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New fine levied in Callaway Kamikaze Campaign Case for illegal pass-through donation

Photo: United Conservative Party of Alberta/Facebook

Another fine has been levied in the Callaway Kamikaze Campaign Case -- as Jeff Callaway's 2017 campaign to lead the United Conservative Party has been characterized -- this time for an illegal pass-through donation.

Karen Brown was handed the $3,500 administrative penalty yesterday by the Office of Alberta's Election Commissioner. She has been identified as a former United Conservative Party financial officer.

In a characteristically terse notification, the Office of Election Commissioner Lorne Gibson said only that Brown contributed $3,500 to Jeff Callaway's campaign to lead the UCP in 2017 "with funds given or furnished by another person."

Under Alberta's Election Finances and Contributions Disclosure Act, a person may only donate their own money to a party leadership campaign. Under the same law, the Election Commissioner is severely restricted in what can be said when reporting penalties.

Brown had little to say beyond that she had no comment when contacted by the Toronto Star's Alberta news staff, but the newspaper identified her as the former chief financial officer of the Calgary-Falconridge UCP Board.

She is known in Conservative circles to have been associated with the campaign of Hardyal "Happy" Mann, a candidate for the UCP nomination in that riding until he was rejected by the party after allegations he was involved in an incident in which a local reporter was assaulted.

Mann's name, in turn, also comes up in other recent stories about former Callaway's alleged "Kamikaze Mission" to sink former Wildrose Party Leader Brian Jean and ensure Jason Kenney became the leader of the UCP, as he did.

In December, the Star's Calgary edition reported that Mann claimed to have met Kenney at a secret get-together at Callaway's home in the summer of 2017 at which the Kamikaze campaign was discussed. In the story, Mann described himself as a "middle man" in that operation.

And when Press Progress crunched some of the donor information filed by the Callaway campaign with Elections Alberta and reported that "66 per cent of the $86,000 Callaway's campaign raised from big donors ($250 or more) can be traced to members of just nine families," the publication said three members of Mann's family were involved.

On Tuesday, the Office of the Election Commissioner announced that Cameron Davies, a former co-manager of Callaway's campaign, had been slapped with a whopping $15,000 in fines for "obstruction of an investigation."

After the hefty penalty was announced, Davies had his lawyer tell media he "specifically denies the allegations brought against him and will vigorously defend this matter going forward."

The Office of the Election Commissioner is known to have been investigating the allegations about Callaway's campaign since last year, and has hired two former police officers specializing in white-collar crime to conduct its inquiries.

Immediately after the penalties were announced, Davies was fired by the UCP, for which he had been working since mid-November drafting policy briefing notes.

The investigation continues.

CORRECTION & APOLOGY: Cameron Wilson is political director of the Wilberforce Project. Incorrect information appeared in an earlier version of this post. Alberta Diary regrets the error and the author apologizes to both Mr. Wilson and Mr. Davies for this confusion.

David Climenhaga, author of the Alberta Diary blog, is a journalist, author, journalism teacher, poet and trade union communicator who has worked in senior writing and editing positions with the Toronto Globe and Mail and the Calgary Herald. This post also appears on David Climenhaga's blog, AlbertaPolitics.ca.

Photo: United Conservative Party of Alberta/Facebook

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