Alberta Politics
Jeff Callaway and Jason Kenney back in the day when they were running for the leadership of the UCP (Photo: United Conservative Party).

Another twist in the ‘Kamikaze Campaign’ pretzel – Callaway campaign manager fined, fired, vows fight

Posted on February 27, 2019, 2:15 am
6 mins

The manager of Jeff Callaway’s 2017 campaign to lead the United Conservative Party was slapped with $15,000 in fines yesterday by Alberta’s Election Commissioner for “obstruction of an investigation.”

Talk about fear and loathing on the campaign trail! This strange yarn has more twists than a fairground pretzel!

Former Callaway Campaign manager Cameron Davies (Photo: Twitter).

From the UCP’s perspective, the party would probably be just as happy if this confusing tale hadn’t broken just now, right before an election campaign in which it hopes to defeat the NDP Government led by Premier Rachel Notley.

The campaign managed by Cameron Davies in 2017 has been widely characterized as a put-up job by UCP Leader Jason Kenney’s campaign to knock off his rival Brian Jean, the former leader of the Wildrose Party. It was described as a “Kamikaze Mission” in an audio recording of a UCP organizer discussing Mr. Callaway’s campaign that was leaked to media last December.

The idea was supposedly that Mr. Callaway would say the nasty stuff about Mr. Jean while Mr. Kenney kept a smile on his face and clean hands.

The Office of the Election Commissioner is known to have been investigating allegations the Callaway campaign was illegally funded.

Mr. Davies had his lawyer tell news media yesterday that he doesn’t know what investigation he’s supposed to have interfered in. He “specifically denies the allegations brought against him and will vigorously defend this matter going forward,” said the emailed statement by Dale Fedorchuk.

Mr. Davies will be appealing the administrative penalties to the Court of Queen’s Bench, the lawyer also said. “It is important that the public not make any conclusions or draw any inferences from the commissioner’s decision until this matter has been heard by the court.”

Brian Jean, the former Wildrose Party leader supposedly targeted by the ‘Kamikaze Campaign’ (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

No sooner were the hefty fines announced than Mr. Davies was cashiered by the UCP – for which he’s apparently been working since mid-November drafting policy briefing notes. Thrown under the bus, some would say.

A statement from the party yesterday said Mr. Davies was terminated when the UCP learned from the Election Commissioner of the fines. The party statement implied that Mr. Davies had failed to inform the UCP of the investigation of his activities.

Election Commissioner Lorne Gibson (Photo: Office of the Election Commissioner).

The UCP statement added piously that Mr. Davies had been asked about the investigation “proactively” because “we felt that it was important for individuals employed by or contracted to the Caucus to uphold the highest legal and ethical standards.”

Showing signs of having been drafted in a hurry, the UCP statement also said that “at no time has the Elections Commissioner contacted the UCP, the UCP Caucus, the Leader’s Office, nor the Leader’s previous Leadership Campaign.”

As for Election Commissioner Lorne Gibson, he said the legislation governing the activities of his office doesn’t permit him to say much. “There are some pretty strict confidentially requirements, non-disclosure requirements in the (legislation) that I have to respect,” he told the Edmonton Journal.

Mount Royal University political scientist Duane Bratt (Photo: Twitter).

Back in 2017 when Mr. Callaway dropped out of the leadership race, despite denials from some of the principals, everyone seemed to accept the Kamikaze Campaign explanation as pretty much a given – even though the term was not yet in use.

In an Oct. 4, 2017, story by Global News, Mount Royal University political scientist Duane Bratt explained Mr. Callaway’s role as that of a “stalking horse” for Mr. Kenney. “Originally, Derek Fildebrandt was supposed to be the attack dog for Kenney vs. Brian Jean,” Dr. Bratt confidently said.

But when Mr. Fildebrandt was sent packing by Mr. Kenney for various political sins with an explanation similar to the one given for Mr. Davies’ departure yesterday, Dr. Bratt continued, Mr. Callaway appeared to have been recruited at the last moment as Mr. Fildebrandt’s understudy.

The Global story also recounts a bizarre message sent to supporters by Mr. Callaway shortly before he dropped out of the race, accusing another party official of bullying and intimidating him, as well as conflicting comments by Mr. Callaway and Mr. Kenney about the reasons for his decision to quit. You can read the full message here.

Mr. Callaway said he decided not to continue when he realized he and Mr. Kenney had the same message. Mr. Kenney said Mr. Callaway told him “he has to make another major deposit to continue as a candidate, and financially, the support wasn’t adequate.”

“No,” said Mr. Callaway, “I had the money.”

Both Mr. Callaway and Mr. Kenney and his party officials deny the Kamikaze Campaign allegations.

Meanwhile, Mr. Jean appears to be plotting some sort of a comeback.

Whatever can it all mean?

7 Comments to: Another twist in the ‘Kamikaze Campaign’ pretzel – Callaway campaign manager fined, fired, vows fight

  1. J.E. Molnar

    February 27th, 2019

    You would have to be pretty naïve politically to not see Jason Kenney’s grimy fingerprints all over this recent cycle of UCP chicanery.

    The walls of defeat may actually be starting to close in on the charisma-free UCP leader. Given the avalanche of negative publicity in recent days, questionable campaigning tactics and a myriad of investigations by legal sources (the RCMP, the Elections Officer and House of Commons Board of Internal Economy) the electoral brass ring, that once seemed like a foregone conclusion, just may be slipping from Kenney’s grasp. What’s not to like?

    Let’s hope Rachel Notley doesn’t pull the trigger too fast on that election bullet — looks like Jason Kenney just might have some explaining to do before the writ is dropped, once all the current investigations are adjudicated. Albertans are at least owed that much from this embarrassing conservative political regurgitation.

    Reply
    • Linda

      March 3rd, 2019

      I am suspicious that Jason Kenney might the Pierre Poutine.
      This sounds like similar tactics by the CPC, Jason’s previous employer, and the Robocalls scandal.

      Reply
  2. David

    February 27th, 2019

    Mr. Kenney may have developed a bit of reputation as a political Svengali in his long tenure in Ottawa, which seems to have followed him to Alberta. He may be a clever mastermind of political intrigue, but like those who have developed questionable schemes before, a weakness can be that good help is hard to find. First, Mr. Fildebrandt was to be his stalking horse to attack Jean, but Fildebrandt developed too many problems of his own for Kenney to be closely associated with him. – it became too risky. Then, presumably after some scrambling Mr. Callaway was found, with little to lose he actually fit the role of a kamikaze candidate better. However, Mr. Callaway didn’t quite have the credibility or impact of say someone like Fildebrandt would have had.

    As the saying goes follow the money. It is alleged money was funneled by Kenney to Callaway somehow as a part of this scheme, which is why it is crucial that Callaway’s campaign manager co-operate with Elections Alberta’s investigation. I am not sure what the obstruction involved, but it probably was something like destruction of financial records, a failure to provide information requested and/or answer questions. If everything was above board, why would the campaign manager not co-operate?

    Unfortunately for Mr. Davies there is no presidential pardon, so he will have to pay the fine and take it to court to fight it. It will be interesting to see who, if anyone steps forward to help him with this and the legal costs. Of course, this may not be settled until after the upcoming election, but it does cast a shadow over things. It leads one to wonder, just what is so important to hide to risk the fines and obstruction charges.

    Cover ups were never easy, but these days with social media, bloggers, a 24 news cycle, cell phone cameras and video everywhere its even harder. I get the sense that Kenney may not have gotten the best people to participate in his schemes and there are also allegations bubbling about his using computers as voting stations to cast more votes than allowed. Kenney in his defense has said something to the effect that well everyone was doing it. In reply Brian Jean so helpfully tweeted right away that his campaign did not cheat. One can try bury their misdeeds, but there is no guarantee things will remain buried. The big risk for Kenney right now, is more things could pop up at a particularly unhelpful time. I have a suspicion that for various reasons this Svengali does not have as much control of some of his followers and former followers as he would like.

    Reply
  3. tom in ontario

    February 27th, 2019

    The UCP photographer made no attempt to disguise the twin leadership hopefuls’ preference for hearty meals.

    Reply
    • Jerrymacgp

      February 28th, 2019

      Sir: I object to your comment. Body shaming is wrong, whether it’s against a left-leaning Cabinet Minister or a hard-right Opposition Leader. Policy shaming, OTOH, is completely legitimate, and there is a lot of policy that Mr Kenney ought to be ashamed of, so let’s please keep the discussion at that level, shall we? Thank you.

      Reply
  4. ronmac

    February 27th, 2019

    Is it just me but has anyone else noticed that Jeff Callawy looks like Jason Kenney’s twin brother?

    Reply
    • Sub-Boreal

      February 28th, 2019

      It’s .. it’s .. replicating!!

      Reply

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