Calgary·CBC Investigates

Kamikaze UCP candidate went from nearly broke to flush after getting envelopes with $60,000, documents allege

A UCP leadership candidate who ran a "kamikaze" campaign on behalf of Jason Kenney went from nearly broke to flush after he was handed envelopes stuffed with $60,000, according to documents that detail for the first time an alleged scheme to circumvent Alberta election laws. 

New details revealed of alleged scheme to circumvent election laws for Jeff Callaway's leadership campaign

Jeff Callaway's campaign coffers leapt from $4,370 to $60,000 within 48 hours, according to documents that reveal, for the first time, details of what Alberta's election commissioner alleges was a scheme to circumvent election laws.  (CBC)

The United Conservative Party leadership contender who ran a "kamikaze" campaign on behalf of Jason Kenney — now Alberta premier — saw his campaign coffers soar from nearly broke to flush after he was handed envelopes stuffed with $60,000, according to documents that detail for the first time an alleged scheme to circumvent Alberta election laws. 

The documents outlining the Alberta election commissioner's case against Jeff Callaway, obtained by CBC News, say all the money ultimately came from one corporate source. 

Corporate donations are banned by Alberta's election laws.

Callaway ran his 2017 campaign in concert with Kenney's team for the purpose of attacking Kenney's chief rival for leadership of the UCP, Brian Jean, after the Alberta Progressive Conservative and Wildrose parties merged.

At the start of the day on Sept. 11, 2017, Callaway's campaign had a mere $4,370.14 in its coffers, a number that would swell by almost $60,000 within the next 48 hours, according to newly revealed documents that outline the findings of Alberta's election commissioner.

This scheme was designed to circumvent contribution limits established by law, furnish prohibited funds to a nomination contestant and deceive the Chief Electoral Officer and Elections Alberta.-Office of Alberta's election commissioner

The findings were filed this month at Court of Queen's Bench as part of Callaway's application for a judicial review of the commissioner's penalties. 

So far, the commissioner has imposed $163,850 in fines against 13 people for irregular donations to the campaign, including $70,000 against Callaway himself. 

"This scheme was designed to circumvent contribution limits established by law, furnish prohibited funds to a nomination contestant and deceive the Chief Electoral Officer and Elections Alberta," read the documents. 

The commissioner's office says the offences are "severe" and required "a degree of planning and co-ordination."

Straw donors

The findings outline in detail how the commissioner believes Callaway and one of his campaign workers, Cam Davies, orchestrated a scheme with Calgary businessman Robyn Lore to funnel the corporate cash into the campaign through what's known as straw donors.

None of the findings have been proven in court. 

Callaway, left, ran his campaign to lead the UCP in 2017 in concert with the team of Jason Kenney, right, for the purpose of attacking Kenney's chief rival, Brian Jean. (Jason Kenney campaign)

The money, according to the commissioner, flowed from a business controlled by Lore called Agropyron through the donors, who did not contribute their own funds.

The findings say the purpose of the windfall was to cover $57,500 in UCP leadership entrance fees.

Bank meeting

In the court documents obtained by CBC News on Wednesday, the commissioner's office spells out how it alleges the scheme to finance the Callaway campaign took place. 

On Sept. 8, 2017, according to the documents, Callaway informed Davies the campaign was having a hard time raising funds and that Callaway had a solution. 

"You told Davies that you had a friend named Robyn Lore who was going to give Davies a bank draft," read the commissioner's findings. 

"You directed Davies to meet Lore and go to the bank together. You instructed Davies that Lore would stay with Davies at the bank until Davies withdrew a large amount of money from Davies' account furnished to him by Lore."

The documents also say Callaway told Davies to find individuals to whom the campaign could furnish funds from Agropyron for the purpose of donating back to the campaign. 

Large withdrawals

Alberta's election commissioner alleges that the scheme unfolded as follows. 

On Sept. 11, Davies met Lore in the lobby of Bankers Hall in downtown Calgary, outside the Royal Bank. 

Lore then had his bank wire $60,000 to Davies' Royal Bank account, and then the two men entered the branch to withdraw the funds. 

"Lore told the teller that Davies wanted to make some large withdrawals and they might need to speak to a manager," read the findings.

Kenney, left, defeated Jean, right, to lead the UCP in 2017, and became Alberta's premier in 2019 after defeating Rachel Notley's NDP in a provincial election. (Terry Reith/CBC )

Lore handled that end of the transaction, according to the commissioner, and the bank manager complied with his requests.

Davies then withdrew bank drafts and cash in order to provide funds to those who had agreed to make straw donations. 

The duo called Callaway, who arrived at the bank a short time later to collect an envelope of cash from Davies. 

"This handoff happened inside the bank at your direction," read the findings against Callaway. "Davies was instructed to hand over the cash to you, and you would then give it to the straw contributors."

Money withdrawn to pay UCP

While the trio was still at the bank, Christopher Maitland showed up, received a bank draft for $3,000, walked into the CIBC branch within Bankers Hall and deposited the draft. 

He then withdrew that amount in cash and walked back and gave the cash to either Davies or Callaway, according to the commissioner's findings.

Maitland is just one of those who has been fined for making a contribution with money that was not his own to the Callaway campaign. 

Lorne Gibson, Alberta's election commissioner, says the offences are 'severe' and required 'a degree of planning and co-ordination.' (Office of the Election Commissioner)

CBC News was advised by someone close to Maitland that he did not wish to discuss the allegations. Maitland is appealing his penalty. 

In all, $53,500 was deposited into the Callaway campaign account through straw donors between Sept. 11 and 12. On Sept. 12, $57,500 was withdrawn from the campaign account in the form of a money order and paid to the UCP for the leadership contest fee and a leadership compliance deposit.

Cam Davies speaks

Davies, in an exclusive interview with CBC News, confirmed his part in the scheme as outlined by the election commissioner. 

He said that he didn't have anything to do with the campaign finances until he was contacted by Callaway prior to the UCP contribution deadline and that he takes responsibility for his actions outlined by the commissioner. 

"I was put in the position, a last-minute request was made by someone that I had worked with before and trusted and respected," he said. 

"And so there was a certain level of trust where there should have been quite a bit more questions and caution exercised when asked to do something that, you now, now realizing was not necessarily in line with the legislation of that time."

Davies said he was not aware of the source of the money — whether it was from Lore personally, a bundled contribution that the businessman had gathered or from a corporation. 

He said his primary role was to communicate with the Kenney campaign and ensure that Callaway's campaign followed the roadmap set out for it, but that he is not aware of any co-ordination on the financial side of the campaigns. 

Kenney and Callaway's campaigns worked closely together, with direction coming from Kenney's team on everything from talking points to when Callaway would drop out of the race to support Kenney. 

Both men deny the allegations, but CBC News has obtained emails and documents that outline the collaboration, including a resignation speech emailed to Callaway's team from Kenney's then-deputy chief of staff, Matt Wolf. 

Wolf was recently rehired and joined the staff of the premier's office as director of issues management.

Callaway no longer employed by firm

In Callaway's request for a judicial review, his lawyer argues the election commissioner "incorrectly" or "unreasonably" exercised his powers in imposing penalties against Callaway. 

The application accuses the commissioner of:

  • Being biased against Callaway.
  • Failing to consider all available evidence and information.
  • Failing to provide evidence to Callaway.
  • Misinterpreting portions of the Election Finances and Contributions Disclosure Act.
  • Failing to provide an opportunity for Callaway to be heard or cross-examine witnesses.

Neither Callaway nor his lawyer responded to requests for comment. Lore, through his lawyer, declined to comment. 

The commissioner also outlined what it says Callaway told investigators during an interview, including that Callaway did not remember meeting Lore and Davies at the bank on Sept. 11.

It also says Callaway used his work email from Canaccord Genuity to "solicit contributions for your campaign, to direct at least one person to contribute to Energize Alberta in support of your campaign, and to communicate with Davies and others regarding the irregular contributions."

Energize Alberta was another corporation controlled by Lore that allegedly contributed money to the campaign. 

CBC News has confirmed that Callaway is no longer employed by Canaccord, where he worked for more than 13 years, but the reason for his departure has not been confirmed. 

An email to clients dated Aug. 16, 2019, and obtained by CBC News says a new financial adviser will handle client accounts. 

An investigator with the election commissioner said he could not comment on the documents obtained by CBC News. 

About the Author

Drew Anderson is a web journalist at CBC Calgary. Like almost every journalist working today, he's won a few awards. He's also a third-generation Calgarian. You can follow him on Twitter @drewpanderson. Contact him in confidence at drew.anderson@cbc.ca.

With files from CBC's Carolyn Dunn, Bryan Labby, Audrey Neveu and Allison Dempster

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