.

Those alleged Charter violations and the commissioner's position that OEC enforcement activities must ramp up during an election, points to "There is at least a reasonable apprehension of bias and that the commissioner has already reached a concluded view and he is not able to bring an unbiased mind to the determination of the issues before him."

Lawyers will also rely on an affidavit filed as part of the application regarding Callaway's former CFO, Lenore Eaton, who alleges that after she spoke with investigators, she was contacted with a followup letter naming several others who had been interviewed with details from their statements.

Arguments will be made that this sharing of information is one of the Charter violations.

According to the court document, Jennifer Thompson, Darren Thompson, Robyn Lore and Nicole Callaway all received summons for interviews with investigators on two dates, March 26 and April 2.

The Alberta NDP released a statement shortly following the initial publication of this article.

"This is a completely unacceptable attempt to interfere in the work of the election commissioner," candidate Sarah Hoffman said in the release.

RCMP investigating

The RCMP are also investigating the UCP leadership race, and on Thursday the UCP confirmed it was in contact with the force. 

The legal wrangling comes as controversy surrounding the "kamikaze" investigation continues to haunt the UCP campaign. 

On Wednesday, CBC News revealed new allegations, levelled by Hardyal (Happy) Mann, that fraudulent emails were attached to UCP memberships in order to cast votes for Kenney in the leadership race on their behalf. 

Dozens of emails shown to CBC News — with domains like link3mail.com and jaringmail.com — were all purchased in the lead-up to the leadership vote by anonymous sources, according to historical registration data using DomainTools.

It's not known who purchased those addresses. 

Kenney has insisted his campaign did not violate party rules. 

About the Author

Meghan Grant and Drew Anderson are journalists with CBC Calgary. You can reach them in confidence at: meghan.grant@cbc.ca and drew.anderson@cbc.ca

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