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'Kamikaze' Alberta UCP leadership candidate fined $70K for irregular donations

Former United Conservative Party leadership hopeful Jeff Callaway has been fined $70,000 for irregular campaign contributions during the 2017 race in Alberta.

It's alleged money flowed into Jeff Callaway's campaign through a corporation

Jeff Callaway ran a 'kamikaze' campaign in the UCP leadership race on behalf of Jason Kenney, now Alberta's premier. Kenney won the UCP leadership on Oct. 28, 2017, after the Alberta Progressive Conservative and Wildrose parties merged. (CBC)

Former United Conservative Party leadership hopeful Jeff Callaway has been fined $70,000 for irregular campaign contributions during the 2017 race in Alberta. 

The fines include a $15,000 penalty for colluding with Calgary businessman Robyn Lore in order to "circumvent a contribution limit," according to details published Wednesday on the provincial election commissioner's website.

Originally, the site listed $68,000 in fines, but an additional $2,000 fines was later added.

They also include soliciting or accepting a $60,000 contribution "the contestant knew or ought to have known was from a prohibited person or entity," according to the election commissioner's site.

It's alleged money was funnelled into the campaign through a corporation controlled by Lore.

That money was then allegedly used to make contributions in other people's names. 

The majority of the fines, parcelled out in $2,000 chunks, are for furnishing money to others for the purpose of making a donation to the campaign, and for then accepting that money as a contribution.

Randy Kerr, Callaway's former campaign manager, was also fined $10,000 for donating money that was not his own.

CBC News has revealed that Hardyal (Happy) Man, who was previously fined by the election commissioner for irregular contributions to the Callaway campaign, outlined how he allowed his name and the names of two family members to be used on donation forms.

He said he never touched the money that was contributed in his name.

'Kamikaze' campaign

Callaway ran a "kamikaze" campaign on behalf of Jason Kenney, now Alberta's premier. Kenney won the UCP leadership on Oct. 28, 2017, after the Alberta Progressive Conservative and Wildrose parties merged.

Callaway ran for the sole purpose of targeting Kenney's chief rival, former Wildrose leader Brian Jean, and then dropping out of the race to support Kenney.

Both men deny the allegations, but CBC News has obtained emails showing higher-ups in Kenney's campaign circle providing resources — strategic political direction, media and debate talking points, speeches, videos and attack advertisements — to the Callaway campaign.

There was a timeline for when Callaway would drop out of the campaign and throw his support behind Kenney.

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

More fines

Callaway wasn't the only one with fines revealed by the commissioner.

Jennifer Thompson, who was part of an attempt to halt the commissioner's investigation during the recent Alberta election, was fined $5,850 for donating money furnished through Lore's corporation, Energize Alberta.

Darren Thompson, also part of the injunction attempt, was fined $5,250 for donating money that was not his own.

Wednesday's announcement marks a significant jump in the amount of money levied against those connected to the Callaway campaign.

Previously, fines imposed for everything from interfering with an investigation to irregular donations totalled $75,500. Wednesday's list alone totals $91,100.

The election commissioner investigation into the Callaway campaign isn't the only controversy tied to the UCP leadership contest.

Voter fraud

The RCMP is also actively investigating allegations of voter fraud during the election, and CBC News has confirmed that five Calgary-area cabinet ministers have been interviewed by the force.

CBC News has also revealed that fraudulent emails were used to cast ballots in that vote.

It's alleged PINs, needed to vote by phone or online for the UCP leader, were intercepted and used to cast ballots.

The UCP has denied there was any wrongdoing in the contest.

RCMP spokesperson Fraser Logan said he couldn't comment on the specifics of the investigation or whether the force was looking at the financing of the Callaway campaign. 

"The Alberta RCMP are continuing an investigation in relation to the 2017 UCP leadership campaign, specifically as it relates to identity fraud," he said. 

"Outside of that, I can't confirm any list of any individuals who have been interviewed by the RCMP."

'Truly disgraceful,' NDP says

The opposition NDP jumped on the latest round of fines to condemn the UCP. 

"The sheer scale of illegal behaviour inside the UCP is truly disgraceful, and it reveals a culture of corruption," said Heather Sweet, the party's critic for democracy and ethics in a news release.

"If Jason Kenney is unwilling to condemn the actions of the Callaway campaign, he is telling Albertans that he tolerates illegal behaviour inside the party he leads."

Sweet said Kenney should eject Callaway and his campaign team from the UCP and publicly condemn their behaviour. 

Kenney has not yet agreed to an interview on the latest fines, but his office said the premier has not been contacted by the election commissioner's office. 

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.

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