Harper hired former Bush spokesman twice
A former spokesman for George W. Bush received a second sole-source contract from the Prime Minister's Office for American communications advice, according to filings with the U.S. Justice Department.
Ari Fleischer was hired for a month last spring to help Stephen Harper receive American media exposure in advance of a critical G20 summit in London.
But a second communications contract with the PMO, worth the same amount ($24,500) as the first, was paid out to Fleischer on Sept. 28.
"Mr. Fleischer provided the government with services that helped Canada get its message out in a time of global financial crisis, where Canada had a good story to tell," Andrew MacDougall, a spokesman in the Prime Minister's Office, said Wednesday.
No details of the additional work were provided in Fleischer's latest filing under the U.S. Foreign Agents Registration Act, which is date-stamped Dec. 15, 2009.
Both of Fleischer's contracts were just under the value at which departments are obliged to put most contracts up for public tender.
A government source said that while the first contract was geared explicitly to the G20 and arranging U.S. media interviews, the second related to "a number of ongoing issues. We always have to be present down there."
Fleischer's role, said the source, was as "somebody who knows how to get your voice heard."
Followup information on the original G20 contract, provided by Fleischer in his filings to the Justice Department, sheds new light on his activities on behalf of Harper.
Canadian journalists might aspire to have the kind of access provided for conservative American opinion-leaders — eight of whom enjoyed dinner with Harper in Washington on March 29, 2009, at the invitation of Fleischer.
The guest list included newspaper columnists Charles Krauthammer, David Frum, Peggy Noonan, David Brooks and Anne Applebaum, senior editors Fred Barnes and William Kristol, and conservative syndicated talk-radio host Laura Ingraham.
The following day, Fleischer arranged a lunch meeting between Harper and the president of Fox News Channel, Roger Ailes, and with media mogul Rupert Murdoch, whose News Corp. owns Fox.