Monday, December 10, 2007

Golly, Larry

Ottawa's the only place I know of where the mayor -- who may not, in fact, be from this planet -- can get busted for bribing someone with something he didn't have, having that alleged bribe turned down, then seeing the would-be bribee do what he wanted anyway, this time at the behest of an opponent.
Make sense? Never has to me.
Larry O'Brien was one of those politicians who showed signs of being the type who could provide reams of great copy. And here we are. I expect to write about him for the Ottawa magazine I write for, which is, conveniently, called Ottawa Magazine.
Now, at risk of a contempt of court citation, let me make a prediction: Larry's going to walk. There is, as far as we know, just one witness. Unless Larry got hit in the head with a brick, there's nothing on paper. Terry Kilrea took a lie detector test. It's inadmissible.
Before the trial, Larry's going to be under a cloud. Not that things were so hot for him, anyway. His chief of staff and his press secretary bailed in the first few months of the O'Brien administration. Larry's picked fights with the city manager, which is downright dumb. He's in a minority on city council. He's toxic to anyone in senior levels of government. The unions hate him, and, in fact, it was the president of the Ottawa Labour Council who filed the original complaint.
So Ottawa has sunk to the level of municipal laughing stock, perhaps eventually tumbling to the comic-book level reached by Thunder Bay in the 1980s, when the mayor grabbed the city clerk by the seat of his pants and the scruff of the neck and tossed him out of the council chamber.
Ottawa voters voted the Good Copy Ticket in the last election. My banker thanks each and every one of them.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Well, maybe I was wrong

The Mulroney-Schreiber story may have legs. I watched him yesterday and he's noticably better at keeping his story straight. People didn't ask him the right question. He didn't give Mulroney money from Airbus. He gave Mulroney's lawyer in Zurich money from CGI, a lobbying firm. Airbus gave the money to CGI. So if you ask "Did you give Brian Mulroney any money from Airbus?" Schreiber would answer "No."
There needs to be co-operation between the Germans and experienced Canadian investigators. There also needs to be a skilled prosecutor assigned to this case in Canada.
Why dredge up this old story?
Here's one reason you won't likely see in the papers. Back in the early 1990s, the American ambassador, Tom Niles, complained Airbus got its deal with Air Canada by bribing people all over Ottawa. Canadians didn't catch Alan Eagleson, who ripped off NHL players. The Americans did. Canadians didn't prosecute Bernie Ebbers. They didn't get convictions in the Bre-X scam. None on Conrad Black. No convictions in Shawinigate, only the little fish in the Sponsorship scandal. It was the Germans who fingered Schreiber. Nothing on the Income Trust leak. Every major Canadian player rejects a national securities commission, even though the provincial ones are a joke.
In fact, the slogan "The Mounties Always Get Their Man" has been twisted inside out. If the man is a Polish man freaking out for a cigarette in an airport, the Mounties might get him. Otherwise, they're hopeless, or they're leashed.
Our country is developing a reputation as a haven for political corruption. We look like some Third World rathole. Take this, for instance.
And anyone who really wants to be sickened by police incompetence should look at the Air India bombing investigation in which the RCMP and CSIS played a Keystone Kops game and blew whatever leads they had in that mass murder.
Schreiber has many reasons for stringing politicians along. Read The Last Amigo by Stevie Cameron to see how much the Germans have on him. This song and dance is his last hope of freedom. But don't write him off as a crank. The millions actually existed and he doled out the bribe money. All we lack is the details.
He's still playing politics, believing it's profitable to shield anyone connected with Harper. Schreiber's hell-bent on denying knowing Peter MacKay. And he's made it clear that all the wheel-greasing was done without paperwork. Since there's no jury in the world who would convict anyone based on Schreiber's evidence, don't expect anyone to go to jail.
All this does is solidify Mulroney's place in history and strengthen the resolve of people like me who want lobbyists put out of business.
Today, Dourque Newsbought said only 50% of Canadians are interested in these revelations. I humbly suggest they're the 50% who get off their asses and vote. The irony is the Conservative Party of Stephen Harper is probably the cleanest government we've had in 40 years.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

I, The Jury

Well, here are a few notes from the Schreiber hearing:

Luc Lavoie is right about Karlheinz. They'll have to screw the bastard into the ground after he dies. He comes across as the classic wheel-greaser. He has no compunction about bribing people or using arms-makers' money to meddle in Canadian political affairs.
At the same time, he's not willing to rat anyone out. He didn't bribe Mulroney when Mulroney was in office. All Airbus money went to Frank Moore's firm for lobbying services rendered. He has no idea what happened after that.
Mulroney was paid for some vague services, and here's where Schreiber's evasions start looking ridiculous. He says he hired Mulroney because Mulroney would have pull with Kim Campbell's government. But he kept paying Mulroney long after Campbell tanked. What for? Well, all that's left is the pasta machine.
And yet Schreiber says the schmeirgeld -- grease -- was normally paid to politicians after a deal was done, as a kind of bonus. It wasn't something paid out up front.
Still with me here?
Sorting through all of the obvious lies and crap, one thing's clear. Schreiber kept good records. Before they're shredded, someone should issue a subpoena for them and have them shipped off to a good forensic accountant.
Karlheinz has what he wants. He's getting out of jail. His deportation is delayed. My friend Gerd Braun, a Frankfurt reporter, says the prosecutor in Augsburg, Germany, is having a fit. And the clock is ticking.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

End of Term

Well, the end of the semester is in sight. Time really did fly. I met and got to know about 75 wonderful young people and some really great colleagues. Now it's time to mark papers and write.
But just as the Christmas season breaks the edge of my time horizon, along comes old KarlHeinz and the non-travelling House of Commons Ethics Committee roadshow. KHS was Act I, and Brian Mulroney is skedded to provide the conflict that will make this edgy comedy the hit of the season in Ottawa.
Here's a guy (Mulroney) who went into the autumn thinking his little place in history would be gloriously etched by his bulky autobiography, research-ghosted by my friend Art Milnes. Humping up to Westmount after a long day at the office, Mulroney may have cast the odd glance over his shoulder at the Queen Elizabeth Hotel (which sits atop the Central Station, where I catch my train back to Ottawa) and wondered if the $100,000 he picked up from Schreiber was still safely tucked away in Barrick Gold stocks or wherever he put it.
KHS says Mulroney did nothing to earn the money, which conflicts sharply with the idea Mulroney got it as a bribe for services rendered in office. Eventually, he should stick to one story. And if Mulroney got it after he left office for lobbying services (not)rendered, then Mulroney's right, it's just a civil matter before the courts and, perhaps, the Barreau de Quebec.
But before I bought the idea the Mulroney simply fleeced Schreiber, I dug through my books and found a copy of Harvie Cashore and Stevie Cameron's "The Last Amigo". Virtualy every sleazy revelation about Mulroney, Bear Head and KHS was printed years ago in that book. Cameron, so brutally trashed by her own former employer (the Globe and Mail) and blindsided by Kaplan and Spector in "A Secret Trial", is vindicated.(And note, just as happened with Stevie's "On The Take", the normally litigious Mulroney did not sue Cameron for libel). Cameron may have, like the World War II journalist-censors I'm writing about, climbed into bed with the State for reasons of patriotism and for her own ideas of a greater good, but her honesty remains intact.
Quite simply, no matter what Mulroney's story may be, the questions will always haunt: why does a former Prime Minister take wads of cash from a sleazy arms dealer? Why would a lawyer who has an office just a couple of blocks away from the QEH do business in a hotel room with no contracts and no receipts? Is this what was considered normal behavior in Montreal and Ottawa? Has it happened before or since?
Yes, Mulroney's place in history is secure, and it's not a particularly pretty corner of the Great Canadian Story. Now, there may be peripheral damage to Harper's Tories, but even they should suck it up for history's sake. I'll be there for the show.