Monday, December 19, 2005

Alex Munter Takes a Leak

The Canadian Press has publicly revealed that Alex Munter was the source of the revelation for Stephen Harper's 1997 speech to the Council for National Policy. Mr. Munter, an Ottawa politician and gay activist, is working for the Paul Martin campaign:
Munter contacted a Canadian Press reporter travelling with the Conservative campaign offering up an old Harper speech that an acquaintance of his, as Munter put it, stumbled upon while browsing the Net.

The reporter passed Munter's tip along to the CP election desk in Ottawa for consideration.

Munter asked to remain anonymous as the source of the tip. Contacted by CP's election desk, he also vigorously denied acting with any partisan direction.

After some deliberation, CP ran a story outlining the main speech points, citing the source of the tip simply as a political opponent of Harper. The story was immediately leapt upon by the Liberal war room as evidence the Conservative leader is outside mainstream Canadian opinion.

[Later,] The Canadian Press learned that Munter was in Vancouver with the Liberal team, working with Martin on debate preparations.

Munter, contacted again Thursday, was repeatedly asked whether the Liberal party had any connection to his suggesting CP look for the story.

Each time, Munter evaded the question.

"I am not a card-carrying member of any political party," he said.
Translation: he didn't pay any membership dues. But Alex Munter's career is exactly the type who'd have the most to lose from a national Conservative government.
"The Liberal party was not a factor in my letting CP know about this story.

"I wasn't calling on behalf of the Liberal party, I was calling on my own and it was up to CP whether it ran the story or not."
You know what this sounds like? The Gurmant Grewal excuse -- independent action with plausible deniability from the leadership. The main difference is that Grewal's actions can be chalked up to juvenile naiveté. Munter's a veteran politician; he doesn't get that excuse.
Munter eventually offered that the speech was found by a friend "who is something of a whiz on the Internet."

He was asked if his friend had any connection with the Liberal war room. He said he didn't know, but finally conceded: "He is a Liberal."
Understand this: as far as Liberal dirty tricks go, this is pretty tame. Had a CP reporter actually dug up the speech, it would still have gone over the press wire. But this was just a leak with partisan motives. In a campaign like this, it's par for the course.

Would CP have gone with the story if it had known that the source was a Liberal? Probably, but with better context; the public would be more disposed to discount the speech's impact due to partisanship.

Munter's denials, though, are somewhat telling. The fact that he was willing to leak shows that he's not afraid to skirt the ethical edge; however, he is afraid of being identified as a Liberal. When a party's supporters don't want to be identified as such -- well, that says something, doesn't it?