Thursday, May 16, 2013
Follow the Piggy - He Might Lead You to Sussex Drive
It begins (for our purposes) when senator Mike Duffy has a brown hemorrhage on realizing there is going to be a forensic audit of his expenses triggered by questions about the legitimacy of his housing allowance claims. That sends him into a panic trying to get PEI to get him a health care card via Fed Ex Overnight, yada, yada, yada. That doesn't work.
Duffy comes clean with the PMO (if they don't already know) that it's more than just the housing allowance. There's also the expenses for a Florida vacation he had reimbursed out of the public purse. But wait, there's more. All that tireless work he did attending Conservative fundraisers and supporting Tory candidates on the campaign trail - yep, them too.
So, Mike Duffy, Stephen Harper's most productive little piggy, bares his soul... to Harper's Chief of Staff, Nigel Wright. And this is where a small problem might just turn into a huge problem for those at the very top.
At this point, I want to tell you a fairy tale. Chief of Staff Wright, on learning that Duffy has repeatedly raided the collection plate, absolutely does not go to the guy he works for and says, "Boss, we've got a huge problem here. Duffy's been milking the public purse. The auditors are hot on his heels."
But Nigel Wright doesn't do that although Wright would almost certainly have to do that so Steve could decide whether to hand Duffy a Tory blue pink slip. No, not at all. Wright, instead, makes sure Steve has no say in the matter and simply hands Duffy a cheque, drawn on his very own account, and a bag of magical dust to make it all go away. And then Wright, knowing that the auditors are going to have plenty of questions about all of these "misunderstandings" orders Duffy to remain silent. And Wright does this entirely of his own initiative without Harper knowing anything, nothing at all about any of it.
And they all lived happily ever after - not. Because this isn't a fairy tale. What it actually is isn't exactly clear but it is coming to look a lot like Harper's right hand man knew Duffy had misappropriated public money (call that what you will) and then conspired with Duffy to conceal it from the auditors and who knows who else might look into it, maybe the police?
At this point we get into books that deal with questions of "over five thousand dollars" or "under five thousand dollars."
Hmm, I wonder how many Blackberrys have ended up at the bottom of the Rideau river over this? Just a silly thought.
And it all might have worked out just fine - if Duffy didn't spill all the details to his close buddies in Ottawa (a small phonebook's worth), one or more of whom sent Duffy's e-mails to CTV.
Which brings us to the real question: was there a conspiracy to conceal evidence of a something untoward and was the PMO a party to it? How could Nigel Wright have done something as high-risk as this without informing his boss? Wright would have had to make tough calls that can only be made by a prime minister including whether Duffy should stay or had to go. The details may have been Wright's work but it's almost inconceivable that he did it without the directing hand of the Boss, the biggest control freak in the realm. Or might this be part fact, part figment of Duffy's fervid imagination?
So many questions, so few answers. Maybe if we wait long enough Mike Duffy will spill the rest of this story but if I was him I'd stay a safe distance from the cliffs above the Ottawa river for a while.
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You could be right, Mound. Harper cut lots of folks loose when they became potential problems.
He demands loyalty. But he doesn't reciprocate it.
Why would Duffy tell anyone?
Makes me wonder if there isn't a double ploy going on.
Duffy making trouble for Harpie before Harpie can make trouble for him.
(sorry for typo above)
I really like what you are doing with this story Mound!
Re: Double ploy
Yes, why would Duffy tell anyone? It's not his first day in Ottawa.
If played right, and utilizing the inherent weaknesses in the system Harper could turn this into a positive by making Senate reform or abolishing it, a priority and a campaign issue for 2015.
The issue has wide appeal among the electorate and would be a win win scenario for Harper and Co.
Wow, so the elections expenses double dipping is a real can of worms. No wonder he refused to give anything to the auditors. Could he have actually billed those elections expenses to the Senate, as well as the campaigns? Now if he DID bill any election expenses to the Senate, then there is potentially a breach of the Elections Act, (like he is shaking in his boots about an Elections Canada investigation NOT). His per diems while on election business.. At a minimum they are not reimbursable, as he was emphatically NOT on Senate business. I am pretty sure the audit was NOT a forensic audit, or they would have done more than just sample expenses, they would have reviewed every single line item. If the RCMP are in fact investigating this, then they can actually compell Duffy to co-operate, on a line item forensic audit. I wonder what happens if the RCMP uncover an elections act offense while investigating fraudulent expense claims?
What I can't keep from wondering about is why Harper has been willing to go as far for Duffy and run these insane political risks when Duffy is a Senator (which gives quite a lot of protection and distance for Harper politically speaking especially as compared to MPs and inner circle PMO compatriots, not least a chief of staff), and then I remember that Duffy has said in the past about knowing where bodies are buried and it being his protection. I once in the past would have thought that was just bluster, but then these days given the realities in Ottawa it is hard for me to do so. Then I recall something else I think many people have forgotten about Duffy, that not only was he the host of his show which he used to hatchet Dion for Harper, he was also CTV's national political news editor, which gave him massive amounts of power in deciding what stories got followed up on and what got killed, and given how partisan Duffy proved himself to be in the end I find it very plausible that Duffy has real and powerful evidence of major wrongdoing by Harper himself tucked away somewhere, and it is not like there isn't a lot of potential possibilities going all the way back to the Grewal fraud and the attempt to buy Cadman's vote from his days as LOO.
I don't know of course whether this is true, but I do know that Harper has treated Duffy in a very different way than he normally does with those that have become political liabilities for him. That he is clearly willing to go to great lengths for him, far more than can be reasonably explained by returning past favours or from being such a good fundraiser for the party. I think we need to not get too locked in on any explanation while this plays out, I also think we need to remember though that he was not only a powerful TV personality in front of the cameras during the rise of Harper to power but also an even more powerful one behind the cameras for one of the three national TV networks and two national news networks. It was after all that behind the cameras power that gave him both the access and the power to pull Dion's raw footage and show (blast it really) it despite the promise given by the local host Steve Murphy to not do so, as was routine courtesy given to politicians of all flavours by media. It was that footage that sealed the demise of Dion's chances at the polls, and I know from watching the local media that Murphy was very upset and offended yet was forced to swallow it because of the respective power structure in CTV (since I am a Haligonian I am very familiar with Murphy as a journalist and interviewer and his reaction was obvious to those with long familiarity to him even though he clearly was trying to keep it from showing as much as possible).
There has always been something particularly odious about Duffy's appointment to the Senate beyond the basic/obvious aspects to me, the feel of it has been different than all the other appointments by Harper, yet I've only had gut feel and hunch to go with. I have a strong feeling that this is a thread that could not only lead to the fall of Harper but the destruction of his legacy in politics if pulled the right way, the question is will we see it happen, this is something I will be paying close attention to and I hope others do as well.
There are reports that the RCMP are examining the criminal aspects of this payment scandal. However, I think the RCMP are in conflict of interest with regards to any investigation which might involve the PMO (Harper's RCMP bodyguard was recently appointed to an ambassadorship).
I think the investigation should be handled by a more objective police force i.e. the Ontario, Quebec or Newfoundland provincial police.
@ Dana, I don't know. I haven't seen Mike in probably 20-years. He's always been a convivial guy and you know what they say about loose lips...
@ Anon, I think you're reaching. Why do people talk in Ottawa? Because - it's Ottawa. That's what people do there, especially connected people. If you're looking for secrecy try the Supreme Court or CSIS and I'm not even sure about CSIS.
@ Buckdog - thanks.
@ BGB - how many times do we see this in politics? It's not the offence but the coverup. That usually arises because the political dimension eclipses the minor legal problem.
@ Scotian, I think you're reaching a bit too. The idea that Duffy has some major, career-ending dirt on Harper isn't supported by any facts that have come out so far.
That said, I think Duffy definitely has been different than all the other senators appointed by Harper. In the world of politics, Mike Duffy was an A-List celebrity. Once in the senate he turned into a veritable engine of Conservative fund-raising and election campaigning.
There's nothing particularly unusual in that. Trudeau had the legendary Senator Keith Davey. Mulroney had Senator Lowell Murray. I don't know whether they or others like them funded their partisan work out of the public purse and I don't really know whether that matters in this case.
Don't get your hopes up this will lead the peasants to take to the streets with pitchforks and torches and storm the PMO. We can't ignore how successful, almost magical, Steve Harper can be at riding out scandals.
@ Anon 9:41. I share your reservations about the RCMP being entrusted with this. This suggests grounds for concern:
Regarding Scotian's comments about the mantle of invulnerability that seems to enshroud the Puffster's more than ample shoulders - could Duff be our version of J. Edgar Hoover, who survived I don't know how many Presidencies apparently due to his fount of dirty knowledge ?
I think I need to make sure you understand that I said I found it plausible, not that I think it is actual, because as you said so far there isn't the hard evidence to support it to date, and without said evidence it is only one of many possibilities I keep in my mind. I raised it though because I think it *IS* a possibility that needs to be kept in the mix as this goes forward, that Duffy has claimed such in the past (as I said normally I would consider it bluster but these days and given how Harper has proven himself to operate I have to consider the potentials to be higher than normal), and that his prior position within CTV gave him a position from which he could actually have had the access and the power to cover something serious up (especially if someone brought him the original information thinking he was still an honest journalist, since before his Murphy-Dion rip and subsequent Senate appointment many still thought he was such) for Harper and then retained as leverage/protection from being tossed aside once he was of no further value/became more liability than asset given the Harper record of situational loyalty I'm sure Duffy had to be aware of.
You see I do not live in a world of absolutes where human beings are concerned (especially politics and politicians in general but far from limited to it/them), I live in a world of possibilities and probabilities and until something has been shown beyond any/all doubt to be a certainty (positive or negative in nature) I do not see it as such, because I find to do otherwise tends to close one's mind too quickly and enable others to fool/con others much more easily. So what I was trying to say is that with Duffy I think there are plausible potentials that are much more out there than one might normally be willing to entertain given what we have learned and seen so far from all the relevant people involved when one takes their natures and prior patterns into account. That said, I am still far from convinced that there is actually such a serious extortion/blackmail threat there because it is based solely on surmise, not only hard evidence beyond behavioural anomalies, but I am convinced there is enough potential for its possibility to exist that it needs being kept in mind as one of the many plausible realities that this could be.
I also find your argument regarding a coverup because of Duffy campaigning on the public dime for the Harper CPC another very plausible explanation, indeed at this stage even more so than mine. So it is not like I am locked into my point, I just wanted to make sure it was out there and not ignored/dismissed out of hand, because I do think there is enough grounds to consider it very plausible given the personalities and the environment in question. I am not a big conspiracy type person, indeed I tend more often to see/believe in convergence of interests as explanation rather than conspiracies with most things, however Harper and his lot are qualitatively different from anything prior IMHO and must be considered accordingly because of it.
I hope I have clarified my position here for you regarding this thought of mine. While I am a big fan of Occam's famous razor I also have seen enough times where it cut too soon and prevented seeing what really happened, while the simplest answer may tend to be correct, there is still a large gap between tend and always or even mostly.
I have your points, Scotian. Thanks.
No, thank you for challenging me in a sensible manner instead of just being a brat unlike some other people have done to me as of late, I really appreciate that. I much prefer when someone disagrees with something I've said when they show why and/or request clarification instead of just being insulting and dismissive, something you most certainly were not. When I wrote my first comment I could have been a bit clearer in my intent, and thanks to you I believe I have been, and I would say both of us gained in understanding from the other, which is how this is supposed to work. So you have my thanks as much as anything else, I've been a bit skittish about returning to the blogging world and responses like yours help make it easier and I really and truly appreciate it.
Well, I have to take off for the weekend to look after a house and dogs so I may not be around until next week, so I look forward to seeing what your take is over the ongoing Duffy revelations as they come out over the next few days. Have a good weekend.
A read for you.
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