Documents released yesterday indicate that, contrary to what Stephen Harper says, there were more people than Nigel Wright involved in the pay off to Mike Duffy. Most interesting of all is the revelation that Senator Irving Gertsein, who controls Conservative Party funds, was prepared to pony up $30,000 to help Duffy pay his bill -- until Gerstein discovered that Duffy's tab was three times bigger than that.
Paul Wells writes that this isn't the first time party money was used to try and make a problem go away:
At the beginning of the campaign for the 2006 election, an Ottawa lawyer named Alan Riddell stepped aside as the Conservatives’ nominated candidate in the Ottawa South riding. The party wanted to run Alan Cutler, a public servant who had blown the whistle on the Liberal sponsorship scandal, in the riding. Besides, as a candidate Riddell was, to some extent, less than ideal. He had run for the Conservatives in 2004 and lost after the Ottawa Sun ran an embarrassing story about a prank Riddell had played in his student days. (He’d dressed up as a character from Hogan’s Heroes, and I don’t mean Corporal LeBeau. A bit of a no-no, in retrospect.) After he lost the Sun retracted much of its story, but the damage was done. So, under some pressure from the party in 2006, Riddell dropped out, the party thanked him for his efforts, and Cutler became the candidate.
Then a CBC reporter asked Riddell why he had pulled out of the race so late. Riddell replied that the party made it easy by agreeing to cover his campaign expenses. He put the cost at about $50,000. Reporters following Harper on the campaign trail promptly asked him about the deal with Riddell. “In fact there is no agreement and he hasn’t been paid anything,” Harper said. When asked again later that day — it was the end of 2005 and Harper was still the kind of guy who might deign to scrum twice in one day — he repeated himself: “The party does not have an agreement to pay Mr. Riddell these expenses, and Mr. Riddell has not been paid anything to date.”
Unfortunately for Harper’s version of events, there was an email trail, which somebody on Riddell’s campaign promptly leaked to reporters. Riddell wound up suing the party for his expenses. On January 11, 2007, Judge Denis Power of Ontario Superior Court ruled “that Alan M. Riddell and the Conservative Party of Canada entered into a binding agreement on November 25, 2005.” He could hardly reach any other conclusion. Among the evidence produced in court was a November 25 email from Mike Donison, the Conservatives’ former director general, to Riddell’s lawyer. The email read, in part: “There is now a binding agreement between Mr. Riddell and the Conservative Party of Canada.”
And, of course, there was that story about Chuck Cadman -- another candidate who Harper had dumped -- who ran as an independent and was re-relected in his riding. Harper needed Cadman's vote to bring down the Martin government in 2005. The story making the rounds was that the dying Cadman was offered a large insurance policy to take care of his widow. But Cadman could not be bought.
Mr. Harper has denied any and all suggestions that he had anything to do with such nefarious schemes. The pattern is pretty clear. Something is rotten in the state of Denmark.