Friday, April 10, 2009
Mulroney Ancient History? Hardly
You have to be pretty green sapwood to consider something very much ongoing 'ancient history' even if its origins do go back about 20-years. That's especially true when the revelations about the matter keep emerging, stripping away one layer of obfuscation after another.
Brian Mulroney desperately wants you to dismiss the Mulroney/Schreiber/Moores/Airbus business as ancient history. Nothing would make Stephen Harper and his caucus happier either. Harper dodged demands for an inquiry into Mulroney/Schreiber before he was forced to relent, causing his to sever his newfound friendship with his latter-day mentor. The Tories laughably claimed Mulroney was exonerated during last year's Commons ethics committee hearings.
Mulroney has seemed to slip off the hook several times over the years. He thought it was all dead and buried after the Liberal government settled his lawsuit. The former prime minister had, after all, given sworn testimony that his only dealings with Schreiber after he left office were just a few get togethers over cups of coffee. No money ever changed hands. And that seemed to be an end to it. Mulroney was exonerated, the Liberal government said so. It even paid him a tidy two million dollars, the cheque pinned to its letter of apology.
In the course of his victory, Mulroney made an enormous mistake. He disparaged his former friend, Karlheinz Schreiber. It appears that was entirely gratuitous, the sort of hubris that brings down so many highly placed people. It was easy to take a swipe at Schreiber. The German government was pursuing extradition proceedings against the man for bribery charges. Who are you going to believe, a guy who's on the run from the law in Germany or a former prime minister of impeccable character?
It's entirely likely Schreiber would have remained mute had he not been slammed by Mulroney. This mistake, however, revealed how Schreiber could retaliate. Armed with a trove of documents, Schreiber has played his hand brilliantly. He's released documents frugally and with calculated timing. In the process he's achieved two things. He's drawn in his fair weather friends and he's kept the process alive and moving in the direction of his choosing.
And oh how they've lied and lied and lied, the entire lot of them, each in his turn. Mulroney swore he'd had no business dealings with Schreiber. Then he scurries off to file a 'voluntary disclosure' with Revenue Canada when Schreiber hands The Fifth Estate his Swiss banking records. Those documents also seem to implicate Mulroney friend, former Newfoundland premier and Ottawa lobbyist Frank Moores who for some strange reason sees fit to make his own 'voluntary disclosure' to Revenue Canada.
The Fifth Estate and the Globe & Mail keep the story alive and churning to the annoyance and embarrassment of Stephen Harper who had embraced Mulroney as a mentor, a prime ministerial Big Brother. Harper's minority government was suddenly on the hook. It couldn't prevent the Commons ethics committee from holding hearings into the matter (atrociously amateurish in any case). Nor was he able to long resist demands for an official inquiry into Schreiber/Mulroney.
Two important things happened during the ethics committee hearings. Mulroney school chum, confidante and aide to the former prime minister, Fred Doucet, told the committee, unequivocally and under oath, that he'd never had anything to do with Airbus. The most important thing, however, was largely overlooked. It was Schreiber telling the committee that focusing on his dealings with Mulroney was missing the point, looking in the wrong direction. That statement confirmed my suspicions that the Airbus story wasn't about Mulroney and Schreiber. It was about Mulroney and Moores.
In the months following the ethics committee hearings, Schreiber has fed a trickle of documents to reporters that may be highly probative. First came documents from Mulroney's PMO aide Fred Doucet making enquiries about the very thing Doucet had sworn he'd had nothing to do with - Airbus.
Tonight, according to the latest Globe & Mail, The Fifth Estate, will air further revelations from a former Airbus official and a former employee of Frank Moores' lobbying firm, GCI.
In the years since Mr. Moores's 2005 death, documents have emerged, and a number of sources have come forward, that contradict his assertion that neither he nor his lobbying firm, Government Consultants International, was involved in the Airbus sale.
Interviews and notes written by Mr. Moores, as well as memos written by his former staffers, show the firm was intimately involved with the Airbus deal: making overseas trips to promote the European manufacturer to Canadian diplomats, strategizing on how to approach federal officials, as well as approaching officials in Air Canada, a Crown corporation at the time.
...In interviews with CBC's The Fifth Estate, which is airing a documentary tonight about the Airbus sale, two former salesmen for Airbus in the United States have said that Mr. Moores was lobbying on behalf of the European manufacturer.
Anthony Lawler, who was based out of Airbus's Virginia office, told the program he was in a meeting with an Air Canada official when he realized the manufacturer had an additional, unannounced campaign going on behind the scenes.
Mr. Lawler told the program that, in the middle of the meeting, which took place in the mid-1980s, the Air Canada official was beckoned out of his office by his secretary because of a telephone call.
“He came back and said ‘Oh, that was Frank Moores and he wanted to know which aircraft we were looking at,'” Mr. Lawler said. “It didn't mean anything to me at the time ... only after I learned he was in Ottawa and was a lobbyist.”
A former GCI lobbyist, who spoke to The Globe and Mail on condition that he not be identified, has said that staffers at Mr. Moores's firm were told to cloak their work for Airbus in secrecy, and were warned: “If anybody asks, we're not working for Airbus. Don't tell anyone we're working for Airbus.”
Mr. Moores's history of denials dates back to 1985, which is when Mr. Mulroney appointed him to the board of Air Canada.
The Oliphant inquiry's mandate is to examine only Schreiber's dealings with Mulroney not Mulroney/Moores or Moores/Airbus. Schreiber's biggest challenge yet may be to force Harper to widen the investigation.