Conservatives raising money off of CBC and Graves

I received an advance draft of a fundraising letter that is going out to Conservative members soon in order to raise money off of the CBC/Graves relationship. Here it is.

Here we go again.

Yes, I am writing to you about the CBC. Canada’s national public broadcaster. A Crown Corporation that receives over one billion dollars per year from taxpayers. A network with a mandate to serve all Canadians.

In recent days we have learned that the CBC’s pollster on party politics, Frank Graves, has been providing both money (at least $10,762.81 since 2001 according to Elections Canada) and strategic advice to the Liberal Party of Canada. His contributions are huge and his advice is incendiary. Graves wants the Ignatieff Liberals to wage a divisive “Culture War” that would pit East against West, young against old, and urban Canada against rural Canada. He even suggests that if people don’t like the Ignatieff Liberal vision of Canada they can move to the United States (an odd statement given Michael Ignatieff’s fondness for America).

Week after week Graves expresses opinions about Canadian politics under the guise of being the CBC’s neutral pollster on party politics. And just until recently viewers have been kept in the dark about his Liberal contributions and his Liberal advice. But the CBC continues to stand by Graves, their “neutral” pollster.

This episode demonstrates – once again – that we Conservatives are up against a powerful array of vested interests. Vested interests who want to go back to the days of Jean Chretien and Paul Martin. Back to higher taxes. Back to a weakened military. Back to political correctness. And they’re willing to support a highly divisive “Culture War” to take us back.

We can’t afford to go back. We can’t afford to let Frank Graves and the Liberal “Culture War” to prevail. Because Canada, after years of drift, is once again moving forward. Our world-leading Economic Action Plan is delivering results. Our military is being re-built. And there’s a new spirit of national pride taking root across the country. These changes did not happen by accident. They are a result of strong Conservative leadership. Never before has the choice in national politics been so clear.

I am asking you to do two things.

First, write to the CBC and tell them it’s unacceptable to present Frank Graves as a neutral pollster on party politics. You can reach the CBC’s ombudsman by email at ombudsman@cbc.ca, or by phone at 1-416-205-2978.

Second, please make a contribution to the Conservative Party of $200 or $100 right now by following this link. Unlike the Liberals, we can’t count on the vested interests. We rely on donations from proud patriotic Canadians like you.

Doug Finley
Campaign Director

You have 1 new Duffy-gram

Mike Duffy knows your name! Or at least the automated Duffy has a whole bank of names to read from in the Conservative Party’s latest innovative fundraising and voter ID widget that is scheduled to roll out later this evening.

The folks at Conservative Party HQ sent me a preview of their new product which includes the senator and former newsman outlining the Conservative record, while asking for your ranked issues, feedback, postal code and email address. The product also is customized to deliver localized content via geotargeting.

A senior Conservative explained that the the shiny new Duffy-gram is the brainchild of the party’s executive director Dan Hilton who has been moving the party to find new ways to push the envelope in the online space.

Also of note is a new slogan for the party which may yet brand a national campaign if we see one in the coming weeks. “Moving forward” suggests momentum, progress and an ongoing job. Contrast this with the Liberal Party slogan of “we can do better” which suggests failure of the incumbent, inclusion of Canadians and the Liberal Party “we” to solve a problem. Both slogans acknowledge a difficult situation and while the Conservative slogan is more punchy and complete, the Liberal slogan leaves a question open: “better than what?”. Further, the Liberal slogan opens them up to attack as a Conservative narrative is that Michael Ignatieff thought he could do better abroad rather than improve his career among Canadians looking to do the same.

Conservatives have led the Liberal party in databasing Canadians and their levels of partisan and issue-based support since at least the late days of the Alliance. The Liberals have had quite a time playing catch up as they’ve gone shopping for proven software, even approaching the Obama campaign in the Dion days. Yet, while Liberal national director Rocco Rossi is paddling up the Rideau Canal asking folks for money along the way, the Conservatives are showing that they continue to innovate.

The Seinfeldian media

The latest installment of the “will there or won’t there be an election?” drama of As the Hill Turns, the Canadian Press reports that Quebec Liberal candidates at an election readiness workshop had their election “mug shots” done — these are the official photos that Elections Canada and the media will use to report on the election (and while these are Quebec Liberals, I say “mug shots” for lack of a more descriptive term).

Will they or won’t they? — that is the question that has the media scrambling to fill their columns and air-time. Today, I was on Montreal drive-time talk radio and despite mentioning that party leaders themselves ratchet up election timing rhetoric to fundraise and to fill nominations, we still chatted about the prospects of a fall election.  I fear that I didn’t play my role and let the audience down when I explained that all of this election talk is just the empty thrill of a cheap drama.  I explained that prior to the summer break, Michael Ignatieff had just six additional nominations filled beyond his caucus compliment.  Further, despite healthier second quarter fundraising numbers — buoyed largely by Liberal leadership convention fees — the Liberals still have a steep hill to climb when it comes to fundraising.  Party leaders (or their proxies) amp up imminent election talk to create a sense of urgency that compels people to give and to act.

As for those Quebec Liberal candidate photos that were snapped — indicating that we just be going for it soon — it’s pretty standard fare, I’m sorry to say.

Though I fear this will fuel even more election speculation, the Conservative candidates — all of them — had their election mug shots snapped at the Conservative training convention early last month.

A summer of communion wafers, G8 photo-ops and inuktitut spelling gaffes has professional flacks looking for something else, and instead of hopping on an expensive jet to cover news where its happening, most of the bubble-locked Ottawa media are in a standard holding pattern and doing their best as bit players in a show about nothing called When is the next election?

Because perhaps when those glorious days come, they’ll have something more to talk about.

Michael Ignatieff appeals for expat dollars

I’ve received this letter addressed to expat friends and readers from America to Africa. The letter is written by Michael Ignatieff and appeals to expats for dollars, dinars, and drachmas and tries to draw a link between the Liberal leader’s 34 year absence from Canada and the career paths of other expats.

(Click the pages to enlarge)

Ignatieff can’t seem to help himself as he boasts of his own experiences in a closing paragraph of the letter,

“My own path has taken me across the airwaves of the BBC to the pages of the New York Times, from the remote villages in Afghanistan into the lecture halls of Paris, Vancouver and Boston. And now that path has brought me here — to the country that has always been my home, as Leader of the one party that can set Canada back on its own path.”

Remember that Michael Ignatieff, when he wasn’t running to be Prime Minister said that the only thing he missed about Canada was Algonquin Park. When asked by a British interviewer after the Quebec referendum if Ignatieff was actually suggesting that Canada, as a concept, has failed, Ignatieff said that he can’t see what sort of future we have [as Canadians]. And, there is of course, this:

Michael Ignatieff left Canada in 1969 only to return to become Prime Minister. If these expats have the same sort of attachment to Canada, it’s doubtful that they will donate any money. Yet, if they not only miss Algonquin park, but also Flin Flon, Oakville, Grand Falls or wherever else in this country they call home, they’ll recognize that, unlike them, Ignatieff as a man without a deep sense of attachment to this country but rather a profound sense of entitlement to it.

Ontario PC Party leadership race fundraising numbers

Christine Elliott is the money leader so far in this leadership race rounding out the pack of four leadership contenders. Membership sales closed days ago and the campaign enters its persuasion phase.

Candidate Christine Elliott Frank Klees Tim Hudak Randy Hillier
Total raised $315,100 $62,517 $153,940 $91,809
Average donation $2046.10 $2604.88 $1241.45 $1311.56
Median donation $500 $740 $500 $142.50
Donations 154 24 124 70

A few observations are noteworthy. The Hudak campaign had claimed at membership cut off time that donations would surpass $200,000. Since we are about 5 days past the close of membership sales and noting that donations must be declared within 10 days, the campaign may have indeed raised $200k by the membership cutoff date. Despite this, the Elliott campaign more than doubles the Hudak campaign in fundraising contributions. Frank Klees, who is the perceived front-runner in membership sales checks in with a disappointing $62,517. He’ll need to raise a lot more in order to effectively convert the thousands of memberships that he’s reportedly sold come (leadership) election day. Randy Hillier makes a respectful showing with $91,809, a sum that includes two donations from federal MP Scott Reid ($30,000) and himself ($25,000).

Cumulatively, the four PC leadership contenders have so far taken in 16 donations of $10,000 or over. Here they are:

Scott Reid $30,000.00 HILLIER
CIC Developments Inc. $25,000.00 ELLIOTT
Cougs Investments Ltd. $25,000.00 ELLIOTT
Steven Pietrobon $25,000.00 ELLIOTT
Phillip Sutherland $25,000.00 ELLIOTT
Shiplake Management Company $25,000.00 HUDAK
Randy Hillier $25,000.00 HILLIER
Pace Credit Union $20,000.00 KLEES
David Cynamon $10,000.00 ELLIOTT
Howard Holdings Corp $10,000.00 ELLIOTT
Joanne Love $10,000.00 ELLIOTT
Peter Westaway $10,000.00 ELLIOTT
Ross Whalen $10,000.00 ELLIOTT
Robert Wilson $10,000.00 ELLIOTT
Steane Consulting Ltd. $10,000.00 HUDAK
Mass Insurance Brokers Ltd. $10,000.00 KLEES

All data accurate from Elections Canada as of 9:15pm EST May 19th, 2009

Obama sets example for Canada

The election of Barack Obama is historic in many ways, most significantly in the progression along the troubled history of race in the United States. On Tuesday, Americans turned out in record numbers to give Obama a decisive win and vault the first African-American into the highest office in that country. The Obama team also set new records along the fundraising front and may indeed set a precedent for the financing of elections in the future.

According to opensecrets.org, a website on money in politics run by the Centre for Responsive Politics, Senator Obama raised $639 million during the 2008 Presidential election cycle with 91% of that sum coming from individual donations. Comparatively, Senator McCain raised $360 million, 54% coming from the same type; the majority of the dollars from each candidate’s campaign came from people making personal donations to their favourite candidate. A striking difference between campaigns was Obama’s refusal of public funding. The Illinois senator took $0 of public financing while his Republican counterpart from Arizona took over $84 million to make up 23% of his campaign’s spending power.

We didn’t start with much money or many endorsements. Our campaign was not hatched in the halls of Washington – it began in the backyards of Des Moines and the living rooms of Concord and the front porches of Charleston.

It was built by working men and women who dug into what little savings they had to give five dollars and ten dollars and twenty dollars to this cause. It grew strength from the young people who rejected the myth of their generation’s apathy; who left their homes and their families for jobs that offered little pay and less sleep; from the not-so-young people who braved the bitter cold and scorching heat to knock on the doors of perfect strangers; from the millions of Americans who volunteered, and organized, and proved that more than two centuries later, a government of the people, by the people and for the people has not perished from this Earth. This is your victory. — President-elect Barack Obama, Chicago November 4th, 2008

In Canada, the Reform Party under Preston Manning started a tradition of passing the hat in church basements and legion halls during rallies, speeches or simple administrative meetings. A donation of $5, $20 or $100 was passed on to bring change to Ottawa. The tradition continues today under Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Conservative Party, though in a much more sophisticated way and one that is buoyed by databases and telemarketing. Conservatives have historically raised an average individual donation of about $100 while Liberals used to depend on fewer but larger sums. Jean Chretien –perhaps to kneecap his long-coveting Prime Ministerial successor — changed the way election financing was done in Canada by banning corporate and union donations. Chretien replaced the private financing of political parties by special interests with public financing by government. For each vote that a party earns during an election, that party receives $1.75 per year from the federal treasury.

On the surface, this reconfiguration of campaign financing seems to rebalance the funding equation from powerful institutions to those that ought to have the first and last word in any democracy. Indeed, voters are empowered not only when they give campaigns their vote but also when they do so with the knowledge that instead of corporate or union backing, there is a small financial sum that comes with each ballot cast that sustains parties instead. However, while Chretien’s system solves one problem, it creates another.

In Quebec where a province defaults to the inert rather than the principled, a problem exists with Chretien’s model of campaign financing. The Bloc Quebecois, doing all it could to supress its core principle of sovereignty for that province, rather stood against — indeed, as a block to — Conservative ideas in the 2008 general election and against Liberal corruption in 2006. In the first half of this year, the Bloc raised just over $70,000 but received $1.5 million in public financing. Donations are a result of direct support whereas that larger windfall comes from standing against something rather than offering something better. The Bloc Quebecois would not exist if it had to rely upon direct non-governmental financing from supporters.

This summer, I met a member of the Obama campaign’s senior staff in New York City. Discussing the presidential campaign and some Canadian politics, I was told that the Liberal Party had approached the Obama campaign to attain some insight into their fundraising capacity and to create a similar system in Canada so that a large number of small donors could fill their campaign war chest. The staffer told me that after initial discussions, the Liberal Party never followed up in any significant way.

A tried-and-true election strategy for the Liberal Party has been to strike fear into the electorate about what a Conservative administration might mean for Canada. In the last election we were warned that a Conservative majority would allow Harper to finally implement his hidden agenda. Yet the Conservatives in power have not been innocent of taking this lower path either. Defining Stephane Dion as a weak leader and scaring the electorate as to what his “tax on everything” would mean to the economy took a negative track and suggested people vote against, rather than for the Conservatives. People are goaded out of fear to vote against and they often hold their nose for the not-as-offensive choice they end up “supporting”. Since money comes from support, we should break the model that rewards false support and strengthen one that challenges parties to offer ideas rather than fear. Government subsidization of political parties hurts Canadian politics.

The motto of Barack Obama’s campaign for President was “Yes We Can”. Under the current Canadian system, we give welfare to parties for being best able to convince Canadians of the other parties, “No They Can’t”. If we made politics about the positive (Yes), responsibility of self (We) and enablement (Can) rather than the negative (No), what one’s opponent would do (They) and a need to stop them (Can’t), perhaps we could reduce voter apathy both at the ballot box and when parties pass the hat. If we gave voters more power to finance those they support rather than sustain those they least detest we could shift Canadian politics for the better.

On Tuesday, American politics changed. It is time to end campaign welfare so that we can replace politics that scares with that which inspires.

Yes we can.

Many Liberal hands make light work at SHAMBA

Since news about apparent Liberal links to the SHAMBA space first broke here last week, Canwest has written about the story and included a denial and excuse from former Liberal leadership contestant Gerard Kennedy,

Kennedy, however, says the fundraising venue was completely paid for in a transaction with GlobAlive Communications Corp, a telecommunications company that started the Shamba foundation.

He said the invitation incorrectly identified the venue as the charitable foundation, creating the confusion.

Kennedy said the only connection with the SHAMBA foundation was that the space has become associated with the charity because the group uses it.

He said GlobAlive rents its spaces – including that site – commercially to both charities and private users.

“It certainly smells like a desperate kind of attempt by the Conservatives,” Kennedy told Canwest News Service on Sunday night.

Desperation? I imagine that conservatives like myself, and indeed, I’m certain that most everyday non-Liberal-membership-card-holding Canadians, are concerned about the equal application of the rules concerning partisan fundraising so that it is done above board. Kennedy, as Globalive’s PR people did when they called on Friday, blamed erroneous Facebook promotion of the event. Later, the official registration form for the SHAMBA/Kennedy event surfaced making the excuse harder to believe.

Today, the Conservative Party put out the following release linking SHAMBA to another potential partisan Liberal fundraiser involving Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty,

NEWS RELEASE

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

June 3, 2008

CONSERVATIVES SUBMIT NEW INFORMATION TO CRA ABOUT SHAMBA-LIBERAL TIES

Liberals must come clean about fundraising practices

OTTAWA – The Conservative Party today asked the Canada Revenue Agency’s charities directorate to investigate another potential partisan Liberal fundraiser held at the SHAMBA Foundation in downtown Toronto. SHAMBA is headed by Anthony Lacavera, a prominent Liberal donor who has contributed in excess of $4,700 to Liberal Gerard Kennedy over the past 2 years.

Conservatives have learned that on August 16, 2007, the SHAMBA Foundation hosted a $500 per person fundraiser for the Ontario Liberal Party. The fundraiser featured an appearance by Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty. According to the Canada Revenue Agency, registered charities such as SHAMBA are not permitted to directly or indirectly involve themselves in partisan political activities.

“A registered charity cannot be created for a political purpose and cannot be involved in partisan political activities. A political activity is considered partisan if it involves direct or indirect support of, or opposition to, a political party or candidate for public office.” (http://www.cra-arc.gc.ca/tax/charities/operating/activities/other-e.html#pol)

This new information about partisan Liberal fundraising at SHAMBA comes on the heels of information released June 1, 2008 which revealed that SHAMBA recently hosted a $250 per person fundraiser for federal Liberal intergovernmental affairs critic Gerard Kennedy. According to documents posted on the Liberal Party’s website, the Kennedy fundraiser was identified as a “Political Ideals Celebration” and the registration form for the event was co-branded with Liberal Party and SHAMBA Foundation brand identities.

Conservatives have already written to both Elections Canada and the Canada Revenue Agency to investigate the Kennedy fundraiser.

Given the SHAMBA Foundation’s raison d’etre is to provide charities with no-cost event space and negotiated rates on food and beverage, Conservatives want to ensure that Kennedy did not violate Elections Canada’s rules by receiving an illegal non-monetary contribution from the Foundation.

“A non-monetary contribution is the commercial value of a service or of property or the use of property or money, with the exception of volunteer labour, provided without charge or at less than commercial value.” The Elections Canada Handbook for Leadership Contestants, Their Financial Agents, and Auditors http://www.elections.ca/pol/lea/EC20194_c2_e.pdf) (Page 15)

To date, neither SHAMBA, nor the Kennedy campaign, have disclosed:

· The original contract for the event;

· The “commercial rates” supposedly paid for use of the SHAMBA space as well as the food and beverage sold/consumed at the event; or

· Any information that could assure Canadians that terms of the contract for the event were not altered after the appropriateness of the fundraiser was questioned on the was questioned by blogger Stephen Taylor on May 28, 2008. (http://www.stephentaylor.ca/2008/05/does-the-shamba-foundation-risk-losing-its-charitable-status/)

“We need answers from both Liberal candidate Gerard Kennedy and Liberal donor Anthony Lacavera about their partisan Liberal fundraising,” said Conservative MP Dean Del Mastro.

- 30 -

For further information please contact (613) 755-2000

When Globalive’s PR people called me on Friday, I noted the firm’s name and offered to post it to give them credit for doing their job (cleaning up a mess). They said that it wasn’t necessary and that I could just say that Globalive’s PR people contacted me. However, I didn’t put it together at the time but Narrative – a company owned by Bensimon Byrne – made the call of behalf of Globalive/SHAMBA. Bensimon Byrne was the firm contracted to make Liberal Party attack ads during the 2004 and 2006 campaign. The ads (especially the aircraft carrier/teenage girl abortion/disintegrating flag spot) was a particularly – “desperate kind of attempt” – as Gerard Kennedy might say.

When a political fundraiser titled Political Ideals Celebration is held on space that is the raison d’être of a charitable organization and it is billed in this way, alarm bells go off. Did the head of the SHAMBA foundation give permission for the organization’s branding to be used along side that of the Liberal Party, of Gerard Kennedy? Presumably, the head of SHAMBA would have seen the registration form. Being the head of a charitable organization, did he make attempts to change the branding of the event?

According to this article in Business Edge News Magazine,

Asked about the amount of money Globalive invested in Shamba, Lacavera described it as “sizable” and reluctantly put it “well into the hundreds of thousands of dollars,” adding that it would likely cost “tens of thousands of dollars” to rent out a similar venue for an event.

If Kennedy paid fair market value for the space, did it cost him “tens of thousands of dollars”?

Michael Ignatieff admits debt delinquency

Michael Ignatieff just sent me an email:

The email ends with a couple of links to his donation page.

What will be the consequences for Michael Ignatieff?

Will Elections Canada provide special treatment for Liberals that run afoul of its rules?

If so, what are the broader consequences for the Conservative Party’s argument that the government body is biased against them?

How much does Ignatieff owe?

Does this indicate that the Conservatives are better at raising money from their membership than the Liberals are? Why are Liberal members disengaged? Why aren’t Liberals giving?

Does the SHAMBA foundation risk losing its charitable status?

UPDATE: Globalive’s PR people gave me a call

UPDATE: Liberal/SHAMBA association suggested by form found on Liberal Party website

Gerard Kennedy, the former Liberal leadership contender and current Liberal candidate for Parkdale High Park is holding a fundraiser tonight in order to pay off his leadership debts.

Here is the Facebook page for the event

The fundraiser is to take place with the help of the SHAMBA foundation, an organization that oversees the SHAMBA space. The concept is simple but quite original; the SHAMBA space is a rooftop patio lent out to charitable organizations to hold events. According to the foundation’s website:

The fun part – and the cornerstone of the SHAMBA foundation – is the creation of a brand new 2,500 square foot rooftop terrace designed for fantastic events that raise money for great causes. The SHAMBA Space, as we call it, is available for local charities to use at no cost to host events. In addition to donating this exquisite space, SHAMBA also negotiates sponsorships with food and beverage partners to ensure that the bulk of funds raised at an event actually go directly to the cause.

The generous concept is that of Globalive CEO Anthony Lacavera, a Gerard Kennedy leadership supporter according to data at Elections Canada.

Gerard Kennedy, like some other Liberal leadership candidates, needs to pay off his Liberal leadership debts by June 3rd or else he will run afoul of Elections Canada. Anthony Lacavera seems like a good friend with a great foundation that is helping Kennedy pay off his debts. So what’s the problem here?

The SHAMBA foundation is a registered charitable organization according to the Canadian Revenue Agency. Also, registered charities are prohibited from partisan political activity under the law.

A registered charity cannot be created for a political purpose and cannot be involved in partisan political activities. A political activity is considered partisan if it involves direct or indirect support of, or opposition to, a political party or candidate for public office.

One hopes that Gerard Kennedy will move his fundraiser to a different venue because the purpose of the SHAMBA foundation is to provide free event space for charities. According to the Facebook page, the foundation is the location for the event. If the space is not being provided for free, one hopes that Kennedy is paying fair market value for event space that never seems to be rented for a fee. Even so, should this charity be mixed up with partisan political activity?

UPDATE 5/30 4:30pm: Globalive’s PR people just gave me a call to admit that the Gerard Kennedy fundraiser was erroneously billed/described by the promoters of the event. The SHAMBA space is used for charitable events but for the intents of the Gerard Kennedy event the space should be thought of within the Globalive domain (a company) rather than that of the SHAMBA foundation (a charity); the Gerard Kennedy fundraiser took place on Globalive property rather than that of the SHAMBA foundation and though it is the same space the space takes different identities depending on the – or rather this – context. I was assured that Gerard Kennedy paid fair market value for use of the space from Globalive and that the space was not made as a donation from the company.

UPDATE 5/31 5:55pm: Here is the registration form for the event (still live on the LPC(O) website). The form clearly has the logo of the SHAMBA foundation (a registered charity). This doesn’t seem to simply be an erroneously written Facebook listing. The event is officially billed as a SHAMBA foundation/Gerard Kennedy event. I think that the earlier PR call may have been a sort of after-the-fact damage control revision of history. Charities cannot participate in partisan political activity. This form from the Liberal Party website suggests that the SHAMBA foundation and the Liberal Party have an association.

Read this doc on Scribd: Political Ideals Celebration

Liberals back down from fundraiser, choose to follow the law…

… after being caught.

Timeline:
February 8th: News of Liberal fundraising scandal breaks on this website
February 12th: Conservatives demand answers
February 13th: Story “breaks” in MSM
February 13th: Liberal hypocrisy exposed in House of Commons

For news on the Liberals four days earlier, read stephentaylor.ca. For Liberal editorials, read The Globe and Mail.