Now, I’m a Dalton McGuinty Liberal– running the premier’s election war room–and Rocco Rossi is a Tim Hudak Conservative.
But if you’re a Tory, and if Rocco Rossi ever asks you to get together for lunch, don’t go.
You’ll end up paying, and he’ll end up telling everyone everything you had to say.
Rossi, as you may recall, was Michael Ignatieff’s personal choice to be the national director of the Liberal Party of Canada back in 2009. Until he was tapped by the Liberal Party leader to revitalize the party’s fundraising efforts, Rossi was a fundraiser for the Heart and Stroke Foundation.
After getting selected by Ignatieff, Rossi moved up to Ottawa and immediately seemed to be much more preoccupied with boosting his own profile than his leader’s.
In the summer of 2009, for example, Rossi came up with the idea of piloting a kayak up the Rideau Canal, ostensibly to raise money.
Rossi assigned virtually every single Liberal Party staff person to work on this stunt. Nothing else that summer seemed as important as Rocco’s little boating adventure from Kingston to Ottawa. Rossi tweeted it. He Facebooked it.
He had Liberal staffers’ websites chronicle his trek. End result? One 250- word Canadian Press story, and quite a bit less money raised than Rossi had promised.
One Liberal, Peter Donolo, called the effort “milquetoast,” and said it “didn’t light a fire under anybody.” (Ironically enough, Donolo would go on to become Ignatieff’s chief of staff and pilot the federal Liberal kayak to river-bottom on May 2.)
At staff and campaign meetings– which, full disclosure, I also attended for a while–Rocco was a constant presence, beaming away with those impressive equine teeth of his, but contributing precious little.
On the day that Donolo became chief of staff in the Office of the Leader of the Opposition (OLO), Rocco had Liberal Party staff make up buttons stamped “DonOLO.” Get it? Get it? Those buttons went straight into the round file, as I recall.
Anyway, it turns out that Rossi was paying a lot more attention at those staff meetings than any of us knew. Unbeknownst to any of us, Rocco was keeping secret notes about what he heard and saw and then–when no one was looking–he was slinking across Sussex Dr. to covertly meet with diplomats at the U.S. Embassy. And then he was telling all.
We know this because the helpful WikiLeaks folks dumped a pile of new Canada-related cables on the Internet this past week.
There was the usual embarrassing government stuff in there–but there was some pretty embarrassing Liberal Party stuff, too.
In one cable, we now learn, Rossi was dishing to the Yanks about what was going on in Ignatieff’s office. He kvetched that Ignatieff wasn’t listening to super-smart guys like him.
Instead, Rossi whined, the Grit boss was much more preoccupied with his wife Zsuzsanna Zhosar.
“The only person whose opinion he really cares about is his wife, Zsuzsanna,” the WikiLeak cable reports in one Rossi-related dispatch.
(If you ask me, things might have ended a lot better for Ignatieff if he’d listened more to his wife and a lot less to the likes of Donolo or Rossi.)
If we’d been in government, Rocco’s penchant for disclosing secrets to a foreign power might have landed him in court. When you are a government employee, there’s a name for that kind of duplicity. It’s called “treason.”
But because we weren’t the government, Rocco’s secret briefings with the Americans can only be legally categorized as “dishonest” and “sleazy.”
Oh, did I mention that Rocco is a Conservative, now? It’s true. After crashing and burning in the Toronto mayoralty race, Rocco reinvented himself as a Tory.
My free advice to my Conservative pals? Always make sure Rossi pays for lunch. And always, always make sure you don’t say a damn word to him about your campaign plans.
God knows who he’s spilling the beans to, now.