Alberta’s election commissioner has fined a Calgary businessman and a company he controls over allegations that they illegally gave $60,000 to a failed contender for the leadership of the provincial United Conservative Party, who then used that money to reimburse “straw” donors to his campaign.
Robyn Lore and Agropyron Enterprises were fined a combined total of $25,000 for their involvement in Jeff Callaway’s UCP leadership campaign in 2017, according to a notice posted to the election commissioner’s website last week. Mr. Callaway has been accused of running a stalking-horse bid designed to help Jason Kenney win the leadership in an arrangement that has been dubbed a “kamikaze" campaign by local media.
Mr. Callaway and Mr. Kenney have repeatedly denied working together on such a scheme. Mr. Callaway’s lawyer declined to comment on Monday.
The elections commissioner has issued more than $200,000 in fines, including to many of Mr. Callaway’s donors and several members of his staff as part of an investigation into how the campaign was financed. The investigation intensified ahead of the provincial election this past spring that made Mr. Kenney Premier as questions about Mr. Callaway and another investigation about fraudulent voting overshadowed Mr. Kenney’s campaign.
The commissioner alleges Mr. Lore and Agropyron violated the province’s election law by providing $60,000 to Mr. Callaway’s campaign. Mr. Lore was also fined for colluding with Mr. Callaway to contravene election financing rules.
Mr. Lore could not be reached for comment on Monday.
The notice doesn’t provide additional detail about the fines, although court documents filed in Mr. Callaway’s case outline what the election commissioner believes happened. As part of Mr. Callaway’s court challenge, he submitted the notice he received from the commissioner’s office.
The document says that money became an issue for Mr. Callaway’s leadership campaign in the summer of 2017, particularly as substantial entry fees required by the party became due.
In September of that year, the document alleges, Mr. Callaway informed a member of his staff named Cameron Davies that he had a solution: Mr. Lore would provide money to the campaign. Mr. Davies’ lawyer indicated earlier this year that Mr. Davies was co-operating with the election commissioner.
The election commissioner notice alleges Mr. Callaway provided names of prospective donors and asked Mr. Davies to find additional people, all of whom would make contributions using the money from Mr. Lore.
The document recounts a meeting in September, 2017, when Mr. Lore, Mr. Davies and Mr. Callaway all met at a downtown Calgary bank to withdraw the $60,000. Mr. Davies used a portion of that money, in the form of bank drafts, to cover several donations to the campaign, while Mr. Callaway left with envelopes of cash that were then given to other donors, the document alleges.
Mr. Callaway, who has been fined $70,000, has filed an application for judicial review to have those fines overturned. He claims the election commissioner acted unfairly and that the office should not have jurisdiction over an internal party leadership process.
Mr. Callaway met with an investigator for the election commissioner earlier this year. Mr. Callaway told the investigator that it was Mr. Davies who suggested obtaining money that would then be given to prospective donors, though he acknowledged directing him to Mr. Lore, according to the document. Mr. Callaway told the investigator that the money from Mr. Lore was a loan, which Mr. Davies was expected to repay.
Mr. Callaway also told the investigator that if he knew how it would turn out, he “never would have agreed to this,” the document says.
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