Buckets of Data

December 12, 2006

Newsweek on US politicians and the MKO

Filed under: Uncategorized — bucketsdata @ 11:36 pm

Newsweek
September 26, 2002, Newsweek Web Exclusive
SECTION: NATIONAL AFFAIRS

LENGTH: 1634 words

HEADLINE: Ashcroft’s Baghdad Connection

BYLINE: By Michael Isikoff

HIGHLIGHT:
Why the attorney general and others in Washington have backed a terror group with ties to Iraq

BODY:
When the White House released its Sept. 12 “white paper” detailing Saddam Hussein’s “support for international terrorism,” it caused more than a little discomfort in some quarters of Washington.

The 27-page document–entitled “A Decade of Deception and Defiance”–made no mention of any Iraqi ties to Osama bin Laden. But it did highlight Saddam’s backing of the Mujahedin-e Khalq Organization (MKO), an obscure Iranian dissident group that has gathered surprising support among members of Congress in past years. One of those supporters, the documents show, is a top commander in President Bush’s war on terrorism: Attorney General John Ashcroft, who became involved with the MKO while a Republican senator from Missouri.

The case of Ashcroft and the MKO shows just how murky fighting terrorism can sometimes get. State Department officials first designated the MKO a “foreign terrorist organization” in 1997, accusing the Baghdad-based group of a long series of bombings, guerilla cross-border raids and targeted assassinations of Iranian leaders. Officials say the MKO–which originally fought to overthrow the Shah of Iran–was linked to the murder of several U.S. military officers and civilians in Iran in the 1970s. “They have an extremely bloody history,” says one U.S. counterterrorism official.

But the MKO, which commands an army of 30,000 from bases inside Iraq, has tried to soften its image in recent years–in part with strong backing from politically active Iranian-Americans in the United States. The MKO operates in Washington out of a small office in the National Press Building under the name the National Council of Resistance of Iran. According to the State Department, the National Council of Resistance is a “front” for the MKO; in 1999, the National Council itself was placed on the State Department terrorist list. But National Council officials adamantly deny their group has earned the terror label and have aggressively portrayed itself to Washington lawmakers as a “democratic” alternative to a repressive Iranian regime that itself is one of the world’s leading sponsors of terrorism. “You’re talking about a really popular movement,” says Alireza Jafarzadeh, the National Council’s chief Washington spokesman, who insists that the MKO “targets only military targets.”

Only two years ago, these arguments won sympathy from Ashcroft–and more than 200 other members of Congress. When the National Council of Resistance staged a September 2000 rally outside the United Nations to protest a speech by Iranian President Mohammed Khatami, Missouri’s two Republican senators–Ashcroft and Chris Bond–issued a joint statement of solidarity that was read aloud to a cheering crowd. A delegation of about 500 Iranians from Missouri attended the event–and a picture of a smiling Ashcroft was later included in a color briefing book used by MKO officials to promote their cause on Capitol Hill. Ashcroft was hardly alone. Among those who actually appeared at the rally and spoke on the group’s behalf was one of its leading congressional supporters: Democratic New Jersey Sen. Bob Torricelli.

That same year, Senator Ashcroft wrote a letter to Attorney General Janet Reno protesting the detention of an Iranian woman, Mahnaz Samadi, who was a leading spokeswoman for the National Council of Resistance. The case quickly became a cause celebre for the MKO and its supporters in the United States.

U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service agents had arrested Samadi at the Canadian border, charging her with failing to disclose her past “terrorist” ties as an MKO “military commander”–including spending seven months in a MKO military-training camp inside Iraq–when she sought political asylum in the United States several years earlier, according to court documents obtained by NEWSWEEK.

Senator Ashcroft saw the case differently. In his May 10, 2000, letter to Reno, the Missouri lawmaker expressed “concern” about the detention, calling Samadi a “highly regarded human-rights activist” and a “powerful voice for democracy.” (As part of a later settlement with the INS, Samadi admitted her membership in MKO but denied that she personally participated in any “terrorist activity.” While her grant of political asylum was revoked, the INS dropped its deportation proceedings and she was permitted to remain in the United States.)

Alireza Jafarzadeh, the National Council’s top Washington lobbyist, said he had “several” meetings with Ashcroft aides about the matter and that he “certainly” viewed the Missouri senator as a supporter of his group. But backers of the MKO acknowledge the real lobbying was done by Iranian-Americans in Missouri who wrote letters and made repeated phone calls on Samadi’s behalf. How much Ashcroft got personally involved isn’t clear. A Justice Department spokeswoman told NEWSWEEK that Ashcroft’s letter to Reno was the result of a “straightforward, constituent-type inquiry,” adding that the current attorney general would never “knowingly” back any terrorist group. When he signed the joint statement with Bond that was read at the National Council rally at the United Nations, Ashcroft did not “intend to endorse any organization,” the spokeswoman, Barbara Comstock, said. “He was supporting democracy and freedom in Iran,” she said. Comstock said Ashcroft currently has “no problem” prosecuting all U.S.-based terror groups, including the MKO.

Ashcroft isn’t the only one now distancing himself from the MKO. The Senate’s most aggressive promotor of the MKO for years has been Bob Torricelli, who in recent years has circulated numerous letters among his colleagues–including one as recently as last year–describing the MKO as a “legitimate” alternative to the repressive Iranian mullahs and urging that the group be taken off the State Department terrorist list. Torricelli told NEWSWEEK he saw his support for the group as a way of putting pressure on the Iranian regime. “They [the MKO] were the only game in town,” he said. But Torricelli also said last week said he would no longer push the group’s cause after getting hammered over the issue by his GOP opponent, Doug Forrester, who accused Torricelli of receiving more than $100,000 in campaign contributions from Iranian-Americans who supported the group. (Torricelli aides say the amount is exaggerated and that others, including some leading Republicans, have also received contributions from some of the same Iranian-Americans.) As a result of the September 11 attacks and new concerns about any allegations of terrorism, Bond also has put his backing for the group “in abeyance,” an aide said.

Much of the new skittishness among MKO’s congressional backers also stems from the decision by the Bush White House to emphasize the connections between MKO and Saddam. It isn’t the first time this was done. Former Clinton administration official Martin Indyk, who served as assistant secretary of State for Near Eastern affairs in 1997, told NEWSWEEK that one of the reasons the group was put on the terrorism list in the first place was part of a “two-pronged” strategy that included ratcheting up pressure on Saddam. Like the Bush White House, the Clinton administration was eager to highlight Iraqi ties to terrorism and had collected extensive evidence of Saddam providing logistical support to the MKO in the aftermath of the Iran-Iraq War. (The MKO’s headquarters are located on a heavily guarded street in central Baghdad.) But the United States could find no other hard evidence linking Saddam to terror groups, Indyk said. “That was about all we had on [Saddam] when it came to terrorism,” Indyk told NEWSWEEK.

National-security adviser Condoleezza Rice said in an interview Wednesday on PBS’s “The NewsHour” that the United States had new evidence from “high-ranking detainees” that Iraq has provided “some training to Al Qaeda in chemical-weapons development.” But a top U.S. law-enforcement official recently cast some doubt about the strength of the evidence connecting Saddam and Al Qaeda, telling NEWSWEEK there is far more substantial evidence that Iran was harboring top Al Qaeda leaders.)

The other “prong” in the Clinton strategy that led to the inclusion of the MKO on the terrorist list was White House interest in opening up a dialogue with the Iranian government. At the time, President Khatami had recently been elected and was seen as a moderate. Top administration officials saw cracking down on the MKO–which the Iranians had made clear they saw as a menace–as one way to do so. Still, Indyk said the basic decision to label the MKO as terrorists could be justified anyway. “Yes, they’re bad guys,” he told NEWSWEEK. “But no–they’re not targeting us.”

Indyk’s comments lend partial support to one of the main contentions of MKO and its congressional supporters: that geopolitical strategy–a tilt toward Iran–was an important factor in the State Department decision to accuse MKO of terrorism. “They wanted to appease the Iranian regime,” said Jafarzadeh, the National Council of Resistance lobbyist.

Still, the Justice Department appears only to be stepping up investigations into MKO members. Early last year, the FBI broke up a ring of Iranians who were raising money at the Los Angeles airport under the guise of helping suffering children when, according to a court complaint, they were routing the funds to the MKO. (A federal judge recently tossed the case out of court, but the Justice Department is appealing.) Then, last December, FBI agents showed up at the home of Jafarzadeh. Armed with a search warrant, the agents hauled away boxes of documents, including files on the group’s dealings with members of Congress. One in particular must have gotten the agents’ attention. It was labeled ASHCROFT.

November 28, 2006

Protected: Out of Putin’s reach

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April 26, 2006

Protected: Claims ‘politically motivated,’ ex-MP Grewal says

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February 2, 2006

Nina wins

Filed under: Uncategorized — bucketsdata @ 4:44 am

From The Now:

Jan. 25

Nina Grewal rides Conservative wave to Ottawa

Marisa Babic

As soon as the first poll results were flashed on the TV screen, it was clear the race between incumbent Conservative MP Nina Grewal and Liberal challenger Brenda Locke was going to be a tight one.

After a seesaw battle all night, at times with only 600 or 700 votes separating the two candidates, Grewal won the riding of Fleetwood-Port Kells by a slim margin.

Grewal received 14,577 votes and Locke trailed with 13,762.

In an interview with the Now after her victory, Grewal acknowledged the squeaker.

“I’m really humbled and honoured. The constituents of Fleetwood-Port Kells put their trust in me,” Grewal said at her celebration party at the Days Inn. “I’m feeling great. I was confident right from the beginning that we would win this race.”

Grewal wasn’t feeling quite so confident earlier in the evening when she showed up at her campaign headquarters to support her volunteers and campaign team. She offered cautious comments about her personal chances of victory, although she was still musing about a possible Tory majority.

She was at a loss to explain the close race between her and Locke.

“I don’t know. I have no idea,” said Grewal who showed up at her campaign headquarters without her husband, Gurmant Grewal, who was embroiled in a bizarre taping controversy last summer.

She denied the scandal cost her votes.

“I have done lots and lots of door knocking and nobody came up with that taping thing,” she said.

Gurmant Grewal, a three-term Reform and Conservative MP, was at the celebration party but Nina entered the room to cheering supporters on her own.

Grewal stepped aside for this election, claiming he wanted to spare his party further controversy. Although he was pleased by the election results, he admitted he was disappointed at not being part of the victory as his party finally tastes power. He believes he would have played “a significant role” in government.

With spare time on his hands, Grewal said he might be writing a book, possibly a tell-all about the taping scandal and other machinations in Ottawa.

Nina Grewal finessed a question about a possible cabinet post.

“Let’s see. Let’s hope for the best. I can’t say much, it depends on Mr. Harper,” she said.

Grewal acknowledged that Canadians’ expectations have been raised with the Conservative victory, especially in the West, which has felt alienated over the years by centrist Ontario-Quebec governments. She rejected a suggestion her team lacks experience and insists they are up to the job of governing the country.

“We have all the experience. We are offering hope, vision for the country and we are a good alternative to the Liberals and we will give that hope and vision,” she said.

Locke admitted it’s tough to lose when you’re so close.

She said her campaign team put up a good fight and warned Grewal she’ll be back for a re-match in the next election.

“I’m definitely in it for next time,” Locke said at her campaign headquarters, where supporters included Gulzar Cheema, who failed to win the riding in the 2004 election.

“I’ll be working on delivering Fleetwood-Port Kells and I’ll watching every step that Nina Grewal makes and she better do a better job or she’ll have me and a whole bunch of other people to answer to.

“She’s not getting another chance.”

Locke said she’ll use the time until the next election to build a stronger base of support.

Grewal supporters were jubilant when Conservative leader Stephen Harper was projected to become the next prime minister early in the evening while Grewal was still fighting for her seat.

“Excited – a western prime minister and a young man,” said 82-year-old Jenny Leach who came to campaign headquarters to wait for the results with her husband Fred Leech, 83.

“He’s a western prime minister for a change. That’s what counts,” said her hubby.

“It will mean we’ll get an even break for a change.”

NDP contender Barry Bell captured 10,961 votes. Independent candidate Jack Cook received 3,202 votes and Green party candidate Duncan McDonald garnered 1,059 votes.

January 26, 2006

Globe and Mail: Harper failed to meet ethics czar on Grewal

Filed under: Ethics Commissioner,Harper — bucketsdata @ 8:01 am

Harper failed to meet ethics czar on Grewal
By CAMPBELL CLARK
Thursday, January 26, 2006 Posted at 5:22 AM EST
From Thursday’s Globe and Mail

OTTAWA — Stephen Harper failed to meet federal Ethics Commissioner Bernard Shapiro despite repeated attempts over four months to interview him for an inquiry into the Gurmant Grewal affair, Mr. Shapiro noted in a report released yesterday.

Despite a code of conduct that says it is an MP’s duty to co-operate with an inquiry by the commissioner, Mr. Harper’s office told Mr. Shapiro he could not find time in his schedule to answer his questions between August and November of last year. Instead, Mr. Shapiro spoke to an aide.

The report was ready last Friday but delayed to prevent accusations of political favouritism in the last days of an election campaign. In the report, Mr. Shapiro wrote that he wanted to ask Mr. Harper when he knew about the surreptitious recordings of conversations that Mr. Grewal, then a Conservative MP, had with senior Liberals about switching sides for a crucial no-confidence vote.

In the end, Mr. Shapiro concluded that it is unclear whether Mr. Grewal was really seeking a reward for crossing the Commons floor, or whether he wanted merely to entrap the Liberals — but that at the very least, his actions flew in the face of the principles of the code of conduct for MPs.

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On the eve of a no-confidence vote last May 19 that the Liberals won by one vote, Mr. Harper’s office released excerpts of recordings Mr. Grewal made, and asserted that Health Minister Ujjal Dosanjh and Tim Murphy, chief of staff to Prime Minister Paul Martin, offered him and his wife, Nina, also an MP, patronage jobs if they switched sides.

Two weeks later, under pressure, Mr. Grewal began releasing versions of all the conversations — the first with 14 minutes missing. The last version showed that while Mr. Murphy and Mr. Dosanjh said he would be welcomed to the Liberals and did not rule out appointments, they refused to make any deal.

In his report, Mr. Shapiro cleared Mr. Dosanjh and Mr. Murphy of violating the code.

He said there is no evidence that they offered a specific inducement, such as a cabinet post or diplomatic appointment for Mr. Grewal or Ms. Grewal, who was re-elected on Monday. They both corroborated Mr. Martin’s testimony that he had instructed them not to make any deal.

But Mr. Shapiro wrote that Mr. Dosanjh and Mr. Murphy should have stopped the “conversational dance” with Mr. Grewal — who did not seek re-election in Monday’s federal election — when he repeatedly asked for a reward for switching sides.

Mr. Dosanjh said in an interview he was “relieved” that Mr. Shapiro found he did not violate the code of ethics, but he charged that Mr. Harper knew about and condoned the taping of conversations.

“It’s troubling for me that the decision to actually go public with the tapes was made in the office of the then-Leader of the Opposition, now prime-minister-designate Harper,” Mr. Dosanjh said.

“I shudder to think that a person who wants to be the prime minister of the country and is parroting words such as openness, integrity, honesty, accountability and transparency, hid from the Ethics Commissioner while he has an obligation as a member of Parliament to co-operate fully with the Ethics Commissioner.”

A spokesman for Mr. Harper, William Stairs, noted that the Conservative Leader’s former communications director, Geoff Norquay, met with the Ethics Commissioner, and said Mr. Harper did meet with members of the RCMP who also looked into the affair.

“I understand that Dr. Shapiro got all the information he needed from the members of our staff,” he said.

Mr. Harper said publicly last spring that he did not speak to Mr. Grewal about his meetings with the senior Liberals until the morning of May 18, two days after the talks began.

He said he told Mr. Grewal not to tape a conversation with Mr. Martin if he met with him.

Although Mr. Grewal continued to tape conversations later that day, Mr. Harper defended his MP, saying that tape-recording conversations is legal.

The Ethics Commissioner wrote that Mr. Norquay corroborated that version of events, but that he was unable to speak to Mr. Harper despite “numerous attempts” to clarify that it was only on May 18 that Mr. Grewal told him “that he was tape recording conversations with the Liberals about crossing the floor and the offers that were being discussed.”

The MPs’ code of conduct calls for them to maintain high ethical standards and enhance trust in their integrity.

“Regardless of which is, in fact, the case, Mr. Grewal’s actions were in my view entirely inappropriate and deserving at the very least, of reproach,” he wrote.

Reached yesterday, Mr. Grewal said he had not yet read the Ethics Commissioner’s report.

December 2, 2005

Toronto Sun: Dec. 2, 2005: Marsden: why I’m not running

Filed under: Marsden,Uncategorized — bucketsdata @ 10:55 pm

The Toronto SunDecember 2, 2005 FridayFINAL EDITIONSECTION: EDITORIAL/OPINION; Pg. 23LENGTH: 601 wordsHEADLINE: WHY I’M NOT RUNNING;A GOOD PUNDIT IS A POLITICAL LEADER’S WORST NIGHTMARE — AND STEPHEN HARPER HAS ENOUGH PROBLEMSBYLINE: BY RACHEL MARSDENBODY:Last week, I received an e-mail that made me wonder if I was being “Punk’d”.”I am wondering if you might consider becoming a candidate in Toronto Danforth for us,” wrote Conservative Party organizer, Georganne Burke. “It would be a fun, high-profile campaign, with Jack Layton and Deborah Coyne as your opponents.”Hanging out with federal NDP leader Jack Layton and former prime minister Pierre Trudeau’s “baby mama” for a couple of months sounds more like a bad reality TV show than a serious political opportunity. The experience would have been like a one-night stand: A quick, dirty, wild romp, zero satisfaction, and a really bad hangover.I briefly considered the request, as evidenced by my official response to related media queries: Gut-busting laughter. And should I ever decide to get a full-frontal lobotomy, I would be happy to reconsider my position — because that’s precisely what it would take for a political columnist to run for public office under the leadership of someone (Stephen Harper) they’ve accused of lacking any sort of political vision or ability to dress himself, flip-flopping on issues critical to conservatives, and possessing “the charisma of a mortician.”Any credible pundit would make a horrible candidate, as it appears the party has finally realized. As the National Post reported, the Conservatives now consider me to be “too high-profile”.What a crock — political parties recruit big-name candidates all the time. The difference is that while those other “high-profile” types would no doubt repeat the party’s daily talking points like good little automatons, I would take the memos from headquarters, cut them up into snowflakes, hang them on my Christmas tree, and then go out and say whatever the heck I felt like saying. And script deviations make great “high-profile” copy.There’s no room for speaking one’s mind in our Canadian system. If your leader doesn’t have a vision, then tough luck — you had sure better not be coming up with one, either.Canada’s ambassador to the U.S., Frank McKenna, drove this point home when he called the American political system “dysfunctional” because U.S. politicians have a pesky habit of speaking up, rather than toeing the party line to suit the leader like they do here in Canada. Canadian politicians are more whipped than Brad Pitt since he hooked up with Angelina Jolie.Political columnists with any credibility couldn’t follow talking points if their lives depended on it. We’re generally big-mouthed, creative types with strong opinions and a clear vision of where we think things ought to be going — unlike our politicians.American commentators like Rush Limbaugh and Bill O’Reilly have been far more influential in shaping the political landscape from outside the system than any one politician could ever hope to be on the inside. What our country desperately needs if it’s ever going to change political direction is more Rush Limbaughs and fewer political sycophants.Should one of us blowhards end up getting elected, you can bet that we’d be duct-taped to a backbench with a large sock stuffed in our mouth for the duration of the parliamentary session.Political commentators should be loathed by members from all parties — because absurdity and stupidity aren’t the exclusive domain of any one of them. A good pundit is like a reflective storefront window that politicians like to blame for making them look fat, instead of their cheeseburger habit.So I’ll be spending this election campaign doing what I enjoy most: Lampooning political idiocy right here on these pages. And, as usual, no one will be immune.NOTES: Marsden is a Toronto-based political columnist and communications strategist.

Surrey Leader: Grewal trailed in poll, but it wasn’t a factor

Filed under: Uncategorized — bucketsdata @ 9:44 pm

Grewal trailed in poll, but it wasn’t a factor

By Dan Ferguson Staff Reporter
Dec 02 2005

I could have won, insists Newton-North Delta MP

A Conservative Party of Canada poll carried out before Newton-North Delta MP Gurmant Grewal resigned showed the controversy-plagued MP faced an uphill battle for re-election. “I was running behind,” Grewal told The Leader on Wednesday, the day after he announced he would not be running in the current election.

Grewal would not reveal the exact numbers in the recent poll, except to say he wasn’t behind by much. “It was neck and neck.”

Grewal said the poll results did not prompt his decision, adding he’s won come-from-behind victories three federal elections in a row. “Every single time I was underestimated.”

He said he made his decision to withdraw on Monday after learning the Liberals were planning to revive the controversy that erupted when he secretly taped discussions with senior Liberals about him joining the party.

It would be a “smear campaign,” Grewal said, one that would twist the facts and paint him as a person of questionable ethics.

Grewal has said the Liberals sought him out and dangled plum jobs to get him to cross the Commons floor, while the Liberals claimed Grewal was the one who made the approach and angled for the postings.

He maintains there are no new revelations that could be used against him. “If I look in my closet, there is not enough inventory in it,” he said.

Another factor in his decision was the delayed release of a report on the taping by Parliament’s ethics commissioner. Grewal understood the report would be released before the election, and had heard rumours that it would be critical of the Liberals’ conduct during the discussions. But without those findings, Grewal said he knew it would be easier for the Liberals to distract voters and divert attention from the governing party’s sponsorship scandal. “The dogs (would) keep barking,” he said.

Grewal admitted to some frustration, even anger at the way the taping controversy played out. He is proud of having a tough hide, but he tensed and his eyes narrowed for a moment when he was asked about Conservative leader Stephen Harper’s decision to crack a joke during a parliamentary press gallery dinner in Ottawa about Grewal re-editing a video tape of a hockey game.

Then, he shrugged it off and said Harper was simply poking fun at news coverage, and he remains confident of his leader’s support.

Beyond working “as a family member” to help his MP wife Nina get re-elected, he said he hasn’t decided what comes next. He confirmed he has been sounded out about being a talk-show host on a local Punjabi-language radio station, but described it as a tentative offer and only one of several possibilities open to him.

“I’m an optimistic man,” he said. “I have an MBA (master of business administration degree). I have options.”

He said he may write a book about his experiences as one of the first South Asians to be elected to parliament in Canada.

Grewal is proud of his record, listing off accomplishments that include forcing the federal government to remove radioactive material from Surrey storage sites, campaigning to win legal protection for whistle-blowers and the elimination of taxes on taxes.

In nine years as MP, he said he never took a vacation.

The 47-year-old will not be eligible to collect a parliamentary pension until he turns 55.

“I used to think politics is a noble profession,” he said. Now, he said the battering he took over the tapes and other issues has left him “somewhat cynical” about the way the political game is played.

(Unrelated: Cindy Silver, North Vancouver)

November 26, 2005

Edmonton Journal: 26 Nov. 2005: Tories backtrack on candidate after leak

Filed under: Uncategorized — bucketsdata @ 1:01 pm

Tories backtrack on candidate after leak

The Edmonton Journal
151 words
26 November 2005
Edmonton Journal
Final
A6
English

TORONTO – Political commentator Rachel Marsden was asked to run as a Conservative against NDP Leader Jack Layton in the federal election, but the party backed off Friday after word leaked out.

Georganne Burke, a regional organizer for the federal Conservative party, approached Marsden Thursday about running in Toronto Danforth against Deborah Coyne and Jack Layton.

Coyne, a constitutional lawyer who helped defeat the Meech Lake accord, is running for the Liberals. She is also the mother of Pierre Trudeau’s daughter, Sarah. The Toronto-Danforth race is expected to be one of the most closely watched in the country.

But Burke’s position quickly changed after she consulted Conservative advisers and was contacted by the National Post. Marsden is “too high-profile” for the race, she said.

Burke said Marsden did not respond to her e-mail invitation.

Ottawa Citizen: 26 Nov. 2005: Tories woo convicted stalker

Filed under: Uncategorized — bucketsdata @ 1:00 pm

(See correction at bottom of this page.)

“Tories woo convicted stalker to run against NDP’s Layton: Controversial past of columnist, pundit Rachel Marsden ‘not an issue’: recruiter”
Glen McGregor
The Ottawa Citizen
26 November 2005
Ottawa Citizen
Final
A5

The Conservative party has invited convicted stalker and self-styled media pundit Rachel Marsden to run as a candidate in the coming election.

An organizer for the party on Thursday e-mailed Ms. Marsden to see if she would considering running against NDP leader Jack Layton and Liberal lawyer Deborah Coyne in Toronto Danforth, a riding the party admits it has little chance of winning.

The request came just 18 months after the party terminated Ms. Marsden from a job on Parliament Hill in the office of B.C. MP Gurmant Grewal.

Ms. Marsden worked as a writer and researcher in Mr. Grewal’s office using the assumed name “Elle Henderson” until the Vancouver Sun discovered her true identity and noted she was facing criminal charges for harassment.

She later suggested she had lost her job because she had written columns critical of Conservative leader Stephen Harper.

Ms. Marsden, 30, did not reply to the e-mail request to consider becoming a candidate, but the fact she was even asked is a potential embarrassment for the party on the eve of an election.

Ms. Marsden first made headlines in 1995, when she alleged Simon Fraser University swim coach Liam Donnelly had sexually harassed her. He was fired, but later won his job back after producing evidence she had sent him explicit e-mails and photographs of herself.

Ms. Marsden went on to become a conservative commentator, writing a column for the National Post and appearing as Canadian correspondent on The O’Reilly Factor, a right-wing talk show on the Fox News network. She now writes a column for the Sun chain of newspapers.

Last year, she pleaded guilty to criminally harassing Vancouver radio host Michael Morgan, then 52, after the end of a romantic relationship in 2002. She was given a conditional discharge and one-year probation.

“In the future, prospective employers will likely be concerned about her lack of judgment and her irrational response in this matter,” the judge wrote.

The Conservative Toronto region organizer, Georganne Burke, said she didn’t know much about past allegations against Ms. Marsden when she sent an e-mail asking her to run for the party.

“She has her view of it and other people have theirs, but that’s not the issue for us,” Ms. Burke said. “I don’t really care about that so much. She’s conservative and she’s entitled to run if she wants to.”

She said Ms. Marsden’s name was suggested by another party supporter and was one of four potential candidates the party approached.

“It was just a question. It didn’t mean we were going to have her as a candidate.”

Ms. Burke said the party now plans to run a lower-profile candidate who will work to build the local riding association.

Last year, lawyer Luftus Cuddy, brother of Blue Rodeo star Jim Cuddy, ran unsuccessfully for the Conservatives against Mr. Layton in the riding.

Ms. Marsden did not respond to an e-mail message requesting comment.

Photo: When she was a student at Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, B.C., Rachel Marsden claimed she had been sexually harassed by the university’s swim coach. He was fired, but later won his job back when Ms. Marsden was found to have been stalking him.

Correction

A story published in the Ottawa Citizen on November 28th headlined “Tories Woo Convicted Stalker to Run Against Jack Layton” contained incorrect information. The subject of the article, Rachel Marsden, was not convicted. Ms. Marsden received a conditional discharge for criminal harassment, fulfilled the conditions of the discharge and is deemed not to have been convicted. The story also stated that Marsden was “found to have been stalking” Liam Donnelly. No such findings were ever made. Further, the article stated that Marsden was “terminated” by the Conservative party from a job on Parliament Hill. Marsden has never worked on Parliament Hill. The Citizen regrets the errors.

October 23, 2005

Harper jokes about Grewal’s editing skills

Filed under: Uncategorized — bucketsdata @ 8:34 am

Over at CFRA radio is a story about last night’s Press Gallery Dinner, an annual event at which politicians and press get together to roast one another.

Stephen Harper had what looks like the evening’s best line:Harper added that the reason why Tory MP Gurmant Grewal missed the gala was because he was “at home taping the hockey game for his boss” and “editing it to make sure his team won.”

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