Alberta Politics
Jeff Callaway and Jason Kenney when the relationship between their campaigns was not so clear (Photo: Facebook).

CBC exposé about Jason Kenney’s campaign has echoes of Richard Nixon

Posted on March 17, 2019, 12:11 pm
6 mins

Perhaps it’s just me, but with each passing day Jason Kenney reminds me a little more of Richard M. Nixon, the talented but deeply flawed American president who in 1973 resigned from office rather than be impeached by the House of Representatives and sent packing by the Senate.

Last night’s exposé by the CBC’s Edmonton investigative journalists, while perhaps not technically as devastating as their previous story that the RCMP is now investigating the financial goings on during Jeff Callaway’s 2017 “Kamikaze” United Conservative Party leadership campaign, brightly illuminates Mr. Kenney’s Nixonian characteristics.

U.S. President Richard M. Nixon (Photo: Joe Gromeiski, Stars and Stripes).

The detailed CBC report by journalists Charles Rusnell, Jennie Russell and Alison Dempster published a little before midnight is based on what they refer to as a leaked cache of documents and shows how Mr. Kenney’s leadership campaign team worked hand in glove with the supposedly rival Jeff Callaway campaign to knock off the strong challenge by Brian Jean, former leader of the Wildrose Party.

This directly contradicts statements Mr. Kenney, and his party officials and supporters, made at the time and more recently.

The CBC shows how the two campaigns were effectively joined at the hip, with the Kenney crew providing the Callaway camp “with resources including strategic political direction, media and debate talking points, speeches, videos, and attack advertisements, all aimed at undermining Kenney’s main political rival, Brian Jean.”

In other words, in a sneaky way, they were both part of the same campaign. This is certainly unethical – and if I were a UCP supporter, I’d be furious – but on its own it’s probably not illegal.

The illegalities being investigated by the Office of the Election Commissioner and now apparently by the RCMP seem to have to do with how Mr. Callaway’s Kamikaze campaign was financed, and maybe whether illegal efforts were made to interfere with the investigation. This, presumably, will become clear in the fullness of time.

In the meantime, the CBC story provides new insights into the Kenney campaign’s modus operandi – including a carefully developed timeline to sow seeds of doubt about Mr. Jean, needle him into losing his temper and then play embarrassing recordings if successful, and then have Mr. Callaway withdraw from the race at the moment that would cause maximum harm to the Jean campaign.

In addition, these new revelations raise new questions, many being asked this morning on social media. For example, were the Kenney campaign’s donations in kind to Mr. Callaway’s effort properly reported to Elections Alberta as the contributions they obviously were?

The irony is that like President Nixon in the 1972 U.S. Presidential campaign, Mr. Kenney almost certainly could have beaten his principal opponent without cheating. It sure starts to look, though, as if he just couldn’t help himself.

Likewise Mr. Kenney or someone in his campaign apparently couldn’t resist trying to cover-up what had been done.

As U.S. Senator Howard Baker, one of the principal figures in the so-called Watergate scandal that undid Mr. Nixon, observed, “it is almost always the cover-up rather than the event that causes trouble.” The Watergate Hotel and complex in Washington D.C. was where burglars working for the Nixon campaign were caught breaking into the Democratic National Committee headquarters.

Perhaps, those who don’t remember this elementary bit of historical advice are doomed to run afoul of it again!

Of course, in fairness, it’s important to note that both Mr. Callaway and Mr. Kenney continue to deny anything like this went on. However, as the CBC reminded its readers, Mr. Kenney told reporters on Friday that the RCMP investigation is “not about our campaign; it is about someone else’s leadership campaign from 18 months ago.”

The problem with that, of course, is that the CBC’s latest report strongly suggests that for all intents and purposes, someone else’s campaign was effectively part of Mr. Kenney’s.

No wonder several of Mr. Callaway’s campaigners ended up working for Mr. Kenney after he assumed the mantle of party leadership and was elected to the Legislature.

No one yet has the answer to the important question about what Mr. Kenney knew, and when he knew it – unless, of course, the CBC has another story ready to release in a day or two.

Mr. Kenney’s slight resemblance to Mr. Nixon was first remarked upon by your blogger in a Calgary Herald feature on May 9, 1993.* It would seem, however, that the similarity runs deeper than the five o’clock shadow he noted then.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

* This piece is not available online unless you have access to a newspaper database, like Proquest Canadian Newsstream available through many public libraries in Alberta. The Herald’s headline was “‘Enfant terrible’ sounds the alarm.”

11 Comments to: CBC exposé about Jason Kenney’s campaign has echoes of Richard Nixon

  1. John T

    March 17th, 2019

    I’m betting Notley is thinking about calling that election soon….LoL.

    Reply
  2. Sheldon

    March 17th, 2019

    As you point out, Mr. Kenny was was heavily favoured to win. It now seems clear he and his campaign team felt it necessary to improve their odds of victory to a certainty. To secretly direct and fund a “stalking horse candidate” is fundamentally anti-democratic. This type of covert conduct tells me he’s willing to improperly undermine another member of his own party to get power. If he’ll do this to Mr. Jean why should I expect him to be honest with the voters? Why should I expect him to be transparent as Premier? Based on his conduct, if Mr. Kenny becomes Premier, I expect he will continue to mislead the voters about his true intentions while he works to accomplish his own goals.

    Democracy is an imperfect form of government, but to function effectively it is critical those elected to govern us are willing to accept those from the other side are legitimate players and equally entitled to win out in the political process. Voters need to know their leaders and elected officials play by the rules and will not game the system . A failure to accept this critical tenet puts democracy at risk.

    Reply
  3. Brett

    March 17th, 2019

    This goes to the heart of what we refer to as character and integrity. When the rumours first started I hoped that they were just that..unsubstantiated rumours.

    I would suggest that Jason Kenney make no further comments on this. It appears that a little bit of what is left of his integrity slips away with every apparently deceptive comment he blurts out.

    It is time for the Party executive and those influential members of the party to make a fundamental decision about what the Party stands for and the level of integrity that is expected from a leader.

    Reply
  4. Hana Razga

    March 17th, 2019

    “No one yet has the answer to the important question about what Mr. Kenney knew, and when he knew it……”

    One has to wonder if he is going pull out the “plausible deniability”, just as Stephen Harper did during the Duffy affair. Would not surprise me a bit since Jason Kenney is a faithful disciple of Stephen Harper.

    Reply
  5. Hana Razga

    March 17th, 2019

    ” Mr. Jean tweeted cutely that this had nothing to do with him…..”
    “Wow,” he extemporized. “I too have heard crazy rumours about something coming Friday but NONE of it involves me.”

    I guess he was right – something did come down Friday, but none of it involved him. lol

    Reply
  6. Farmer Dave

    March 17th, 2019

    Given all the shenanigans by Kenney and his personal party called UCP maybe Brian Jean or Rachel Notley would be the best choice to lead this Province called Alberta.

    Reply
  7. J.E. Molnar

    March 17th, 2019

    No one can complain about Jason Kenney’s integrity — he has none.

    I bet the UCP brass are scratching their collective heads and wondering why Kenney is desperately trying to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. Combined with the news of a RCMP investigation and this latest steaming hot pile of chicanery the prospects for UCP electoral success grow dimmer and dimmer with every bozo eruption. For those on the left, what’s not to like.

    Reply
  8. Farmer Dave

    March 17th, 2019

    Jason Kenney says he wants to create good paying jobs for Alberta employees by reducing the minimum wage for 17 year old persons or under. Then he goes on to say that his policy will help businesses retain younger workers because they will work for less. How does this policy create good paying jobs for regular employees in Alberta when a business can retain a younger one for cheap. Kenney needs to explain how his policy will work to create these good paying jobs, instead he just flaps with his lips about nothing positive, he cannot be trusted.

    Reply
  9. Jim

    March 18th, 2019

    When Kenney gets his orders from HQ it would be interesting to know if they come by email from idu.org or manningcentre.ca. Perhaps the RCMP already has the smoking gun thanks to the data collection allowed under C51. It would be mildly amusing if Kenney was undone by legislation he supported.

    Awaiting the results of course this should be a warning to fellow rural voters, Kenney will do anything to get and keep power. As we all know Alberta elections are decided in Edmonton and Calgary, if it means power Kenney will throw us under the bus pretty fast.

    Reply
    • Bob Raynard

      March 18th, 2019

      Jim, I love the scenario you have painted. It has made my morning!

      Reply
  10. David

    March 18th, 2019

    It seems like Mr. Kenney conciously or not at some point in his political career has adopted “What would Nixon do?” as his guiding mantra. Mr. Kenney is probably a bit young to remember Watergate first hand, perhaps explaining why in this case like many others, that those do not learn from history may be doomed to repeat it.

    It is odd that Mr. Kenney, who is a formidable campaigner, would feel the need to resort to such tactics. Perhaps he felt if he did not win it would be the end of his political career and as someone who spent much of his life in pursuit of political power, any risk of that happening was probably unbearable.

    In any event, what happened in the leadership race can not be undone now, it can only be concealed or revealed. To paraphrase Nixon at one point of Watergate, the whole thing rests on if one of the conspirators talks. It seems like some of the people involved in the Kenney/Callaway meetings and communications have now decided to talk, as they are faced with fines and possible other serious legal problems of their own.

    I suspect there was a time early in Watergate’s unravelling that Nixon or his aides also maintained the crimes being investigated also had nothing to do with him just as Kenney is doing now. If Kenney and his team stage went to such considerable effort to stage manage the Callaway campaign, is it quite plausible to think they also had a role in the illegal and questionable donations to the Callaway campaign? I think so. Therefore it is quite possible things will continue to unravel as the media, Alberta’s election officials and now the RCMP all follow the money.

    Reply

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