Pay no attention to the campaign debts behind the curtain: Liveblogging the Conservative Party ad release presser

IMPORTANT NOTE: It turns out I was completely wrong in my prediction, and the press conference wound up being all about the Cadman tapes. That’s the magic of semiliveblogging. Anyway, just wanted readers just joining us now to be aware that there is a plot twist ahead.

10:40:11 AM
I had high hopes for a slow, leisurely start to the day, but thanks to the Conservatives, my morning has already been thrown wildly off schedule: I’m currently in a cab, which is whisking me off to deepest, darkest Vanier for a hastily-announced party press conference and ad release. It starts at 11—yes, I’m probably cutting it a little close as far as time—and it will, we assume—we being me and the cab driver—that the latest round of non-election media buys are going to focus on Stéphane Dion and His Terrible, Horrible Money Problems: He may not be a leader, but he sure managed to rack up some impressive debts!

10:49:57 AM
Okay, so maybe I was completely off base in my predictions, because according to pre-presser gossip—I’m out of the cab and in the briefing room, by the way, but more on that later—James Moore will be here, which can only mean one thing: Cadman. Beyond that, I’ve got nothing. I mean, it could be the lawsuit, it could be new information, it could be anything.

Anyway, while we’re waiting—the room. Actually, first, the building—which could not possibly be more anonymous or trickier to find, what with it being on Middle of Nowhere Drive, and doesn’t even have a visible street number; I had to ask some guy smoking a cigarette outside if this was the right place. Once inside, a smiling blonde staffer walked me upstairs—past the obligatory Stephen Harper wall poster, of course—down a corridor, and into the “media centre,” where I rejoined my people.

The room is slowly but surely filling up, but for some reason, no one seems to want to sit in the front row—possibly because the way the chairs are arranged, it looks like you’re part of the stage show.

10:58:50 AM
Two minutes to go! This is exciting, isn’t it?

11:00:37 AM
And here we go! Or rather, here we read: I’ve just been handed an enormous binder full of affidavits and other court filings: the upshot seems to be that the Liberals are using a “doctored” audio tape—the infamous Harper interview.

News release headline: Liberals using doctored audio tape—Two leading North American forensic audio experts have confirmed that Zytaruk tape is “edited,” “doctored” and contains a “fabricated soundbite.”

11:06:52 AM
Ooh, apparently this stems from an injunction request, filed this morning, ordering the Liberal Party to stop using the tape.

More clips from Moore—who I can’t see, because the room is so full of cameras. The tape was allegedly “doctored” more than once. He claims that the tape has now been “thoroughly discredited” before going back to his usual spiel.

11:09:58 AM
Okay, he’s moved onto the French statement, leaving us to mull over what, exactly, is going on here, and frantically pick through the mound of documents—hey look, an affidavit from Ray Novak!—before the questions start.

One thing this suggests, incidentally, is that the tape really has hurt the Conservative case as far as Cadman is concerned, and may have even hurt the Prime Minister’s credibility. I mean, this entire binder is devoted to the tale of the tape—they’ve clearly spent a fair chunk of change on this line of defence. Or attack.

11:13:48 AM
Questions! First, from a French reporter: Did they use the original tape? They used the tape provided by Zytaruk, Moore says.

How did the tape change the meaning of what the PM said? Hm, not really an answer there—reporters pressing him on it. The gist: it was a longer conversation, and the tape was doctored. Doctored!

Oh dear, this isn’t a good sign for the Conservative spin factory: “Are you calling ‘white noise’ a fabricated soundbite?” That doesn’t sound like quite the revelation that the news release promised, and Moore seems to be getting a little frantic.

Will there be action against Zytaruk? Sounds like not.

11:17:59 AM
More questions. The Toronto Star wants to clarify whether the words “financial consideration” occurred—no yes or no answer, just that “the tape was doctored.” That’s the line they want us to leave with—not how, or why, or what it changes as far as the actual conversation.

Another attempt to get Moore to explain how it was manipulated, and he suggests that we go through the binder. But how? How?

I’m not sure if this was such a good idea.

11:21:02 AM
David Akin wonders whether the experts were paid, and Moore notes that all the costs are being covered by the party.

Also, if the Conservatives sent a copy of the tape to these forensic experts, how can they guarantee that they didn’t doctor it first? I see a chain of evidence handling problem here. Then again, I watch a lot of Law and Order. NOTE: After the press conference, I brought this up with Ryan Sparrow, and he assured me that the tape went straight from the publishers to the party’s lawyers, who sent it to the experts. It’s still not clear, however, how many people would have had the opportunity – or for that matter, the motive – to “doctor” the tapes. I guess the Liberals are off the hook, though, since they never had access to the tape sent to to experts.

11:24:10 AM
I didn’t think about it before, but this is a particularly tough crowd to sell on tape editing—or “doctoring”—since journalists use recorders all the time.

In other, worse news for Moore, someone—Graham Richardson, to be precise—managed to read one of the affidavits, and confronts him with the observation that the expert doesn’t say the tape can’t be trusted at all.

11:26:47 AM
And—there goes James Moore, leaving a roomful of vaguely hostile journalists in his wake, all asking much the same question of each other, now that he’s gone: How does this change what the Prime Minister allegedly said? What was added, or taken away, or otherwise “manipulated” so as to alter the meaning of his words?

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