The February Surprise: The in-and-out story was all but forgotten

It’s been a tough slog pitching stories to editors about the in-and-out affair over the past few years.

It was always an alleged scandal that only a forensic account could love, so complex was the series of wire transfers the party had conducted to help fund its 2006 election advertising and the rules they were accused of breaking.

But interest in the story went through the roof in April 2008, when investigators acting on behalf of Commissioner of Canada Elections William Corbett raided the Conservative Party headquarters. The allegations were further fleshed out in the documents used to obtain search warrants. That produced a lot of reporting, some about the Tories’ holy war against Marc Mayrand, the mild-mannered bureaucrat who heads Elections Canada.

Then… nothing really happened.

Elections Canada went mute, saying only that Corbett was reviewing the file. That went on for several years.

Last year, Joan Bryden at the Canadian Press reported that Corbett had referred the case to the Director of Public Prosecutions Brian Saunders in 2009. But Saunders sat on the case and the file did not appear to be moving.  The Canadian media largely lost interest.

Confusing the issue was the parallel court case the Tories brought against Mayrand in Federal Court, challenging his authority to question the validity of their expense claims for 2006 regional ad purchases. The Tories won in the first round and Elections Canada has appealed. A decision is expected on that case soon, but it will almost certainly be appealed to the Supreme Court, regardless of the outcome.

I threw together a quickie graph showing the number of news reports on the in-and-out affair in Canadian media.

I expect that 2011 number will, uh, rise sharply.


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