A Calgary businessman has been fined by Alberta’s election commissioner, accused of transferring tens of thousands of dollars to the “kamikaze” campaign of Jeff Callaway in the 2017 United Conservative Party leadership race.
Robyn Lore, through his corporation Agropyron Enterprises, is alleged to have transferred $60,000 to Callaway’s communications director, Cam Davies, according to fines posted to the Office of Election Commissioner on Monday.
That money was allegedly funnelled into the campaign through so-called “straw” donors — individuals who agreed to act as conduits for the corporate cash in violation of Alberta’s election laws. Corporations are banned from donating to campaigns in the province and individuals can contribute no more than $4,000 per year.
Callaway was one of the candidates to lead the newly formed UCP in 2017, but the chief contenders were the two former leaders of the Wildrose and Progressive Conservative parties — Jason Kenney and Brian Jean.
Callaway’s campaign worked closely with the campaign of Kenney — now Alberta premier — with direction coming from Kenney’s team on everything from talking points to when Callaway would drop out of the race to support Kenney.
In all, 15 people have now been hit with penalties from the election commissioner for their role in financing the campaign.
$25,000 in fines
Lore faces $17,000 in fines for accepting $60,000 through Agropyron for the purpose of contributing to Callaway’s campaign, for providing that money to Davies and for colluding with Callaway to “circumvent or attempt to circumvent a contribution limit,” according to the election commissioner.
Agropyron was fined $8,000 for making a prohibited contribution to the campaign.
Alberta’s election commissioner, in findings against Callaway, outlined how the campaign was all but broke when the UCP released the cost for candidates to remain the leadership campaign.
Within 48 hours, Callaway’s campaign had almost $60,000 in its accounts and paid the entrance fees.
Envelopes of cash and bank drafts
The findings, released in documents as part of a judicial review of $70,000 worth of fines levelled against Callaway himself, detail how Davies met with Lore in the lobby of Bankers Hall in downtown Calgary in 2017.
Lore then withdrew money from an account and transferred it to Davies, who proceeded to withdraw cash and bank drafts under Lore’s supervision, according to the findings.
“This handoff happened inside the bank at your direction,” read the findings against Callaway. “Davies was instructed to hand over the cash to you, and you would then give it to the straw contributors.”
In all, $53,500 was deposited into the Callaway campaign account through straw donors between Sept. 11 and 12, 2017, according to the documents. On Sept. 12, $57,500 was withdrawn from the campaign account in the form of a money order and paid to the UCP for the leadership contest fee and a leadership compliance deposit.
None of the findings have been proven in court.
Energize Alberta earlier fined $18,373
The latest fines are in addition to $18,373 in fines against another corporation controlled by Lore, Energize Alberta, for making prohibited contributions to the Callaway campaign.
Volunteers on the Callaway campaign who have been fined by the commissioner have said they were paid by Energize Alberta, rather than the campaign.
The other directors of Energize Alberta are Eugene Chen, Earl Connors and Jeff Fortin, according to registry documents.
Both Kenney and Callaway have denied that their teams collaborated to plan a “kamikaze” campaign.
However, CBC News has obtained emails and documents that outline the collaboration, including a resignation speech emailed to Callaway’s team from Kenney’s then-deputy chief of staff, Matt Wolf.
Wolf was recently rehired and joined the staff of the premier’s office as director of issues management.
The “kamikaze” campaign isn’t the only controversy swirling around the vote that elected Kenney leader of the UCP. His campaign has also faced allegations of voter fraud in the vote and CBC News has shown some votes were cast using fraudulent emails.
In total, the commissioner has handed down $207,223 in fines related to the Callaway campaign.