Two days after Alberta’s election commissioner levied two fines against a campaign manager for Jeff Callaway’s UCP leadership bid, the independent office issued another fine, this one to someone who donated to Callaway’s campaign.
Karen Brown was handed a $3,500 fine on Thursday for contributing money to a registered UCP leadership contestant “with funds given or furnished by another person.” The fine was issued in accordance with Section 34(1) of the Election Finances and Contributions Disclosure Act.
The UCP’s executive director issued a statement to Global News when asked for comment on the fines levied against Brown.
“We expect all Albertans, be they members or not, to abide by all laws, including those with respect to election financing,” Janice Harrington said in an email. “We are not provided any information by the elections commissioner about these rulings beyond what is publicly available on the commissioner’s website.
“The party plays no role in the collection or disclosure of donations to leadership contestants.”
Global News has also reached out to Callaway for comment on the matter.
On Tuesday, a co-campaign manager for Callaway’s 2017 campaign was handed two fines totalling $15,000 for what the Office of the Election Commissioner called “obstruction of an investigation.”
“At no time has the elections commissioner contacted the UCP, the UCP caucus, the leader’s office, nor the leader’s previous leadership campaign,” the UCP caucus said in response to the fines levied against Davies.
On Thursday, Alberta’s election commissioner told Global News he could not disclose details about what he is investigating in connection with the probe that his office alleges Davies was obstructing. The commissioner said he also could not comment on the fine levied against Brown beyond citing the section of the act that his office alleges she contravened.
“These actions and decisions we take are the result of an investigation,” Lorne Gibson said.
Callaway ended his bid to become UCP leader in October 2017 and endorsed Jason Kenney’s leadership bid, which ended up being successful.
Watch below: (From 2017) Jeff Callaway says money was not the issue in his decision to step out of UCP race
In 2017, a political analyst with Calgary’s Mount Royal University told Global News there had been rumours Callaway’s leadership bid was as a “stalking horse” for Kenney.
“Originally, Derek Fildebrandt was supposed to be the attack dog for Kenney vs. Brian Jean,” Duane Bratt said at the time.
But then Fildebrandt was forced to step down from the UCP caucus amid controversy over his conduct.
“Jeff Callaway, who had been critical of Jean’s leadership in the past, seemed to be recruited (at the last moment) to take Fildebrandt’s place,” Bratt said. “At both the Calgary and Edmonton debate, Callaway launched attacks against Brian Jean. He has done his job. And now to ensure that he doesn’t get any votes, Callaway is dropping out of the race.
“It all looks very suspicious.”
Kenney has vehemently denied Callaway was running a kamikaze campaign to benefit his leadership bid.
Watch below: (From 2017) Jason Kenney suggests money was reason for Jeff Callaway’s decision to leave UCP race
Lori Williams, an associate professor of policy studies at Mount Royal University, suggested to Global News that the fines levied this week have generated more questions about what motivated Callaway’s leadership bid.
“We have heard allegations that Jeff Callaway ran a campaign that was essentially a ruse to allow him to criticize Brian Jean and enable Jason Kenney to avoid the negatives that might come with criticizing Brian Jean more directly,” she said. “At the time that those allegations first surfaced, some people said, ‘Well, this would be a ridiculous thing to do because it would cost too much money for Jeff Callaway and nobody has that kind of money to kick around.’
“Since then, we’ve heard allegations that money was given to Jeff Callaway’s campaign by those who were supporting him to do the criticism of Brian Jean on behalf of Jason Kenney,” Williams went on to say.
“Now we actually have fines that are being levied. That seems to suggest, first, that somebody tried to interfere with the investigation by discouraging people from co-operating with the investigation, and we have a fine of somebody who has actually donated money to Callaway’s campaign that came from a hidden third party.
“So the plot is thickening.”
Williams suggested that the fines levied this week could also spur a negative reaction from some of the UCP’s supporters.
“There could be implications,” she said. “The voters that are most likely to be concerned about this, or the voters that matter the most to the UCP that are going to be concerned about this, are going to be those who supported Brian Jean — that is former members of the Wildrose Party.”