Elections BC is reviewing a complaint from a candidate for Mayor of Victoria, who believes a rival is behind a blackmail attempt.
Michael Geoghegan said he received an email early Sept. 28 from someone named Tim Stone, under the subject “5 steps to a cleaner Victoria election campaign.”
The email proposed a “4-for-1 deal” and urged Geoghegan to remove a blog post alleging mayoral candidate Stephen Hammond of the NewCouncil slate paid for certain social media advertising critical of Geoghegan. It called Geoghegan’s claims false and easy to demonstrate.
Just two days earlier, Geoghegan had complained to the Law Society of B.C., alleging that Hammond, a non-practising lawyer, had paid an alleged fraudster to attack the Geoghegan campaign on Facebook.
The Stone email offered to suppress social media mentions and live debate questions about comments Geoghegan made in the early 2000s about NDP politician Jenny Kwan and former BC Liberal aides Dave Basi and Bob Virk. It also offered to hold back audio of Geoghegan describing his wife’s breast size on CFAX and limit the vandalism and destruction of Geoghegan’s election signs “as best we can.”
“No obligation here, just suggestions,” the email concluded. “We see movement on your part, you’ll see immediate movement on our part.”
Geoghegan complained to the Victoria Police Department and Elections BC. Elections BC spokesman Andrew Watson said the complaint is under review.
“We follow up on any complaint we receive regarding potential violations of the Local Elections Campaign Financing Act,” Watson said. “LECFA does not contain provisions regarding threats and abuse from rival candidates. We refer such complaints to the police or the RCMP.”
In an email to theBreaker, Hammond called Geoghegan’s allegations ridiculous, baseless and false.
“We do not engage with people making preposterous claims and urge Victoria residents to refrain from giving any attention to such false statements,” he said. “These are Donald Trump-like tactics. I am spending all my time going door to door with the voters of Victoria and will continue to do so. People are looking for positive change and our NewCouncil.ca team is offering that positive change.”
Geoghegan, a lobbyist, explained that he had sympathized with Basi and Virk, who were fired and charged with taking bribes from Omnitrax, a bidder in the BC Rail privatization. CN eventually bought the company in 2004. Basi and Virk maintained their innocence until a 2010 plea bargain that included payment for their $6 million legal bills and ended a B.C. Supreme Court trial that would have brought BC Liberal politicians to the witness stand.
Geoghegan was fired from his job as head of the B.C. Construction Association for making comments about Kwan on CFAX radio in 2003. He said that her gender and ethnicity were key to her career. “If she’d been a white male she would have been an also-ran a long time ago,” he said at the time.
Geoghegan said he was going through a messy divorce and had been overprescribed medication. He apologized and Kwan accepted.
As for the quip about his wife’s breast size, he said it would already be public from his appearance on Adam Stirling’s CFAX radio show.
During an Oct. 2 debate hosted by CFAX, mayoral candidate Bruce McGuigan pointed out several websites that favour Hammond and NewCouncil, calling the strategy a “gross distortion of democracy.”
“There is a campaign of slander going on, there are all kinds of sock puppets, and false Facebook accounts in a campaign of aggressive well coordinated and apparently well-trained bullying of anybody who raises a point,” said McGuigan, a sociology professor. “If anybody actually successfully raises a point against NewCouncil or Stephen Hammond, that post is taken down and sometimes the whole string is taken down so that it can’t be forwarded to anybody else. I’m concerned that there has been an utter failure on the part of Stephen Hammond and new council to stand up and honourably say this is not appropriate and I’m concerned that somebody that can’t do that, can’t be mayor.”
“As far as the websites,” Hammond replied. “I’ve gotta tell you if other people are choosing on their own right to be slamming other candidates and not me, I can’t help that. I don’t even spend time, I’m at the doors.”
Election day is Oct. 20. Lisa Helps is the incumbent mayor.
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