It's a tale with two scripts. One is the story presented by Stephen Harper, his PMO, the RCMP and others. The other is the account presented by disgraced senator Mike Duffy. At least one side isn't telling the truth.
Who to believe? We'll have to wait until all the evidence is in but I figure the truth has come, quite inadvertently, from senator Duffy.
There is one piece of evidence, the unintended disclosure of which, set this whole business in motion. It's an e-mail - candid, descriptive and, most importantly, contemporaneous with the events. When Duffy circulated the e-mail to his confidantes he believed, quite mistakenly, that they would hold it in confidence. That's what confidantes do, isn't it? Only somehow it wound up in the hands of CTV reporter, Bob Fife, and the rest is history.
The e-mail describes the events that we now know occured. Duffy, perhaps boastfully, wrote that a deal was in place to make his Senate expenses problem go away. He described four elements. He would be given the money to cover his Senate tab. He was to use that money to cut his own cheque for repayment. In exchange he was to say nothing further publicly and he was to stop co-operating with the audit team appointed by the Senate. He added that, as part of the deal he was also promised that the Senate audit report would "go easy on me."
It was a deal intended to continue Duffy's role as fundraiser for the Harper Conservatives. Get Duffy off the hook and get him back out on the road where he was worth his considerable weight in campaign cheques. The guy was an engine for the Tories. They would point him in the right direction and hand him a ticket. He'd show up, press the flesh, and collect the money.
It was because Duffy spent so much time on the road, fundraising for the Prince of Darkness, that he narrowly failed to meet the residency requirement that landed him in hot water in the first place. He couldn't be in Prince Edward Island when he was in Calgary or Moncton or Nunavit. Without being in PEI for the requisite number of days he wasn't entitled to claim a living expense allowance.
Back to the scandal. The timing of that ill-fated e-mail is everything. It happened contemporaneously with the events described. Duffy said the Senate audit report would go easy on him and it subsequently did when it was laundered by Tory senators Carolyn Stewart-Olsen and David Tkachuk.
It's this promise, allegedly with Harper's knowledge, that constitutes the bribery that the RCMP, so conservatively chooses to ignore. That was Harper or his very closest aides promising to intervene with, corrupt if you like, the Senate audit process to procure a favourable result for the Senator from Prince Edward Island. When it comes to that the only conclusion is that the RCMP is choosing to look the other way. Why? That's easy. Where does it lead?
The RCMP has to ignore the audit fixing element for it to justify not charging the principals to the deal - Nigel Wright, Benjamin Perrin, perhaps Harper himself. They've already said that Duffy is to be condemned for accepting a bribe but the people plainly involved in offering and facilitating that bribe - two of them lawyers - are not culpable of any criminal wrongdoing.
A bribe is many things but it's not unilateral. It requires an offer or demand and acceptance, and the transmission of the bribe from one person, the giver, to another person, the recipient.
It's quite believable that Duffy did resist repaying the housing allowance. He felt the party was responsible for keeping him on the non-stop. cross-Canada fundraising campaign that prevented him from logging enough days in PEI to meet the requirements. Long before the expense issue even arose a mutual friend would tell me he worried about the strain that Duffy's party exertions might be taking on the senator's wonky heart.
Wright, Perrin, Harper and others have already made statements that stand to be weighed against that all-important e-mail, the one that wound up in Fife's hands. They tell a considerably different story, that doesn't match Duffy's account. As I recall it, Perrin, Harper's personal in-house lawyer, at one point said he wasn't involved at all and yet it seems it was Perrin who effected the delivery of Wright's cheque to Duffy's then solicitor.
The Conservatives clearly hope the Duffy trial will put an end to this matter. It might be just the beginning.