Former Wildrose candidate and United Conservative Party nomination candidate Hardyal (Happy) Mann has been issued three separate fines totalling $9,000 for irregular political contributions to Jeff Callaway‘s UCP leadership campaign in 2017.
One of the fines is for donating to the campaign “with funds given or furnished by another person,” and the other two were for providing people with funds to donate to the Callaway campaign.
Alberta’s election commissioner named Kirandeep Mann and Gurpreet Mann as the other donors.
Two years ago, Callaway ran against Jason Kenney, Brian Jean and Doug Schweitzer for the UCP leadership; a race won by Kenney.
Mann is not disputing the commissioner’s findings.
“I’m not going to lie. I’m going to tell the truth, and that’s what I’ve been doing since Day One,” Mann said in an interview with Global News on Wednesday.
“I never donated the money from my pocket.”
A letter addressed to Mann from the election commissioner includes the findings of his investigation.
According to the document, Mann said he attended a July 2017 meeting with Kenney and others involved in the Callaway campaign. The letter states that Mann told the election commissioner that finances for the Callaway campaign and voter fraud were both tactics that were discussed in the meeting.
The letter says Mann was promised support for his own political goals if he joined the Kenney team.
“You accepted,” the letter reads.
But Mann denies knowing where the $9,000 that was donated to the campaign came from.
“I never saw the money. I never had a money trail. I consented to be a participating donor,” Mann said. “So that’s the reason I’m admitting my mistake.”
According to the election commissioner’s findings, Mann filled out at least one donation form with a $3,000 contribution given to him by an unidentified person. Mann said he didn’t remember if he filled out he forms for the other two donors.
Alberta election rules prevent someone from donating money that isn’t their own.
Mann told Global News that when he asked where the money would come from at the July 2017 meeting, he was told it would be arranged.
In a letter from Mann to the election commissioner, he wrote that he never imagined the source of the money may be illegal.
At a campaign event outside Edmonton on Wednesday, Kenney addressed allegations made about him in connection with the Callaway campaign.
“Complete nonsense,” Kenney said. “I never discussed with anybody how Mr. Callaway was financing his campaign.”
Watch below: (From March 18, 2019) Typically, a throne speech would take centre stage at the Alberta legislature, but on Monday, UCP Leader Jason Kenney was asked about the controversy surrounding the 2017 UCP leadership race. Vinesh Pratap explains.
Kenney went on to say that the election commissioner has not contacted him or anyone in his office relating to the Callaway campaign.
The election commissioner’s investigation began after allegations surfaced of what’s been dubbed a kamikaze campaign that saw Callaway run in the UCP leadership race as a darkhorse to target Jean, Kenney’s main opponent, and then drop out of the race to throw his support behind Kenney.
Prior to the fines being levelled against Mann, the election commissioner has fined or sent letters to five people for donating money that wasn’t theirs to the Callaway campaign.
Earlier this month, political contributor Darcy McAllister was handed two fines totalling $4,000 for contributions that weren’t his, while Maja McAllister and David Ruiz were sent letters of reprimand for similar offences.
UCP member Karen Brown was also fined $3,500 for contributing money that came from elsewhere to the campaign.
In February, Cameron Davies, formerly Callaway’s campaign manager, was issued $15,000 in fines for “obstructing an investigation.”
Throughout the campaign, Kenney has denied his involvement in the so-called kamikaze campaign.
But emails obtained by Global News show ongoing contact between the Kenney and Callaway campaigns, including Kenney staffers providing strategic direction, attack ads, speaking notes, speeches and media support to the Callaway campaign.
Watch below: (From March 17, 2019) Emails obtained by Global News from the Jason Kenney and Jeff Callaway campaigns reveal the two worked together to attack and undermine Brian Jean’s UCP leadership run. Julia Wong reports.
Bratt said the UCP quickly shifted its focus to jobs and the economy and that has remained the party mantra since.
But when it comes to the latest fines in relation to Mann, Bratt said he believes the UCP will remain relatively unscathed.
“Until there is a real smoking gun linking Kenney personally to this, or that there are RCMP charges… it’s going to get ignored,” he said.
The RCMP have confirmed to Global News they are looking into irregular campaign donations made to the Callaway campaign. Mann told Global News he has also spoken to the RCMP.
Mann is also accusing the UCP of using fake email addresses attached to memberships in the October 2017 leadership vote.
He said he noticed a few people on the list didn’t have email addresses on their membership, but later they were filled in. He said he believes the UCP used fake emails.
“I assume that the emails that have been registered, obviously the pins would go to emails,” Mann said. “So whoever has access to them must have exercised or used or not used.
“It’s not my expertise, this is something the RCMP is looking into.”
Former UCP MLA Prab Gill has also sent a letter to the RCMP alleging the UCP used fake emails to give Kenney more votes.
None of the voter fraud allegations have been proven and Kenney has denied any involvement in any logistics like voting structure in the UCP leadership race.
“There is no evidence of campaigns violating the rules,” Kenney said Wednesday. “All those who were responsible for running the election say it was a clean election and there were no violations of the rules.”
Mann was removed from being a UCP candidate after allegations he and his team were involved in the assault of a Punjabi radio reporter from Calgary.
Gill was removed from the party after he was accused of ballot stuffing at a constituency association meeting.
“The problem with Happy Mann is he was removed from being a UCP candidate and so there is some sour grapes on his side,” Bratt said. “But that’s the problem, everyone who has come out publicly against this — Happy Mann, Prab Gill, Derek Fildebrandt — were all part of the UCP, and now they’re not.”
Albertans head to the polls on April 16.