The Conservative campaign was quick to distance itself from Sebastien Togneri, a former ministerial aide under investigation by the RCMP, who, it was revealed this week, was volunteering for a Conservative candidate in the one Alberta riding the Tories didn’t win in 2008. Days later, the party disavowed connections to another volunteer, Giulio Maturi, who was managing the campaign of a Montreal Conservative candidate.
(Maturi’s name had surfaced in connection to some intrigue in the 2009 Montreal mayoralty race too complex to explain in this limited space. Suffice to say, he denies all allegations.)
But one party worker still on Team Tory is Senator Irving Gerstein, who has been charged with three other senior Conservative officials with Elections Act violations over the 2006 in-and-out campaign finance affair.
Elections Canada confirmed on Thursday that Gerstein is still listed as the Conservative Party’s “official agent” — essentially, the official who must sign off on all campaign expenses and file the party’s financial returns.
Less clear is the degree of Gerstein’s involvement in the day to day of the campaign. Like fellow Tory senator Doug Finley, who has also been charged in the in-and-out affair, Gerstein has recently gone public with a cancer diagnosis — in his case, bladder cancer. Finley, who functioned as the party’s campaign manager in 2006 and 2008, decided to sit out this campaign and let PMO staffer Jenni Byrne run the show. Gerstein could not be reached for comment Thursday.
Gerstein could not be reached for comment Thursday but a Conservative Party spokesman said there has been no discussion about removing him from the campaign.
“This accounting dispute with Elections Canada is long running,” the spokesman said. “The charges laid in connection with it are administrative in nature. We continue defend our position in this matter.”
In the early days of the campaign, NDP leader Jack Layton called on Stephen Harper to ensure none of the four Tories charged over in-and-0ut worked on the election. At that point, however, it wasn’t known if any of them were involved.
Former Conservative Party official Susan Kehoe, also charged, now works in the Auditor-General’s office. Michael Donison, the former party executive director, works for public relations and lobbying firm Crestview Public Affairs.